Rome wasn't visited in one day: Day 3

July 09, 2014
Release the cats!


At the birthplace of fight night and Russell Crowe (long may he live).

I smugly waved two tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill in Henry's face. As I flapped them about they gave off a faint heat, they were still warm from being freshly printed. 

"You know how they say 'A Roman queue wasn't finished in a day'? You'll see it for yourself when you get to the Colosseum and see the queues to buy tickets. You'd think they'd figure out that you can buy them online."*

*What my smug self was not prepared for was the torrential thunderstorm that rained all over my historical parade. 

Henry's face lit up. "How ever so lovely! I have not been here since I was a lad. I do hope the Colosseum has not been cancelled, I am so looking forward to watching thieves being eaten by lions. T'would be more fun than the World Cup."

I whipped up a quick breakfast of a meat selection from the nearby deli and some savoury pastries from Antico Forno Ai Serpenti before taking a short walk from our apartment down to the Colosseum. 


We deftly strolled past the immense queue snaking around the Colosseum to the ticket office and straight through the empty 'pre booked/online tickets' queue into the Colosseum. I suppose this is what it would've been like in its Ancient Rome heyday. Instead of numbered pottery shards for tickets, big cats eating Christians, social segregation, and gladiators fighting to the death, we now have online tickets printed at home and people from all walks of life fighting for the best vantage point to take an 'arena selfie'.


And there are still cats, but little ones.


I was treated to hilarious running commentary from Henry.

"Will you look at that? It's not even finished yet! They'll never be ready in time for the Olympics!"


"This is a total rip off of the Hunger Games!"


*points at round structure* "Bloody lazy Romans, cutting corners." 

"When does the show start? I can't wait to see people being eaten by big cats!"


Wildly imaginative and inaccurate remarks about the Colosseum aside, I did pick up some fun facts which I immediately verified with Google because I can't trust anything I hear these days.

The Colosseum was allegedly once flooded with water and a naval battle reenacted on the 'sea'. 

In historical reenactments, the condemned played the roles of characters who were killed, making the Ancient Romans one of the earliest snuff entertainment makers. 

Wild beasts were Africa were imported into the arena and hunts were staged among a backdrop of painted jungle. Many species went extinct because of the Roman appetite for killing exotic creatures, the inauguration games in 81AD saw over 9,000 wild animals dead in a slaughter that lasted for one hundred days. 


By the end of the medieval period the Colosseum had underwent radical changes, both to its appearance and its use. The building sustained serious damage from the great earthquake of 1349 and subsequently the interiors were stripped of stone to be reused elsewhere, and bronze clamps which held the stonework together were ripped out of the walls scarring the buildings with pockmarks. The Colosseum has been a bloody circus, workshops, fortified castles, and proposed to be a bullfighting arena and a wool factory to provide employment for former prostitutes.

Now the Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is famous for being a landmark, tourist destination, hosting concerts that have seen the like of Elton John, Ray Charles, and Paul McCartney perform, and most famously a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment. Rome illuminates the Colosseum in gold light at night time whenever a condemned person anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released, or when a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty. The last time the Colosseum was lit up in gold was in 2009 to commemorate the abolishing of capital punishment in New Mexico.

From site of slaughter for the amusement of the masses to a site protesting death sentences, the Colosseum has certainly come full circle. Pun intended.


Despite my research (Don't take photos with the men dressed as gladiators outside the Colosseum unless you're willing to part with €30) and killer organisation skills there is one thing I am never prepared for. The weather. Some say that there is no such thing as bad weather, just people being badly dressed for the weather. I disagree!


It started with a light and steady drizzle oh so typical of London...



...before the heavens opened up and drenched Rome in a thunderstorm so violent it ripped my umbrella out of my hands, soaked my dress and hair, and nearly ruined my camera.


I gave up jumping from stone to stone trying to avoid ankle-high deep puddles of brown muddy water when a nearby pipe burst and splashed all over me. My hair which I had woken up especially to style into soft curls now hung lank and dripping. I don't even know why I bothered with the umbrella, there wasn't a single inch of me that was dry.

I screamed, I threw a hissy fit, I cried which only served to make myself wetter. 

Henry: "Don't worry darling, it's holy water!"

I sobbed even harder.


While poor Henry gets properly drenched, sacrificing himself so that I could have the umbrella to myself. 

I cried and muttered the entire ten minute walk back to the apartment, cursing the lack of taxis, and the moment we stepped into the apartment the rain stopped and the sun came out. 

Determined to not let Rome rain on my parade I had a quick lunch, restyled my hair, and proved that I was as intrepid an adventurer as Henry by suggesting we...*deep breath* take the Metro.

We took the Metro to a less pretty part of town, seeking out suppliers of military surplus for Henry's shop. A quick survey of the wares on offer and we deduced that there is a serious lack of good vintage military clothing in Rome, which explains why so many of Henry's customers are from Italy. 

If you're Italian (or from anywhere in the world really) and you're in the market for beautiful vintage military clothing (tunics, jackets, hats) with a bit of history being them, peruse Regimental on ASOS Marketplace. 

Also, if you're Italian with a not unreasonably-sized following on social media, get in touch with me. It's jasiminne (at) gmail (dot) com.


We left our secret surplus supplies spot (alliteration!) and took the Metro to the wealthy, 'solidly bourgeois district' of Prati for a leisurely stroll through what I imagine to the Kensington and Chelsea of Rome.



We stopped for a gelato break at the adorably named Gelaharmony. Melon and peach for me, chocolate and hazelnut for Henry, as always. 


On our way back to the Vatican City, this time to visit St. Peter's Basilica, we took a walk past Piazza Cavour to admire the Palace of Justice.





And paused to peruse the stalls selling souvenirs by the Tiber river.






It's not all kitsch, novelty, and tack, there are some gems to be found.

I bought three map prints for €10 and some vintage movie posters for €4 a piece.


I love the illustrations on these books.


I got Henry the postcard on top, and now he's getting a tattoo of that cat wearing a Swiss Guard uniform. 


Castel Sant' Angelo with St Peter's Basilica in the background. 







Back to the scene of the crime, Vatican City. I blogged about the Vatican City in detail, here.






I took in the wonders of St Peter's Basilica...


...and climbed hundreds of steps to the top of the dome...


...where we got an unrivalled view of Rome and Vatican City.

For the sake of brevity I wrote about Vatican City in a separate blog post


Nearly drowning in a thunderstorm at the Colosseum and Palatine Hill. A Metro journey to seek out military supplies. A walk through Piazza Cavour, Prati, and past Castel San Angelo. An inspiring and exhausting visit to the Vatican City. It had been quite a day, and there was only one way to finish it off with a proper Roman flourish---a trip to the suburbs for an authentic Pizzeria.


La Gatta Mangiona (The Greedy She-Cat) is a favourite with locals. In the backwoods of Monteverde, it took us a twenty minute Uber to get to from the Vatican City. But I insisted we make the pilgrimage to this pizza mecca, not just for the cat theme (Henry loves cats and was disappointed that the cat theme extended only to the decor and that we weren't eating from bowls on the floor like real cats) but for their famously gourmet pizzas.

We had three starters to share...


A simple and sweet bruschetta topped with cherry tomatoes and rocket.


Fried risotto balls.


I forgot the name of this pasta but it was delightfully salty according to Henry, I let him have it all because I don't like too much salt in my food.


And our pizzas!


The pizzas were beautiful! Small but filling and somewhere "between puffy-rimmed Neapolitan and flat and crunchy Roman, using a special semi-wholemeal dough that spends 48 hours in the fridge, ensuring a slow and healthy rise", with to die for toppings. La Gatta Mangiona is definitely worth the trip out to Monteverde. I recommend it to foodies and pizza lovers who want to try something a little off the tourist-beaten track.

The lovely people at the pizzeria called us a taxi and we sped back to Monti for an early night of carb coma, dreams of The Pope, and anticipation for the next and our last day in Rome.

x

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