This series of (sometimes) relatively short posts, illustrated with photographs, records our recent holiday in Italy. Having thoroughly enjoyed it, we wanted to share our experience. You’ll get the full (nearly) story of our travels, activities, and experiences; warts and all, in instalments.
21st September, Friday.
At the queue we were offered a guided tour for an extra €18 each. We accepted this and joined a small group, around a dozen, just under the walls.
Elaine, our Italian guide, spoke good English as she led us through long, convoluted ways and security checks into the ancient building.
She described the structure, it’s history, and its use very well, earning her fee, and we saw a good deal of the place before the crowds began to swell as the monument took in its ever-increasing group of tourists.
They have a system that allows no more than 3,000 visitors inside at any time and, toward the end, it felt like that figure had been reached!
By coincidence, our visit was on U.N. World Peace Day, and the Colosseum had been chosen as a venue to display pictures drawn by 5,000 children to illustrate this theme.
They were displayed on the fences and walls of the entrances and exit, some of them very good indeed.
There was also a small ceremony taking place on the area of the arena floor that’s been installed to let visitors see how gladiators and other elements of the Roman Games were displayed.
A naval band and speakers in the area leant the whole experience a festive air that strangely enhanced our experience.
Our guide left us after an hour, to wander on our own for as long as we wished.
But, although she’d been introduced to us by one of the officials at the queuing point, it seemed our extra payment didn’t entitle us to the extended tour that included the upper floors.
It did, however, apparently include a similar guided tour of the Palatine Hill, for which our tickets were valid either that day or the next.
We could, if we wished, meet a new guide for that tour near the exit at either 12:30 or 14:30.
Needing a break, we searched for a local eatery and, having been warned against using those close to the sights, we wandered away from the Colosseum and found a small street osterio, Trattoria Luzzi, where we had drinks and a leisurely light lunch.
Back to the Colosseum and we waited at the exit, as instructed. Each guided group was identified by small stickers. Ours were hand-written small white labels, others were more official looking, bearing the tour operators’ names.
Nothing happened for a while but we eventually found a Chinese couple and a trio of English girls with the same stickers, but no guide.
The Chinese guy went to the Colosseum entry queue to make enquiries whilst the rest of us waited. He returned after a quarter of an hour armed with new tickets for himself and his wife and the news that our guide was missing with no reason given.
As our tickets gave us entry to the area, we decided to go on our own. The Chinese couple joined their new tour group and the young English women wandered off to see whether they could organise something for themselves.
We’re still unsure whether we were victims of some scam or whether there was a genuine reason for the guide’s absence.
As it happened, it didn’t matter; our unguided tour of the Palatine Hill area turned out to suit us very well.
At the entry, after the usual security checks (the Italians are scrupulous in their attitude to visitor safety, which is very reassuring), we went to the information centre in search of a small map to help us find our way around the large area.
None were available, so we bought a small guide for €10 and used its small map to guide us.
Parts of the site, and all the museums, are accessed only via extra costs, and we felt we’d spent enough already, so we wandered around the public spaces and absorbed the history and views, often entirely alone despite the number of visitors.
It suited us well.
As is our usual habit, we ascended to the height first.
The views were pretty spectacular, and I took plenty of photographs.
Good job photography’s digital these days. I had a 32GB memory card in my Nikon D3400, allowing me to take 1,800 high quality pictures before I’d need to change to the spare card I’d bought just in case!
Quite a contrast to my first camera; a folding Kodak that gave eight pictures on a roll of film.
We wandered paths and visited various exhibits, enjoying the sense of history and learning from many information panels as we travelled the area.
Towards the end of our visit, thunder rumbled in the distance but there was no rain or lightning.
By 18:00 we were ready to end our visit and discovered an exit only a few yards from the main road we needed to cross to reach our hotel.
Officials were just preparing to close the gate here as we left. And only then the threatened rain began: large spots, few in number, so we arrived back at Hotel Forum without getting wet.
We passed the guy from Osteria Maracuja on the way and told him we’d see him shortly for dinner.
This time, with the tables gathered slightly closer together to stop those on the boundaries from suffering a soaking from the now falling rain, we enjoyed our free glasses of prosecco and ate our meal.
We poured our bottle of fizz, as we chatted with a local Italian, Maria, who was there with her 83-year-old mother. It was a good-humoured chat and we learned a lot about Rome.
Maria suggested a route for our Saturday walk and Valerie wrote down the various places of interest on a restaurant serviette (being a writer, I had no pen or paper with me, of course!).
After Maria had taken her mother to the local station to meet her sister, their table was occupied by a charming Danish couple.
We talked with Christian and Mariana across many subjects, enjoying their company, and then, tired and happy, wandered back through streets made wet by the passing storm, via the light show displays, to our hotel.