When in Rome: Day 3
On Day 3, we got to go inside the Coliseum! But first we took pictures in front of it 😉
The coliseum itself is SO big, and most of it has fallen down. Below you can see the outer ring, which is the full height of the original structure, and how they have built a huge brick support wedge to prop up where part of the outer ring is missing.
Going in the Coliseum was really cool, in part because I don't remember a time in my life before when I knew that the Coliseum existed. It's always been part of my knowledge of the world (that I can remember) so seeing it in person was really neat. The whole time I kept kind of thinking "Oh my gosh, it's actually real! And it's so BIG!"
Inside, we got a great primer on the history and use of the structure by Vincent. Interesting details I remember were that the whole thing was covered by a giant sail (yay for shade!), that many of the fights were huge productions with hydrolic lifts, sets and costumes, and a few times they even FLOODED the whole dang thing and held sea battles (come on, can we just all agree that ancient Romans were NUTS?!?!)
The kids were about as patient as they could be in a hot, dusty, 2000-year old structure. Jesse started telling Niko stories around this point (some about super heroes and such to pass the time, later about history and mythology), and that definitely helped.
And then we took some group photos! Both kids are giving thumbs up in the picture below, which means it can't have all been boring for them :)
And here we are with everyone:
After the Coliseum our friends needed to go home and pack (they started their vacation before we did and were on their way home the next day), so we ventured out on our own for a bit. First we walked past the Circus Maximus (a giant racetrack) and over to the Mouth of Truth. In reality it used to be some sort of drain cover, but over time the story came along that if you put your hand in its mouth and tell a lie, it'll bite your hand!
I told Niko this story as we were waiting in line to take a picture and he thought it was a fun myth, but when we got up to the statue he was definitely not going to be putting his hand inside!
Along the way, Miri fell asleep in her stroller and was soooo cute. Also, I have to say that Miriam gets the biggest gold trophy for her performance on the trip. Jesse and I got to enjoy the history and architecture and at least with Niko we could tell him stories and explain some of what he was seeing, but Miriam got almost nothing out of the whole deal! I mean, sure, she spotted some animal statues occasionally and we gave her tons of snacks and pizza and gelato, but honestly she got stuck in her stroller a lot out of necessity. And she was absolutely incredible. So yeah, big old trophy for this excellent little person:
We had plans to go see other things after the Mouth of Truth, but then it was soooooooo HOT and I had absolutely no energy to trek from place to place with tired and hungry kids, so we headed home and ate lunch and took naps. It was great! We liked resting in the heat of the day so much that we kept up that pattern for the next few days (staying out a little later each evening than we normally would) and I think that was a great solution. Everyone was happier and we still got to see everything we wanted to see.
(I think the above hug train occurred while we were waiting for the bus)
Unfortunately, our trek home meant we had to trek back out to the center to meet our friends for the evening. We planned what we thought was plenty of time to get there, but then the bus was much later than we expected, and we ended up being quite late. Our poor friends almost left the meeting spot, thinking we weren't coming! (Alas, without cell phones and data, we couldn't communicate!!) Luckily for us they waited a few extra minutes and we found each other alright.
We met at the Spanish Steps, which Niko was not stoked to walk up.
Jesse came over to grump with him ;)
After finally meeting up, we set off on a lovely walk across the city. By this time of day (probably 4:30 or so) the worst of the heat of the day had passed, and our rest had given us just the energy we needed to explore!
First we walked along the edge of the Villa Borghese (now a huge public park) to the Piazza del Popolo, where we entered the Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo. Inside were two really incredible Caravaggio paintings (that for some reason I didn't take pictures of--maybe it wasn't allowed? Check that wikipedia page I linked to above and I'm sure it has it). It was really cool, again, to see artwork that I studied in college in the place it was meant to be.
After the church, the kids had a great romp around the Piazza (and we tried to keep them from jumping in the fountain--which, to be fair, I wanted to do too) before heading off to our next destination.
And the next place was: The Pantheon!
Guys, the Pantheon was probably one of my top 2-3 things we saw in Rome. It's just stuck there in the middle of the city, all these buildings surrounding it close by, and it's so HUGE and sort of rough looking on the outside.
But inside guys: WHOA. Though this used to be the place where statues of all gods worshipped in Rome (including foreign gods, though early Christians refused to have a statue of Christ included) were placed, as a center for all religion in Rome. The ceiling, which I have heard called the largest un-reinforced concrete dome ever built, used to be covered with bronze, which would have been absolutely dazzling through the hole in the top of the dome.
(By the way, that hole is always open to the sky, rain or shine--apparently in foul weather, it just gets wet inside!!)
But the bronze was removed sometime around the Renaissance, to build either bronze cannons for the Castel Sant'Angelo or some sort of alterpiece by Bernini for St. Peter's Basilica (it's not entirely clear which story is true--it could be both).
For a long time now the Pantheon has been a Catholic church, which I feel like is symbolic of so much of Rome--so many of these ancient spaces originally used for other spaces (or other gods) have been re-purposed over time, and occasionally you get to see all of the different layers, back to the beginning. I feel like this was my experience in so much of Rome--just seeing layers and layers and layers of different history, all packed on top of each other.
Finally, I really loved the massive iron doors on the front of the Pantheon. You can't really see them here, but they are SO BIG. Later that evening when we walked past again when the Pantheon was closed, the doors were closed too. I could picture the silent, empty interior and it gave me this cool, shivery feeling. "Shhh, the gods are sleeping," I said to myself.
After the Pantheon, we trekked through some narrow, cobblestone-y streets until we found our way to Giolitti's for some gelato. They say it's the oldest gelato shop in Rome (founded 1890), and it did not disappoint!
(As evidenced by Niko's happy gelato face!)
Finally, we ended the day at Piazza Navona, a really incredible plaza with multiple lovely fountains (the central one was at least partially designed by Bernini) and place for the kids to run around.
This was our last night with our friends, so we were happy to let the kids run around together and chat for as long as we wanted.
Something that brought me a lot of joy from seeing M and P in Rome was realizing that even though we hadn't seen each other in 4 years, we could still be friends! We haven't kept in contact much (though M and I both keep regular blogs and we follow each other that way) either, but it really felt like almost no time had passed. It was so great to see each other, and it made me feel confident that this is a friendship that will continue despite distance and time. And, as someone who is not particularly good at keeping up friendships after moving, I was relieved to realize that it is possible to stay friends even despite these factors! I have so many lovely friendships that I want to continue, and this great reunion (in Rome, of all places) helped me not to despair over those friendships--maybe they can continue, too!