Di’s Roman Holiday – Part One

Friday, April 20, 2012

I  arrived in Roma to pouring rain – So I took the time to settle into my petite (nicer than small) room at the Arena Guest House about a ½ block from the Colosseum. The rain let up and the sun welcomed me to Roma.

First things first – get some gelato – Yummy crema lemoncello flavor! Not too tart, not too sweet – like a creamy lemon meringue. There is something about eating gelato while walking towards the Colosseum that just can’t be beat.

While waiting to cross the street I smelled what I believed was air freshener – thinking that a nearby shop must have it near its door. What I discovered was that I was standing under a jasmine tree! I took some more really deep breaths of the fragrance and continued on my walk.

The Colosseum is still a spectacular sight to behold even though I’ve seen it many times as a child. I strolled leisurely around its circumference, prior to going to pick up my ticket for the 4:20 p.m. tour of the newly opened underground and third tier portions of the Colosseum. When arriving at the ticket booth area I discovered that the one-day public transportation strike had managed to extend itself to the Colosseum ticket agents and that they decided to close at the Colosseum at 3:15!! Well after all it was Friday, so why not start the weekend early…And it’s Roma!!

After speaking with several people it became abundantly clear that there was no way I was going to get into the Colosseum and that there was also no recourse to receive a refund of the fee I paid for the tour. Determined to get to see the underground and third tier – as well as the rest of the interior of the Colosseum I quickly went back to my room and got on-line to book a tour for the next morning at 8:30 a.m.

I went out to wonder the Colosseum neighborhood some more, grab a slice of mushroom pizza (sold by the size you indicate and priced by the weight) and stand under what I now considered “my jasmine tree” to eat it. Then, in order to take the edge off my disappointment of not getting into the Colosseum, I had another crema lemoncello gelato. Uh oh, I’d better start walking more.

In order to cover a large area in the short time that I had I decided to take a tour in an old Fiat 500.

A lovely young Roman woman, Regina, met me at the Arena Guest House at 6:30 p.m. to take me on a whirlwind drive through Roma in her vintage car. We zipped through small alleys that were made for chariots not cars.

Some stops we made:

Largo Argentina –where Julius Caesar was assassinated (not the Senate building, which was under renovation). These ruins are in a sunken area and have been taken over by the famed Roman Cats.

Since it was dusk only a few were roaming around because their dinner had been served and most were eating in various protected areas. There are a number of people who care (very well) for these cats. The cats were declared part of Rome’s heritage and a treasure years ago and have a protected status (their lineage goes back further than the Colosseum). The residents at Largo Argentina include thousands of cats that were relocated from the Colosseum. These cats are HUGE – but not in a fat way. They are healthy, have been spayed/neutered and some have been adopted by the City’s residents.

Aventine Hill – Piazza Cavalieri di Malta – The Door of the Knights of Malta — the “Keyhole”. This unassuming piazza is at the top of the Aventine hill. There is a door with a small keyhole –it is rarely opened — in which through this small

keyhole I viewed one of the best-known monuments in Rome with a beautiful garden in the foreground.

I’m not sure the photo does it justice – it was amazing.

Gianicolo Hill – As the sun began to set we ventured to the top of Gianicolo Hill for a sweeping view over Roma. You can see the many domes, including the Pantheon. The curve of the Colosseum is to the right. What a magnificent sight as the sky turns an indescribable hue of pink. There is a different buzz to Roma as night starts to fall.

Bocca della Verita – The Mouth of Truth.

At the end of our drive Regina took me to Luzzi a restaurant that was one of her favorites, for me to have dinner – funny enough it was in my Colosseum neighborhood and I had already scoped it out in the afternoon and decided I would have dinner there. FABULOUS cannelloni for only 6 Euro – it was very much a local restaurant and I don’t think I saw any tourists so the atmosphere on a Friday was very authentic.

Buona Sera Roma – See you in the morning.

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