Sunday, May 03, 2009


Who loves American Cool? Roman Gladiators, baby!

In fact, all of ancient Rome digs AC!

Alright, seriously, I won't screw up every picture with my crass product placement. This is the Il Vittoriano in Piazza Venezia, honoring the first king of unified Italy and housing the tomb of the unknown soldier. It's enormous and all carved out of white marble, sitting at the start of Capitoline Hill, and it's not exactly beloved by most Romans, as it destroyed a portion of Capitoline and is also a large and obtrusive structure, rather garish. They often refer to it as the "wedding cake" because it's so glaringly white and ornate. But it does mark the official start of the Capitoline and right behind it you can begin your climb up the hill for a stunning view of the Forum ruins.

The Colosseum is most certainly the most identifiable symbol of Rome. Not as famous, but just as essentially Roman is the representation of Romulus and Remus suckling on the She-Wolf, signifying the founding of Rome. If you bothered with my Pompeii post, you know I mentioned the Lupanar, or brothel. Lupe is the Latin word for wolf, but was also the term for prostitutes. So the fable about Romulus and Remus being found by the "She-Wolf" and suckled and raised actually refers to them being taken in by a prostitute. How could you not love a city with such a charming beginning?
This particular piece stands at the entrance to Capitoline Hill.

And here is the view once you reach the top of Capitoline Hill, with the Colosseum in the distance,

The Colosseum with the Arch of Constantine to the right. No explanation necessary.

Now, if you're a bit of a history freak like me, I do suggest getting a ticket and going inside the Colosseum. You can go it alone, get audio guides, or take full tours through the Colosseum and then up Palatine Hill where you then enter into the site of the ruins and can walk around and explore. It's a lot more fascinating than you might expect, and really, just freaking cool.

I don't want to bore you with endless pictures and descriptions of the ruins, but I will mention this one, because it surprised me. In the Forum, they have the ruins of the Temple of Divus Julius, or Temple of Caesar, which was built upon Julius Caesar's cremation site in 29 BC by Augustus after Julius was deified.
It is not fully in tact, but the most unique feature of the temple remains -- a small, half-moon altar marking the funeral pyre. And people still, to this day, place flowers and offerings upon the altar.

Once you've spent a day climbing the Palatine and Capitoline Hills and checking out the ancient historic and archaeological sites of Rome, maybe you'll want to chill out with a trip south to visit the island of Capri for a day of sun and surf. However, if you think you're going to escape uphill climbs there, forget it. It's very similar to Amalfi (and parts of Como, actually) with its steep terrain and stunning views. I went to Naples and took a boat from there.

Capri, also like Amalfi, plays host to a lot of limoncello, which is always a good thing. It's also the setting of the famous "Blue Grotto." The Tyrrhenean waters around Capri are already gorgeously blue, but you haven't really seen blue until you've been inside the Grotto. However, to reach the Grotto, you have to use a rowboat. The entrance is only 1 meter wide by 1 meter high, and it has to be timed with the tides, and you have to lay down in the rowboat to enter. That's all cool, but by the time I visited, there was no way I was going to potentially sacrifice my camera, and all the pictures on it, to the god of the sea. So I did not take any pictures inside the Grotto. I hope you'll enjoy these pictures as poor substitutes instead. I should also mention that Capri has its own perfume factory, and that when I visited, there was wisteria in bloom nearly everywhere. I don't know how long this lasts, if it's a short blooming period like lilacs or not, but it made the island smell wonderful.

I didn't allow my book a trip into the Blue Grotto due to water issues. (First , it was still drying out from its ill-advised swim toward Villa GoodLooking at Lake Como. Second, though it got a quick fondle from that studly gladiator, my book was still sort of missing the cute Venetian gondolier that didn't just hold it, but opened it up -- his strong fingers grazing across its pages as his eyes inspected the words while he smiled in appreciation. Book liked that loving treatment very much. Therefore, I was a bit worried it would attempt to make a break for it and hurtle itself into the sea, hoping the tides would somehow push it back toward the Grand Canal, where it would reunite with Gondolier and place a lock of love around his... oar.) Therefore, I kept my book on a short leash for a couple days, though it did enjoy some safe views around Capri.

After Capri, it was back to Rome to enjoy some fountains and steps.

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