Oh. Oh. Oh. This was a magical morning. We went to the Colosseum and The Forum today. Ten years ago, we went to the Colosseum by ourselves. We did not understand at the time that you are only allowed on a couple of levels, unless you are with a guide. There are different types of guided trips (depending on what you pay). The most deluxe tour gets you a trip to the underground where the gladiators and wild beasties lived, and also to the topmost tier of the nosebleed section. We figured out what we had missed the first time, and were determined to see the whole thing this time.
I had booked a small group tour of six people. Our guide, Michele (Italian for Michael) holds a masters degree in history. He was simply amazing and could answer every question posed to him. He took us through the Forum, which was the heart of ancient Rome for more than a thousand years. I was in total hog heaven.
I won’t bore you with the historical details, but Oh. Oh. Oh. I had one of the best days ever. Okay, I will bore you with one detail. Rome at its height had over a million people living in it. After the empire toppled and the Popes were rising in power (we are talking Middle Ages here) the population fell to around 60,000 – possibly as low as 40,000. Would this not be the weirdest thing? This giant, amazing city of marble, inhabited by so few.
Think about it. It would make a great sci-fi type movie. A few inhabitants living in Disney World, which had been abandoned long ago. Walking each day in the aging Magic Kingdom, living in the castle or making a home in one of the Monorail cars. This is essentially what happened in Rome. The Colosseum became a small city, people living in the food vendor booths. Safeco Field in Seattle (or any major league stadium) is almost an identical replica of the Colosseum), They tied their animals to the columns and posts. The guide showed us where people had drilled holes through the corners of the walls to put a rope through to tie their animals. Isn’t that something?
This day. as every day, thousands of people were going through the hallways of the Colosseum. All you had to do is squint and think there was a football game going on in the arena. It is exactly the same. They even used tickets! The entries all had section numbers printed above them, and seat numbers were assigned. They had small stone tickets that were handed over and re-used for the next event. Just like today! In fact, they recycled them much better!
Okay, enough history. Well, it is never enough, but I don’t want to bore you.
After my error in our agenda yesterday, George was worried that we would be late. And that we would get off at the wrong stop. Boy, am I paying for my mistake. Now he doesn’t trust me at all. He won’t even get on the subway until I can prove we are going to the correct place. Walking is tough for him and he isn’t going to walk another mile out of his way. Surprisingly, he roused us early and drug me down to breakfast before my eyes were open. I’m getting better at coping with the breakfast. I stuck some of my fresh fruit from the room in my purse and ate it with the scrambled eggs. It is a self-serve buffet, so nobody noticed. They didn’t have the bread I am in love with, which helped pass on the bread.
George insisted on heading to the subway right away, and we arrived at the Colosseum a full hour and a half before we were to meet our guide. There is only one cafe across the street from it, where we had a cappuccino. Oh my god, sipping coffee and gazing at the Colosseum. Pinch me, I am in Heaven.
We were to meet the guide at the Arch of Constantine, which gave me ample time to study the Arch. These arches and columns were pictorial records of the emperors lives. Reading and writing were not the skills of the common man; these monuments were pictorial stories for all to see. This was the emperor from the Milvian Bridge we saw yesterday, so I spent a great time deciphering his life and the bridge battle. I was so excited to confirm it all with the guide.
It was around 80 degrees today, so George exchanged his tweed cap for his safari hat. Such a fashion statement. I did convince him not to wear black socks with his shorts. Did I tell you that he packed his own clothes this trip? I had to laugh when I was unpacking our things at the hotel. For our nine day adventure, he packed three pairs of underwear, four t-shirts, and 16 pairs of socks. 13 of them are black dress socks to go with his beige shorts. We went shopping. He’s now feeling quite debonair in his Italian undies, and has taken to humming Frank Sinatra tunes. This man is stylin’…..
I have been trying to get in 20,000 steps each day, so I can eat some extra food. On our cruise in the spring, I computed that 20,000 steps gave me an extra 500 calories. It worked great on the cruise, but it has definitely been more of a challenge in Italy. I also think I should get more credit for walking on uneven cobblestones and climbing hills than walking the halls of a cruise ship! I’m trying to do the stairs to our hotel room. It is 142 steps to our room, and I am pretty well gasping by the time I get there. They have an old-fashioned wire elevator and George waves gaily as he passes me.
When we finished the tour of the Colosseum and I had bought two books at their store, I seriously needed the rest room. Italy is not big on conveniently located toilets for people with bladder issues. The Colosseum, which could seat up to 75,000 people, and has thousands of people visiting each day, has one bathroom. The line literally had over 100 women lined up. After our adventure at the Colosseum, I was exhausted. I should have eaten more protein at breakfast. I got cranky (okay, I was a real bitch), and needed a serious nap. I did not take kindly to waiting in a giant line. I decided to take my chances and ride the subway back to our hotel.
Did I mention I was bitchy? Euphorically happy with our guide, but tired and oh my goodness, I needed to pee. I grabbed George and made for the subway. He still isn’t trusting me on the subway and wanted to study the map. I wanted to pee on his foot. That would make him move. I finally threatened to leave him alone in the subway, so he followed along. Slowly. Still checking out signs. We were only two stops away from our hotel, so it was a quick trip. We got off, which is underground. My bladder beacon told me to take the closest stairs going up. Do not mind that they were the stairs for people coming down, and ignore the sign saying not to use them to go up. Other like minded people who probably had to pee were taking the stairs.
George is a lawyer, and minds the law. He refused to go up the down staircase. It is very confusing there, and the staircase to go up is way down a hallway and comes up to the surface about a block away. At this point, I was terrified I would sneeze and they would think a water line had exploded. In a moment of total old woman drama, I told George they could shoot me – but I was going up the down staircase. In these terrorist days, there are soldiers everywhere with machine guns. I think he was concerned they might do it, but he followed me. We popped up right near our street crossing and I made it to the hotel lobby restrooms. It was a highly religious moment in my life.
George was hungry and I was still bitchy, but I was trying to recover and get friendly again. As we walked to a sidewalk cafe, we passed a bakery with a big platter of cannoli pastries. I told George that I had to budget for a cannoli before we went home. They looked so delicious. We had a nice lunch and really relaxed. I started nodding off at the table over coffee. George has been napping every afternoon, while I walk around. He had really had a hard time with the walk today; the uneven surfaces were a challenge. He also was very tired. This is the first time I have really wanted to lay down. The walk, the excitement and the worry over having an accident in a crowded subway car had taken it all out of me.
George announces that he would like to get some epsom salts for the bath. It might help his feet and legs feel better. Sleepily, I agreed, thinking I would get him some after my nap. Nope, he wants them now. And he can’t walk to find it. The BITCH in me rears its ugly head. He can’t wait for an hour while I lay down? With a martyr expression, he says he can try to find them. He will slowly limp into a neighborhood he is unfamiliar with and find the salts that will cure his aching feet and fill him with boundless energy. He read it on the internet, so it has to be true. With an even bigger martyr expression, some exorcist type expressions come out of my mouth, my head spins in a circle, and I stonily march off in search of epsom salts.
I find a farmacia (pharmacy) about six blocks away and hope the word for epsom salts is the same in Italian as it is in English. Epsomo saltos? Is that Spanish? Is that anything? I go in and ask for epsom or bath salts. Two women stare at me uncomprehendingly. I’m trying to mime pouring salts into a footbath, and not getting anywhere. Finally one waves to stop and yells “Doctori!” (forgive my lack of Italian spelling here) and an extremely nice man comes out. He is also seven feet tall and I’m craning my neck up trying to explain epsom salts. If I don’t look up, he will think I am trying to describe something for his hemorrhoids. He spoke some English, and figured out what I meant. He got a box for me and when I tried to kiss the hem of his white coat in gratitude, he said “No problem!”
Grumpily, I walked back to our room. George is lying on the bed, feet propped up looking way too happy and comfortable. I mutter some loving words to the effect that epsom salts were not in our wedding vows, and I am doing everything on this trip, and if he thinks I am going to prepare his bath…. And other loving little words of love and devotion. He looks sweetly and me and says would I like him to make up for it and go buy me a cannoli? Wearing my full martyr mantle, I say of course not. Then he pulls a bag out with a cannoli he had bought.
Damn. I’m all worked up and he does something nice. Okay, he didn’t really know what a cannoli was, and bought me another pastry. But it was a nice thought and I greedily gobbled down 20,000+ calories of delightful chocolate goo. And took a nice long nap. During which he covered me with a blanket, another gesture of thoughtfulness.
Okay, he will live another day. And I probably need to add another 10,000 steps to work off the un-cannoli.
Tomorrow, we are hitting another of my bucket list items. A lot of my bucket is in Italy, it seems. We are going to Ostia, which was the port for Rome. Rome is an interior city, and Ostia was on the mouth of the Tiber, on the coast. Much like Astoria is the port town for Portland. When Rome fell, Ostia was slowly abandoned. The harbor silted over and covered much of the city in mud. The mouth of the river changed course and the new mouth of the river is where the cruise ships port for a trip to Rome. The old city of Ostia is in remarkable shape and offers a glimpse at a vibrant past of the city that supplied Rome from around the world. Rome could not have supported the population without importing food, wine and goods.
We will take a train there and it should be a nice relaxing day. I didn’t hire a guide for this one, but after our wonderful experience today, we might see if there are some qualified guides there. And I am not going to be bitchy!