During our recent trip to Rome there was so much to see, of course the iconic "Roman ruins"are right up there at the top of the list. Oh, there were churches on every corner that held magnificent treasures by Bernini, Raphael and Michelangelo, but there is just something about the crumbled city of a fallen empire that draws you in. Or so I thought……………..
After our few trips across the pond to see ancient and medieval marvels and masterpieces of artwork we have learned a thing or two, one: arrive early, two: learn a thing or two about the place you plan to visit, it makes the journey so much more interesting. Well we had done both of these things in Rome preparing to see the famous Roman Forum ruins. When we arrived the queue was substantially small, a minimum wait, excellent job Gretta's. Things went down hill from there.
I had read quite a bit about the Palantine Hill the place where the powerful and wealthy retreated to build their homes and relax. Among the ruins on the hill can be found, the Domus Flavia, the Domus Augustana, the Baths of Septimus Severus, and the House of Livia. I was eager to see this place where the evil plotting Livia, mother of emperor Augustus had once lived. Years ago I was captivated by the Masterpiece Theatre series "I Claudius" a fascinating take on the families that were once the seat of power in Rome, Claudius being portrayed by a very young Derek Jacobi.
Now this part of the ruins was uncrowded well marked, covered with trees and grass, very nice indeed. We had the chance to see frescoes in the House of Augustus and a wall in the house of Livia, depicting a beautiful olive tree. What we hadn't seen was while we meandered our way through the Palantine, masses of tourists had poured into the Forum area to see the ruins.
We had ahead of time rented the hand held audio tour guide you can carry with you throughout the ruins to get an idea of just what you are seeing. Ours did not work. Returning to the gate to exchange them we were told that we would have to go to the end of the queue to speak with someone, the queue now went all the way down the hill and around the corner to the Colosseum. Not happening !
Ok, rally! we'll find our own way around. Not an easy task, there really aren't any signs to speak of explaining just what you are looking at. As we walked on, the crowds became oppressive and the heat of the day began to rise. We did our best, or should I say Brian did his best. I on the other hand, I was on a slow burn, with each new nudge or crush on my toes by some overweight gawking hurried tourist, I became less and less inclined to "enjoy"the experience.
Temple of Antonius and Faustina, later the Church of San Lorenzo in Miranda
For me the most interesting artifact. The tiled floor of the senate, marvelous !
That's me eagerly awaiting our exit, unable to even look at Brian, who continues to capture it all on camera. This is the Via Sacra, please note hurried rotund and gawking tourist to the left. By this point in time I was unreasonable to say the least, sweat covered beaten up and completely over the piles of rocks around me. When I shouted " RUINED !!!", meaning the same thing as uncle, Brian knew it was time to go. We proceeded to (what we thought was) the exit only to be told it was down that walkway, three quarters of a mile later in the hot sun we spilled out onto the sidewalk where there were no less than six buses unloading tourists eager to queue up for the ruins. AAAARRRGGGHHHH !!! After squeezing through a sea of people, moving against the tide I might add, we found some space to collect ourselves.
I try when I travel to never appear as the "ugly American", I make the effort to conform, and go with the flow, understanding that all cultures are different when it comes to personal space and personal hygiene, to understand that many countries think collectively as opposed to what is best for the individual. To this day there are moments when I remember my behavior in the ruins, and I will purposefully apologize to Brian again for being RUINED in the Ruins.
Nothing a little gelato and Papa Francescos favorite beverage won't fix. Where to next ???