I liked Trevi Fountain a lot better than I expected to. We mostly went there because it's close, and a classic tourist spot, not because we'd heard it was a must see. But it was cool: the fountain is right next to a building, and the statues look like they were hewn out of the marble that clads it. The place was overrun with tourists, of course, but I found it more endearing here than at the Vatican, maybe because it was still pretty easy to find a place to sit down and watch. As with many other places in Rome, it was also fun to watch the watchers.
Afterwards, we had dinner in a nearby restaurant -- my first pizza in Rome, which was quite tasty; the crust is thin, but it's wood-oven crispy thin, not New York falling-out-of-my-hands thin, which I prefer. Then we made our way back home on the bus (you can probably buy bus tickets in other places in Rome, but for this particular trip, I ended up buying the tickets in a bar!), picked up our second gelato snack of the day, and then went to bed.
Gelato, by the way, is a way of life in Rome. It seemed like everywhere we looked, someone had a cone or cup in their hand, and there's a gelateria on almost every block. We managed to hold ourselves to once a day most days, but it was a challenge. If you've never had gelato, it's so worth trying -- like ice cream, but denser and richer, and such an array of flavors. Nocciola (hazelnut) is a classic, and really good, especially combined with chocolate; my other favorites were noci (walnut) and frutti di bosco (literally "forest fruits", in practice a wildberry flavor). One of the best parts of Italy. I wonder if I can find frutti di bosco gelato in the states?
Anyway, this brings us to Wednedsay, or ancient Rome day. Our first stop was Trajan's Forum, which was on our way from the hotel to the Colosseum; we walked around a little bit and looked at the ancient marketplace across the street, and then made our way to the Colosseum. We had purchased Roma Passes in advance, and they pretty much paid for themselves here: once you get through security (the Vatican had this, too; you had to walk through a metal detector and put your bag through an x-ray machine), there's a separate line for Roma Pass holders. And those suckers are long; I figure having the passes saved us at least half an hour, maybe longer.
So we breezed into the Colosseum, walked up a lot of steps, and found ourselves in an exhibition about the building: its history, the spectators and their past-times during the games (including carving graffiti on the walls and dicing. Definitely worth going inside; I enjoyed getting a close look at the structure and trying to figure out where everything might have been when it was a working stadium. And there were some fantastic views of the Forum through the archways. We probably spent a couple of hours wandering around. Afterwards, we grabbed lunch from a nearby sandwich cart, then went over to the Forum and walked around there. There's a ton to see in the Forum: temples, civic buildings, monuments. It was basically the civic center of ancient Rome; it fell into disuse, then disrepair, and people started building over it despite various excavations. It was finally cleared out in the 20th century, and now it stands as the largest collection of ruins in one place in the city, maybe anywhere in the former Roman Empire. Although it was hot and sunny and tiring, I really enjoyed my ramble through there, looking at the remains and picturing what it might have been like in its heyday. Maybe my favorite part of it was all the architectural litter: the random column capitals and bits of friezes and other building fragments scattered everywhere. Any one of them could be the centerpiece of a museum of ancient history; here, they're used as benches. It's easy to forget how new everything in America is. I always feel awed to be surrounded by the ancient world, especially in its natural habitat.
Our next stop was The Campidoglio. Afterwards, we made our way back to the hotel room. On the way, we walked through the Ghetto -- named in the older sense of "Jewish quarter", not the more modern "run-down neighborhood" -- and saw a camera crew filming in the Piazza Mattei. The plaza was filled with light reflectors and a tech stood in the Tortoise Fountain, splashing water on it to make it shiny. T tried to get more snaps, but the crew chased him away! Anyway, after another snack, this one at a caffe in the Piazza Santa Barbara, we got the night gear from the hotel room and went back to Campidoglio for the sunset. This was one of the best sunsets we had: beautiful clouds, a nice view over the city. You also get great views of the Forum from the back, and the structures there catch the light of sunset really nicely. Once the sun was down, we headed back to the Colosseum, because this was the one structure in Rome that T knew for sure that he wanted to shoot at night. Once that was finished, we found ourselves some dinner, and I had possibly the best pasta of the trip: penne alla vodka with pancetta. Yum yum yum. Our walk home took us back past the Trajan Forum, which was nicely spot-lit for the evening.
Morning and evening, the third day. I'll pick up again with Thursday, the fourth day, which featured wanderings through Trastavere and our attempt to tour as many Baroque churches as we could fit into an afternoon, partially thwarted by our guidebook. Stay tuned!