Off to Italy, very excited as we were met at the DaVinci airport by our tour guide. A wonderful guide, a professor of art who led tours in his spare time. Took us to our hotel and then out for a first dinner in a restaurant in a basement. Hand painted grape vines on the ceiling, very Italian! After dinner we left to go back to the hotel and the guide told us that tonight was the first time a new lighting system was to be turned on the Coliseum. He said he hadn't seen the new lighting. We were expectant but at the same time wondered if we would be disappointed. It was about eleven and a clear night. We came around the back side of the Coliseum and it suddenly appeared in front of us, the entire bus load of us gasped as it looked like it still had it's original marble covering on it as the lights were very bright and very white. Even the guide told us he was impressed by the sight.
The single most evocative symbol of Rome, the Coliseum, is equal parts glory and gore. So emblematic of Rome, it's said that when the Coliseum falls, so shall Rome. Fortunately an end was put to the Renaissance looting of its travertine façade—seemingly at just the right moment for achieving a picturesque broken profile.
The monumental brick vaulted building is intensely Roman in design, but covered with a Greek veneer of different capital orders on its three tiers of arcades. The many arches formed the entrances to the arena, each numbered so that the 50,000 spectators could easily find their seats—considered a marvel of the time. In AD 80, when Titus dedicated the Coliseum, he sponsored 100 days of games in which 9,000 animals were killed—leopards, lions, bears, and a rhinoceros, though there is no historical evidence that any Christians were martyred then or later in the gladiatorial contests.
The interior today exposes the underground passages where animal cages and machinery were kept. Originally there was a wooden floor covered with sand ("arena") to soak up the blood.
The four-story structure had a moveable canopy for sun
protection, a safety net to protect the audience from wild animals, a vast
underground network of tunnels, chambers, and elevators to move creatures,
prisoners and event paraphernalia. The floor could even be flooded to enable
ships to battle each other for the amusement of the population!
Sistine Chapel & Rome
The next day was Sunday and we went to see the Sistine Chapel, very impressive but very dark, the Japanese were just beginning to clean the chapel and you could see how dirty it was from the candles burning and the hot breath of people walking through the room. We then went out to the main square where there were at least 50,000 people as the Pope was going to speak from his private window. It was more like a circus, some hippies were dancing around, some motorcyclists were doing wheelies outside, women were fainting and crying and I am afraid we couldn't help but enjoy the spectacle of people being crazy. You couldn't get into St. Peters as there were over 5,000 people in there. Some of our group tried to get in and were almost crushed.
The next day the group was going to Naples but I decided to stay in Rome. They weren't going to see Pompeii so I wanted to see Rome. We hadn't toured St. Peters which seemed strange so I set off at eight in the morning and walked to St. Peters. There was one tour bus there! I marched up to the door and suddenly realized that ever 50 years or so, a special door is opened by the Pope striking the brick wall and then workmen smashing them away from the door. Supposedly if you walk through it your sins are forgiven. So I of course went through it. I told everyone that I backed through it just in case there was an earthquake or something as I didn't know if it was safe for me, a non believer, to pass through that door. But all was well, here I am, still traveling! As I was walking along a priest asked me if I wanted to say a confession, I cracked up and said I was from San Francisco and didn't really feel it was necessary. He was great, loved the City and told me since it was so early he would give me, a non-believer, a personal tour. The Vatican is beautiful, needless to say. The mosaics and statuary are fantastic. Michelangelo's Pieta was situated so you could almost walk up and touch it. This was just before that jerk smashed it and now it is in a glass case so we had a great view. Then he took me to the rotunda and we walked on stairs that are between the two levels of the dome! It was slightly scary as you climbed because you were leaning on the side which was 10 or more stories above the floor. Got to the top and what a view. Then we went down to the roof and watched some workmen repair the roof. A great way to see St. Peters.
Then I walked through the Forum, the Coliseum, and around down town Rome. That night everyone asked me what I did and were unhappy they didn't stay. Bounced around the bus for hours in the morning and afternoon, Naples was all right, the water was great but they said if you live in California you see the same thing everyday. They were sorry they missed the Vatican as we left Rome for the cathedral of Francis of Assisi and then Florence.
Caught in the Act!
I guess I have to tell you about what I did in Rome - the hotel had these big beautiful white towels that were scrumptious! Everyone talked bout them. As we left I decided I wanted a towel and even if it took up a lot of space that I needed for something else, it didn't matter. So there! Well we got on the bus and were ready to leave when the hotel manager came out and said, "This bus isn't going anywhere until that towel is returned." They counted the towels after the group checked out. No one said anything. After about 15 minutes I figured I better confess so I got off the bus and stood by the baggage compartment. No one said anything. The bus driver opened the compartment, I took out my suitcase and took out the towel and threw it on the sidewalk, shut the suitcase and put it back in the bus and got on again. Everyone including the hotel manager laughed at me and I have to admit it was funny after the fact. So much for being a criminal!
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