Monday, November 15, 2010

Some personal Roman highlights

We've been back from Rome for a week and finally have our photos and thoughts organized.

Of course we saw all the fabulous Rome "top ten" sights, and I won't go into that. Instead, here's just a brief description of what the three of us liked best (husband, daughter, me). We have a family tradition of naming our personal high points and low points at the end of every trip.

My husband's high point was taking the glass elevator to the top of the Vittorio Emanuele monument at dusk and watching the sun set over Rome. In case you're not familiar with this huge structure in pure white marble, it was built in honor of the first king of unified Italy, Victor Emmanuel II, in the early twentieth century, and is considered by some to be an eyesore that doesn't really fit into its medieval and antique surroundings. But it is very impressive! You can take an elevator up to the roof and walk around under the two huge winged victory chariots that crown the monument. We did this at dusk, giving us a 360 degree vista of the sun going down over this amazing city. From up there you can see and identify just about everything  - the Colosseum, Forum Romanum, St. Peter's, the hills surrounding Rome, the Tiber, etc. etc. It was a beautiful, warm evening, enhancing the experience even more, and a pleasant relief from our hectic day down at noisy, crowded street level.

My own highlight was taking an excursion to Ostia Antica, Rome's ancient harbor about 30 km from the city. Two thousand years ago it had a population of about 50,000 and was a thriving port city. The entire site is so well-preserved - much better than many of the antique ruins in Rome itself - that you can get a feeling for what it must have been like to live there - it must have been nice! Today it is also a lovely peaceful place.

Here's how I imagine a day in ancient Ostia. I wake up in my bedroom with tiled floor and walls of expert masonry.

After breakfast, I set off into town on the day's errands.

On the way to the market, I pass by the athletic field, where if I'm lucky I might be able to watch wrestling training.

Around the edge of the field are the various shops, all with appropriately tiled floors. I might stop into the fishmonger's.

Continuing on my way through city streets whose names are still documented,

I might pause for a moment of worship in the temple.

At the end of a busy day the family attends a production in the amphitheater.

In our case, we ate our picnic while sitting up high in the amphitheater and enjoying the view. Highly recommended! It costs all of one Euro to take public transportation out to Ostia from Rome.

Our last day was warm and sunny and we decided to return to the Piazza del Popolo in order to see the cathedral of Santa Maria del Popolo, and to walk from there to the Spanish Steps, which we had only seen in the rain on our first day. It turned out the city of Rome was putting on a free concert on the Spanish Steps, and this turned out to be great fun - and our daughter's high point of the trip.

The first performance was by the Roman police big band.

They were first joined and then followed by an American show band called "The Infernos" (of all things), who wowed the audience as I think only American show bands can do. The Infernos had an incredibly varied repertoire, including a perfect Frank Sinatra imitator

and vocalists and instrumentalists who could do everything from hits of the fifties, salsa, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, to country western! It was one of those serendipitous magical moments you sometimes experience as a tourist. A beautiful day, both Romans and tourists united in just enjoying the moment. It put us all in a great mood just to listen, and deserved its selection as high point.

All three of us agreed that our guided tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's Basilica came in a close second as favorite undertaking. Our guide was a young Italian historian, and she did a great job. Other favorite sights were the two basilica San Giovanni in Laterano and San Paolo fuori le Mura, both breathtakingly pompous and sumptuous, the former with huge sculptures of the twelve apostles, and the latter with portraits of all 265 popes.

I wanted to visit the Botanical Gardens of the University of Rome, but kept forgetting how early it now gets dark and never made it in time. Next trip!


  1. Wow! I enjoyed your trip immensely-from here even. I never knew about the monument built to honor the first King of unified Italy. I have been to the coliseum you would think I would've seen it. I wish I had because it sounds simply splendid and to see the sun set would indeed be a wonderful memory for a lifetime. Love that cobbled lane too. What a wonderful trip!

  2. Dear Barbara, Although NOTHING would have persuaded me to go up high in a glass lift, I have been enthralled by your pictures over the rooftops of Rome. It must have been an amazing sight and I am not surprised that it was the top of your husband's 'favourites' list.

    And, how intriguing your visit to Ostia. It is always good to veer off the tourist path and this was a gem!

  3. Hallo Barbara, da hattet Ihr ja einen prallen Terminkalener im Urlaub, wenn ich sehe, wo Ihr überall wart. Tolle Impressionen hast Du aus Rom (ich war auch mal dort vor vielen Jahren und konnte ein kleines Erdbeben erleben:o)mitgebracht. Zu Deiner Frage wegen meinem neuen Header - ja es sind Stare. Ich mag sie auch sehr, denn wenn sie so in Massen zusammensitzen, kann man ihnen wunderbar lauschen. Sie sind ungeheuer "geschwätzig" und ich liebe dieses Spektakel im Herbst. Eine tolle Woche noch wünscht Dir Luzia.

  4. Rome is such a beautiful place and the shots you took are splendid indeed. So glad you shared them here. Any more to come?

    I really like the 4th picture of you walking to town to run errands. There is something about the scene that make me watch it over and over again.

  5. What an exquisite place to visit! I love all the stonework and ancient "ruins".

    About the raspberry leaf tea, I mix with other mint or lemon grass. I usually don't drink it straight.
    My headache brew has feverfew and mint in it. Also chamomile is another thing you can add to it but I didn't this time.

    Thanks for commenting. Always nice to hear from you!

  6. Dear Autumn Belle, although I do wish I still looked like that - it was my daughter walking down the lane in Ostia Antica, not me.

  7. Dear Edith, I'm not a fan of glass elevators either, but the majority won, and I'm glad I went up. We had almost as good a view from the hill behind the Vatican, at the Garibaldi monument. You can get there by bus!

  8. Dear Tina, in fact, while we were there Italy celebrated unification day, and we watched Berlusconi place a wreath on the monument (on TV - the whole area was blocked off that morning).

  9. Liebe Luzia, ja, das ist der Terminkalendar einer Rentnerin, was ich seit kurzem bin. Das "Geschwätzige" ist genau das, was ich an Staren auch mag. Danke für den Besuch, Barbara

  10. Dear Rosey, I'm intrigued by the name alone of "feverfew" and must look it up. Thanks for your visit and the info.

  11. Hi Barbara. What a wonderful place to visit and vacation. The history and old sites are so lovely.The mosaics are wonderfully preserved. Thanks for sharing and taking us along with you on your vacation.

  12. Barbara, remarkable photos! No doubt you loved your visit and I thank you for sharing this part with us.

  13. Lovely pictures! I am glad you enjoyed your trip!

  14. I'd have to tie my husband up like Houdini to get him to Europe again. Guess I'll have to go with friends instead! Amazing how the tile mosaics have held up over thousands of years. And they are still so beautiful. Are you going to tell us all about the fabulous food?

    Christine in Alaska

  15. Dear Barbara, I am so glad you had such a wonderful vacation. Thank you for sharing the highlights! It is probably forty years since I last visited Rome and you brought back happy memories. Pam x

  16. Sounds like a great holiday Barbara. My mother was born in Frascati, just outside Rome but it is many years since I visited and really must return - so much history coursing through its streets or should I say vias :)

  17. Ostia is startlingly complete.

    And what a combination for a concert.

    Sounds as if you had a fantastic time.

    (Not much said of the 'lows'!)


  18. Froliche Weihnacten to you Barbara!

  19. Babara, I'm here to wish you Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!