We flew in to Rome a day early to get a peek of it-believe me, you need about four days to see all the wonderful sights. After checking into our hotel, Brian and I were able to see the Coliseum. I want to say that the structure is what you imagine it to be and you are awestruck by the age and the size of this outdoor venue. National monuments need upkeep and repair too, and there were fortifications in progress while we were there (hence the fencing and scaffolding in the photos).
I do remember thinking that I really did not connect with the grounds or space, and I didn't have a 'feel good' sensation about the area. As we all know, there were some heinous acts committed during the rule of the Roman Empire, some took place here in the Coliseum.
We stopped for a drink and some time to take in the city life at a restaurant called Caffé Martini. Our waiter (Giovanni) introduced us to some specialties of the house such as their tiramasu and Francesca wine from the hills surrounding Rome, in the towns of Frascati, Grottaferrata and Monteporzio Catone. We indulged in all of this while relaxing at a table on the sidewalk under the glorious sunshine.
The locals in the caffé as well as the staff were easy going and friendly, and I soon found out that most Romans were of this similar disposition. To me, the lovely persona of the Romans is an absolute contrast to what they are like behind the wheel or on a scooter/motorcycle. Life on the street is a hectic shrill of horns and skids, they drive like madmen. About every nine minutes you can hear and ambulance or police siren sounding in the distance and we witnessed several scooter accidents in our own district. There is a frantic, panicky energy to get somewhere "at all costs," I convey this observation as a PSA to not rent a scooter or motorcycle in Rome unless you are an accomplished rider. Even if you do cruise, I really would recommend taking a cab, the shuttle or walk to most of your sites. Why? Turnabouts and tiny alleys are dicey, while street plaques are set on the corner of buildings 15+ feet back from the street.
When a local recommends you go see a particular sight, give it a shot...even if it means having to skip a very popular sight. Giovanni told us to stop in at a very old church named the Basilica De San Pietro In Vincoli-just a few blocks away from the Coliseum. It was a very unassuming structure from the exterior (no marble, gargoyles or stained glass at the front of the church) and surrounded by large buildings. Feeling very "Angels and Demons," you had to know there was a church in this area or you would have walked right past it and never know it existed. There was an incredible treat inside: Michael Angelo's sculpture of Moses!
The second recommendation came from the front desk manager of our hotel. He suggested that we stroll through Villa Borghese while we were waiting for our room to become available. To give you an idea of the scope of the park-it is the second largest public park in Europe.
Villa Borghese is a gorgeous, ancient feeling space with white gravel paths and towering trees that is connected to the Zoo, Borghese Gallery and numerous gardens and waterfalls. You felt like a native enjoying the outdoors with many other Romans, it is a beautiful union of nature and art in the middle of the city.
We closed our tour of Rome by visiting amazing Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica.Experiencing stillness and peace, I felt "collected" and prepared to board the Holland Noordam and begin my very first cruise.