Down with the Gladiators!


Today we had booked another tour with Real Rome Tours.  This time a small group tour of Ancient Rome.  We started off by visiting the Palatine Hill, home of the emperors.  Our guide was an archaeologist and she gave us an excellent tour of the ruins, greatly aided with a book she had which had page overlays over photographs that had the effect of restoring the ruin in the scene to its former glory.  We looked down over the Circus Maximus and the Roman Forum, fantastic vistas.  It was very hot again today and quite a slog getting up to the top of the Palatine.  There is a lot to see up there that we didn’t have time for on this tour but I do recommend it if you visit Rome.  There is a nice small museum and the absolutely wonderful House of Augustus which has superb murals.  We didn’t see that today but do try to.  It might not be open every day so check.

We descended down into the Roman Forum after that and had a good tour around to give a general overview.  It was busier down there than up on the Palatine.  Still excavation going on which is good to see.

Finally we returned to the Colosseum for the most exciting part of our tour.  I have visited the Colosseum quite a few times and have been on all the upper levels including the third tier which is a restricted ticket.  Today we were going down into the underground of the Colosseum into the passages and rooms that ran under the arena floor where the gladiators and animals were kept.  We were also allowed out onto the actual floor of the arena in our small group of perhaps 12 people for about 20 minutes.  That was quite surreal to look up at the thousands of tourists on the terraces above us.  Not quite the same experience as the gladiators but still amazing.  The underground tunnels were dark, shadowy places.  It must have been blinding to come out from them into the glittering sunshine of the arena.  The seats were all white marble which just added to the white shock of the light.  We saw a reconstruction of one the lift mechanisms used to move gladiators or animals up through one of the many trapdoors in the arena floor.  Fascinating stuff.

After the tour ended we were allowed to wander around the rest of the colosseum above ground.  I must confess I stayed on the ground and sat on a fallen pillar for a rest!!!

It was about 2 by then so we went off in search of lunch to a little place nearby we’d heard about, the Divin Ostilia Wine Bar  website

It’s a tiny place that specialises in wonderful cold meats, cheese and wine but also serves other fantastic food.  We couldn’t be seated for 30 minutes so they told us to go across the street to a bar and they would come and get us.  Well… it seemed rude not to go along with the suggestion!!!!  We had spritzes which were just right in the heat.  They also brought us olives, crisps and monkey nuts.

The waitress from the Divin Ostilia came to get us and we went back and had a feast of a lunch.  I had pasta cacio pepe with black truffle (beyond yum) and it was again generous with the truffle shavings.  Others  had home made pizza, steak tartar and other delights.  Well worth a visit in the Colosseum area.  Excellent.

By then it was 4 and we walked back the short distance to our apartment to rest for a while.  Ventured out again at 6 and took the metro to Barbarini and walked down to the Trevi Fountain where we took photos and threw the obligatory coins in the fountain.  Fran managed to absolutely brain a complete stranger with her coin which was very funny.

Walked on to the Pantheon and went inside.  It never fails to stun me.  One of the very few places left where your have an almost perfect picture of what a Roman building would have been like in terms of the magnificence of the marble decorations and the utterly stunning rotunda ceiling.  I can never tire of visiting it.  It’s probably my favourite place in Rome particularly in the first 10 minutes when it opens and the last 10 minutes before it closes when you can see it almost empty and really appreciate the amazing beauty of the floor made of various bright marbles arranged in a stunning, almost modern, geometric design.

We wandered on down into the Jewish Ghetto area for dinner.  It’s very atmospheric down there, lots of little lanes.  We ate in a tiny place called Sora Margherita website

It was really tiny and a proper mom and pop type establishment.  Very good food but served family style and you didn’t really know what you were getting.  The menus were handwritten in Italian, the staff spoke very little English and kind of told you off if you didn’t clear your plate!!!!  The portions were massive.  I ate about half of my linguini with meat sauce (amazing) and tried one of the meatballs which was the size of a cricket ball.  All very good food.  And a very unique and enjoyable experience.

Back to the flat and flaked out!!


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