Home from Rome - a trip report

Dec 16th, 2013, 10:59 AM
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hahahah- flygirl, that is too funny! In downtown Fort Worth, they have tried noise cannons, shotgun blasts (not aimed at the birds), shiny objects, etc. to get rid of the grackles.

I think the eventual winner was bringing in a couple of natural predators.. some kind of falcons I believe.

Too funny!

(PS Sorry for the person that didn't like Ostia. Yes, a guide would be great [I saw Francesca Caruso covering this site with Rick Steves on one of his programs], but a good guide book or research beforehand should also do. As far as both this and Pompeii in one trip- maybe not. My suggestion was just in case you decide you don't want to spend a full day away [ie Pompeii] vs a shorter visit to Ostia. I should mention that we planned a trip to Pompeii, but the day we had in mind we checked the weather that morning in Naples and it was supposed to thunderstorm all day (windy, lightning, rain). We opted to go to Ostia, as it was lovely in Rome on that day. So- do check the weather report for Naples before you go. I wouldn't have minded doing Pompeii in light rain- but no way was I doing it in thunderstorms!)
sarge56 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2013, 01:39 PM
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That picture is hysterical! Although it looks like they are succeeding as I didn't notice bird poop. However I think I will not stay along the Tiber just in case and to avoid the noise.
yestravel is offline  
Dec 16th, 2013, 03:26 PM
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It's been too long since my last visit to Rome, but when we were there, we found guidebooks to the ancient sites that used transparent overlays with drawings to show what the sites would have looked like in ancient times.

Visiting the sites with a great guide would be ideal, but if you will not have a guide one of these books would certainly be helpful.

Several are available on Amazon. Here's a link to one:

MaineGG is online now  
Dec 16th, 2013, 03:29 PM
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I meant to say, also, how much I've enjoyed this trip report. The story of the swallow-scaring guys is great.
I need to get back to Italy one of these days.
MaineGG is online now  
Dec 16th, 2013, 05:09 PM
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LOL, what a great story! The picture just adds to it
I wonder if it's really working...and if do they do this year-round? You were there when, in November? Do they still have swallows in Rome in Nov?
xyz99 is offline  
Dec 16th, 2013, 11:10 PM
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Indogirl1 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2013, 12:46 AM
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Such an odd idea, chasing away the swallows. Maybe when they've chased away all the other animals they will be happy.
bilboburgler is offline  
Dec 17th, 2013, 01:40 AM
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Excellent report.

Particularly enjoyed the food report, always my favourite part of a holiday.

I find very little compares to experiencing traditional food. in traditional locations.

Keep up the good work.
forgottenlife is offline  
Dec 18th, 2013, 03:27 AM
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sarge, it is funny, and especially in context when I had no idea what it was and was trying to figure out if there was a message. It made me think of those studies they have done on people when they go shopping. They've found that even something as simple as having someone brush up behind you when you are browsing is enough to make a person stop shopping/leave the store - imagine what this kind of disturbance would cause for hapless tourists in the area.

yestravel, eeeeeh, I would not want that noise every evening. Although you'd probably be out and about at that time.

MaineGG, thank you!

xyz, they do! I saw a huge murmuration one day.

Bilbo, I guess they poop up a storm...

forgottenlife, thank you. I guess it's easier to read when the food is all in one place.

Still writing/photo sorting...
flygirl is offline  
Dec 18th, 2013, 05:22 AM
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I think with all the apts in Rome I can find one away from the areas of the busiest flight paths of the starlings & avoid the noise and any mess the starlings make. From the articles I read, the droppings can become quite the hazard. "Because of the heavy bird droppings, the Lungotevere, one of Rome’s greenest boulevards, had to be closed because of the high risk of accidents not only for pedestrians, but also for vehicles"

Looking forward to more of your TR.
yestravel is offline  
Dec 18th, 2013, 07:21 AM
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TDudette is offline  
Dec 18th, 2013, 03:30 PM
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Who knew, swallow scaring guys in Rome? Looking forward to the 'Low Point' of your trip! Janet
Janetd5 is offline  
Dec 19th, 2013, 06:39 AM
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Just found this wonderful report. Thanks, flygirl. Absolutely gorgeous shots from St. Peters.

We should have the next DC GTG at the Giolitti's in Annapolis! It is the same family.
TDudette is offline  
Dec 25th, 2013, 05:04 PM
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Merry Xmas everyone! I was industrious today. I am going to try to get one more installment in, after this one, before I take off on another trip... which means I will shortly have another TR to slack off on... here goes.

Now we are at the Low Point portion of my trip report. How low? Hypogeum low!

I have visited the Colosseum each time I have visited Rome. How can you not be drawn to this glorious and passionate feat of engineering? As my last visit was six years ago, however, I had still not visited the Hypogeum. Hypogeum means "underground", literally, and in this case it means the underground of the Colosseum. Clearly the Hypogeum tour was no downer - but it was a very low vantage point.

I did some research and found the website to order tickets directly from Coop Culture.


I selected the first tour of my first full day in Rome. Since it was at 940 AM, it still gave me the opportunity to sleep until 730 AM (which is sleeping in, for me) and have a leisurely breakfast and still make it in plenty of time.

Our tour guide showed up and handed each of us a small one way radio. There were perhaps 20 people there and she knew we would be scurrying around during parts of the tour (the above ground parts, there is no scurrying below ground) and so we had her radio voice to tell us what we were looking at. Naturally I was working my camera during all of this and I only have two hands, so if I wasn't near her I missed the descriptions.

The tour starts on the large wooden stage/platform while she described the setup of the Colosseum and some of the engineering/architectural finds. From this vantage point you can look down and peer directly into the tunnels below. You also are standing at the vantage point of the gladiators and the poor hapless animals who were meant to fight to the death. As you look at my various photos posted and see how tiny people look up in the stands you will be able to see the scale of the Colosseum.


After we wandered around the wooden platform for a while she took us outside the Colosseum in order to descend the stairwell to the Hypogeum. It is, of course, very dark and dank but naturally nothing like it must have been when it was in use when there was no natural light and needed to have burning lamps for light. For starters, now, there is a lot of fresh air coming in because it's almost entirely exposed but for the initial part which was still under the stage. It would have been, during the summer, hot, sweaty, close, oppressive, noisy and probably unbearable. But bear it they did.

Even though it is very open you still get a sense for the maze of tunnels it was. You don't get to wander very far, in fact, we barely walked out into the uncovered area as it was roped off. Perhaps at a different time they might let you go farther out into the (now open) tunnels.

The guide pointed out the sewer and the interesting findings from them as well as discussing the challenges in excavating them. Apparently archeologists get very excited by sewers because you can tell a great deal about a culture by its waste. And the Colosseum was definitely a micro-culture. They found a variety of animal bones which could even have been food for the crowds, not necessarily animals fighting each other (such as chickens). For that matter, I'd suspect given the roles the Colosseum played over the years a number of the animal remains could have been meals for squatters later in the life of the Colosseum, too.

She pointed out in a few places the evidence of the elevators which were lifts operated by ropes and pulleys. Later she talked about the tunnels under the Colosseum which led to the Ludus Magnus (gladiator school) nearby. I kept picturing in my mind a present day large sports stadium, and imagining some future society trying to explore such a superdome sports stadiums and trying to piece together what a Super Bowl must have been like - or our culture in general. Makes you wonder how close to the truth they would be, those future archeologists.

I also found it so compelling to think of this massive and complex engineering marvel being constructed at the time it was. Think of how primitive the tools were and how this building has withstood the rot of centuries. Back to a present day superdome - can you see one of those lasting even 100 years, especially if it was left to rot?

Some photos:


Finally, you get access to yet another area that isn't open to the general public - the nosebleed seats. You climb up to the very top, on the side that faces the forum. What a view from up there! You are so high you are looking down on the Forum - taller than the Arch of Titus, and just about taller than the Arch of Constantine. I snapped a number of shots up here, too. Can you see San Giovanni in Laterano?


In looking at my photos taken in 2004 I noticed that there used to be a walkway from the stage to the other side which went straight over the middle and now it appears to be gone. I wonder when they took that out, and why.

Some more random photos:


Next: The Pope-st with the Most-est. Everybody Loves Francis.
flygirl is offline  
Dec 26th, 2013, 02:26 AM
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Great report and love the pictures. Thanks.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Dec 26th, 2013, 07:40 AM
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Thank you Julie!

Next: The Pope-st with the Most-est. Everybody Loves Francis.

I attended a General Audience given by Pope Francis on the day before Thanksgiving. This mirrored an experience I had nine years previously when I attended a General Audience given by Pope John-Paul II, also on the day before Thanksgiving.

These General Audiences are held every Wednesday that the Pope is in residence. It should be known as a Really Big Catholic Pep Rally because that is what it seemed like! There had to have been 50,000 people in attendance.

Here is the crowd on the monitor:


It is very easy to get tickets. If you are an American, all you need to do is contact the US Bishops' office in Rome at [email protected].

I picked them up on Tuesday afternoon and got instructions on how to garner the better seats which will give you a better chance of seeing the Pope up close. Long and short: show up really, really early and go to the security gate which would be at about 10 o'clock on a clock dial if you consider that St Peter's is noon (I hope this explanation is clear). The audience itself starts at 1030 but if you want a decent seat you have to be at the security gates before 7 AM. The sister showed us a map of the seating and where to go for the best seats. She also said to all of us standing there, "and when you finally get through security, RUN."

Naturally I had not packed a hat or gloves for this trip, although I did pack a few large decorative scarves. The online weather called for mid 50s all week and I didn't expect to need either. Of course, that doesn't take into account two things: the highs only occur mid-day, and, the exception proves the rule. The weather all week in Rome was delightful - mid 50s and (mostly) sunny, but for this one day which was grey, cloudy, and I am not sure it even reached 40. Which meant the early morning was sub-freezing. So, one large scarf got folded into a babushka for my head with the other one wrapped around my neck, and on my hands? Socks. Yes, socks. To see the Pope.

I arrived well before 7 AM, all proud of myself, only to see that the crowd was huge and clearly had been there for a while. No one was paying attention, though, as they were all milling around with their signs and so I slipped into the crowd and by luck happened to find an American couple who were with me getting tickets the day before. I fortified myself with the chocolate espresso candies I brought with me (from Caffe Sant'Eustachio). Then, all of a sudden, it was 730 AM and the security people started to let people in.


Getting through security was interesting although what really made it easier was the fact that Italians love to queue properly.

Just kidding! Once the security gates opened, a river of people surged towards the three or four gates/conveyor belts and I was swept along. The good news is, unlike an airline, they don't mind if you bring food and drink through security so I brought a big bag of cookies from a bakery as well as my espresso candy.

Once inside I took the sister's advice and ran. I was stopped by a very large Swiss Guard who sternly pointed me to the area I probably should have run towards anyway.

This Guy:


In case it is not already clear, the Swiss Guards are cute. Here is another one:


I selected a seat which was three seats forward from the barrier which separated the crowd from the aisle for the Popemobile. I thought being barely ten feet, if that, from the barrier would be a perfect vantage point to see him. Well, I wasn't entirely wrong, but when the time came, my bright idea to stand on a chair to see over the crowd and snap photos was thwarted by the fact that the people sitting directly in front of me did the same thing. I still got some good shots.

Keep in mind it was so cold that I wasn't sure if standing and hopping or sitting hunkered on my chair would be better. It was good to be in the crowd and that no doubt helped, but since I wanted to get a good photo I was on the edge of it which meant I was one of the buffers adding body heat but still exposed.

Once the crowd was fully in residence it got very rowdy. People brought their items they wished to have blessed (within reason, I didn't see very large items) and the crowd seemed to be mostly Italians from various parts of Italy, wearing their parochial "colors" or scarves or signs with the name of their church. A few people in my section of the crowd were carrying huge flags with the name of their congregation on them and they spent some time chanting and swinging the flag around, to the consternation of some of the people within the path of the waving flag. Lots of yelling and at one point a young guy named Marco showed up (I was sitting not far from the gate to my section) and about 20 people sitting close to me starting screaming his name and dancing. Full body hugs, cheeks being kissed, they all ran out to see him and it occurred to me that they had all probably traveled up on the bus together to attend the audience from their small village church and had probably only been separated from him by a few hours. Hahaha!

More excitement: Directly to my right, across the "aisle" was a roped off section. It wasn't clear what this was for - dignitaries? The infirm? Ultimately it didn't seem to be for anyone because about a half an hour before showtime the guards came over and removed the ropes. Madness ensued. People right next to me, with perfectly good seats, all ran pell-mell to move about 6 feet to the other side to get equally perfectly good seats. I am glad I was not standing on my chair at this point lest I would have been knocked over. I guess the grass is always greener. This rush to get new seats was not done quietly, by the way. Oh no. Lots of shrieking and running. I think Marco's team grabbed him and swept him along, too.

The cheering got even louder when the Pope came out in his Popemobile and swept through the crowd. He made several sweeps up and down the various aisles, bestowing blessings and kissing babies. What a happy guy! He was beaming, just beaming, this entire time. I'm a bad example for a Catholic (the only time I visit a church, is when I visit Italy… and then I usually am there to take photos) but I was just so thrilled and honored to be there to see the Pope. I really, really like Pope Francis.

Photos. See if you can spot the one photographer who completely missed the moment. It made me giggle:


After several sweeps the procession stopped and he mounted the steps to the stage in front of St. Peter's and then read a speech and gave his blessings. Several priests then stood up, in turn, and delivered his speech in their own language. English, Spanish, German, and so on. A few photos, and note the heaters that were set up on the stage. The Pope even commended everyone for waiting in the brittle cold for so long. A laugh rippled through the crowd when he said that.


After it was over I went back to my hotel and soaked in very hot water in my tub for about an hour. I decided that was enough excitement for the day and all I did the rest of the day was to enjoy a leisurely lunch, stroll some more, and then a leisurely dinner. I think I had another scoop of gelato in there somewhere, too.

Next: There will be a pause in this report as I am heading to the airport in a few hours. Stay tuned for the start of another trip report. I will finish this one, though, promise.
flygirl is offline  
Dec 27th, 2013, 12:13 PM
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I recall the stage and walkway were put in for an opera, the walkway was only there on one visit which I guess was ~2004 but the following year?? it was closed-off removed when I visited in ~2005 but the stage still had public access but that was closed sometime later.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/11557100983 http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/11557100333
http://ldmart315.edublogs.org/files/...ize-r0kjdm.jpg This lake or pool, or “stagnum,” was the focal point of Nero’s Villa. Suetonius describes the lake as: “An enormous pool, like a sea, was surrounded by buildings made to resemble cities, and by a landscape garden consisting of ploughed fields, vineyards, pastures, and woodlands.”
Rostra is offline  
Dec 27th, 2013, 12:32 PM
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Oppa hit send!
I just wanted to point-out a couple of things in your photos.
The circular structure is the Meta Sudan a fountain put in by Domition a short time after the Colosseum was finished but the ===[] foundations around it are porticos from Nero's 'Golden House/Domus Aurea' that surrounded his "lake" which the colosseum was built-over. In the .jpg they would be in the lower left corner |=____|

In the 2nd photo the excavations in the lower left corner are of Emperor Augustus (Octavian) 'birth home' which was discovered a few years ago.
They always knew it was somewhere in that location and luckily
they found it.
Rostra is offline  
Dec 31st, 2013, 06:07 PM
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Went to Rome and now back home again...of course we had the famous Granita con Panna. Fabulous and it packs a jolt.
Jim_Tardio is offline  
Jan 1st, 2014, 05:20 PM
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Bookmarked - love the detail!
Ozgirl07 is offline  

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