25 September 2013 Wednesday – Roman Forum & Fabio

Today we did a walking tour of ancient Rome. Kathy had bought a guide book to Italy called “Rick Steves' Italy”. We needed to take the book with us everywhere, and since I was wearing the backpack, it was my burden to bear. Most of the time, it was just dead weight on my back, so I started affectionately calling it “Brick Steves” rather than “Rick Steves” and that got shortened to simply “Brick.” The pun became a source of amusement to all of us.

Our taxi dropped us off at the Pantheon, where we met our guide for the day, and we started our walking tour. The Pantheon is a big temple, originally dedicated to all the Roman Gods. This was particularly interesting, because when we were there in 1989, the site was closed for restoration and cleaning, so we didn't get to see any of it.

At one point, our guide mentioned that there was a statue of Giordano Bruno just a few blocks away, but we weren't going that direction, so we would miss it. My brother Joe is a big fan of Bruno, so I wanted to see the statue. Maybe tomorrow, which we've scheduled as a “free” day.

Next, we walked through the Jewish section of Rome. There was an interesting set of Roman ruins there, infested with feral cats. Signs said the cats were spayed/neutered and relied on handouts to eat.

At one point, I saw a police car that was humorous: it was the smallest cop car I'd ever seen. It was practically a Smart car, with equally small cops. They certainly were not very intimidating!

As we got closer to the Roman Forum, we found a bunch of shops where priests and nuns bought religious articles. The shops kind of blew me away. It was just so odd to see religious objects for sale, but there were a lot of these shops.

At one point, we walked past a fountain that had sculpted turtles, apparently by one of the great renaissance masters. I love turtles!

Next, we walked on to the Roman Forum, the main area of ancient Rome. We saw all the columns and statues, and took photos of them. I remembered a lot of this from 1989, but I didn't have digital photos back then, so I took lots of photos.

Unfortunately, our tour included tickets to see the Colosseum, and the time was not flexible. That meant that we had to rush, practically running through the forum, trying to get to our tour on time. That was especially annoying to Kathy, who had talked to the tour company and explicitly took measures to try to avoid it. It was also annoying to Karen, who doesn't walk very quickly because of her arthritis.

Nearby street “artists” were doing weird things to get money. Some were dressed up as Indian Sadhus.

After the forum, we visited the Colosseum. We had been there as well, in 1989, but we never got to go to the lower level or upper level.

This time, Kathy had purchased special tickets that gave us special access to the basement and bleachers. It was very interesting. It was a spooky place. I could feel the energy of the thousands who were put to death there. It was hot out, so sweat was dripping off of me.

As I did in Herculaneum, I dug out my sound recorder and recorded the lecture given by the Colosseum guide, just in case I got EVPs from the restless souls of dead gladiators or Christians who were put to death there by the thousands.

The tour also took us up into the highest levels of the Colosseum where there was a great view.

After the Colosseum, we found a restaurant across the street and ate lunch. As I've seen many times before, Skip couldn't see the menu, but his reading glasses were lost, so he had to borrow Mitzie's peepers. He looked pretty silly in them, so we took a photo.

Karen was so tired, she ordered a fruit cup with ice cream and treated herself, promising not to share it with anyone.

After lunch, Mitzie and Skip were tired, so they went back to the apartment. Kathy, Karen and I went to see another church.

Before our trip, my Italian friend and coworker, Fabio, helped us plan the trip. Although he's Italian, he lives in Denmark. Fabio's father, Massimo, still lives in Rome, and he got involved as well. Fabio likes to go home to Rome to visit his family and vacation, so he planned his trip at the same time so we could get together. So tonight, Fabio and Massimo picked us up at the hotel. We visited a few places and ate at a very nice restaurant. It was the best Italian food we've had so far, topped off with a lemon flavored liquor. We also met Fabio's wife; she's very charming and very tall! To thank him for all his help, we gave him a few simple gifts we had brought from Minnesota; things he could not get in Italy or Denmark: Maple syrup, Peanut butter and Minnesota wild rice. I also gave him a copy of my first book.

Famous quote for the day:

Karen: “If you lived in Rome, you wouldn't need hearing aids.”

(Everything in Rome is loud: The people speak loudly. The traffic is loud. The ambulances are even louder.)