Amsterdam & Italy 2011: Day 13 - The Colosseum, Synagogue and more 27Apr2011

On our second-to-last day we visited the Forum, Palatine Hill, the Colosseum, the Synagogue and whatever happened to be in between. We explored new taste sensations and are reading up on the Vatican in preparation for tomorrow. Somehow, like being hit by lightening twice, we came across the same family we had bumped into in Venice (with the mother having been a classmate of my sister-in-law in South Africa) inside the Colosseum!Daniel, Laura and Dena outside the Colosseum

After biting off a bit much yesterday, we were a bit slow to get going this morning. The way this B & B handles breakfast is that they have someone they send over by 7 am to cut up the fruit, set the table in the common room, set up the bread, cold cuts, prepackaged brioches, jam and yogurt and prepare the coffee to order. Unlike the Israeli hearty and healthy breakfast from last year, I don’t think I will be trying to carry on the Italian breakfast when we get back home. This new B & B is also having some issues with their WiFi router from Vodafone that is not quite configured properly and keeps asking for a PIN. I couldn’t help spending more than an hour of my time troubleshooting as I feel the pull back to work starting again. It has been nice to get away!

Victor Emmanuel MonumentIt’s a pretty long walk to the Colosseum from where we are staying but everyone was up to the task. One of the first identifiable landmarks that we passed was the Victor Emmanuel monument across from the Piazza Venezia. This oversized monument was built in 1870 to celebrate the king who unified all the state nations to form Italy. It is a building that many locals don’t like, and is known by a number of unflattering nicknames like the “wedding cake”, and sits on top of prime archeological relics.

Piles of ruins at the Forum by DenaThe first set of ruins that we then visited was the Palatine Hill and Forum that leads up to the Colosseum. We took advantage of what Laura learned from the guidebooks to buy our tickets here first as these same tickets are also used for the Colosseum. The wait at the Palatino/Forum was only about 20 minutes and would have likely been in excess of 4 hours if we had bought them at the Colosseum. There was also no shortage of ‘tour guides’ willing to get you to the head of the line at the Colosseum for an extra 10 Euros per person and give you a brief tour but this is completely unnecessary if you already have tickets since you can just go to the front of the line with the Palatino/Forum tickets.Move to front of line at Colosseum if already have tickets

Restoraton work in progress at historical society at PalatinoThe Palatino/Forum ruins Dena feels gave her an idea of what things must have looked like back then. For Daniel, although the ruins were crumpled and old, and kind of wrecked, it was pretty cool that it could last so long. That’s really true when you consider buildings in Vancouver can’t survive more than about 80 years without being torn down or less than 10 years before leaking; we really live in a disposable society compared to Italy and the Netherlands. The Forum is where the famous “Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears” was uttered by Marc Anthony after the death of Julius Caeser. The Palatino has the Arch of Titus that is adorned with images of the enslaved Jews carrying their own precious goods that the Romans were taking from them.Arch of Titus showing Menorah

The Colosseum was built around 80 AD, ten years after the destruction of the second temple, and used for bread and circuses. You can read a lot about the horrible things that took place at the Colosseum for a few hundred years from many online sources. So, I won’t talk about all the battles to the death and drinking of human blood. Instead, we’ll think about how amazing it is that a structure that old can still have so much of it standing, despite so much construction material having been looted from it, including by those building St. Peter’s Basilica! Alot of the travertine and marble has been replaced by other material over the years and a large section is still buried across the street, under a road and apartment building, but you can get an idea of its grandeur.Inside view of the Colosseum

Onward to the Synagogue, not too far from the Colosseum. The surrounding neighbourhood has many kosher eateries, a few judaica shops and dry good stores. We started with some gelato at La Dolceroma at Via del Portico D’Ottavia, 20/B to give us the strength to choose somewhere to eat. Unfortunately, we ended up arriving during the afternoon siesta so even though patrons were still eating, many places were not allowing any new customers in. There was a very good take-out joint, Bete’Avon, where we were able to try the Jewish quarter’s famous style of grilled artichoke, a panini with grilled zucchini and mozzarella (delicious!), cheese pizza, and steamed chicory salad!Fried roman jewish style artichoke

We made it back on foot to our B & B as the rain began to fall. After relaxing for a few hours, we didn’t feel like going too far in the rain for dinner but found a rosticceria a few blocks away after not being able to get into a grocery store that was closing early to do some repairs. A yummy dinner of exotic salads (zucchini, cous-cous, roasted chicken, orzo and barley) for about 20 Euros total.

Tomorrow - Vatican City which may be the least walking and the most waiting of our Rome portion of the journey. And, yes, I fixed the internet connection at the B & B tonight after dinner. The missing PIN to activate the WiFi on their Vodafone router was on a SIM card in the original box. Once entered one time from any browser, it activated the router for WiFi use.