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Roman Holiday

by on August 12, 2012

We’re getting very good at this pack-up-and-move-to-another-city-and-get-settled-in thing… we started packing in Lucca at 8am, caught a 10:30 train, and were unpacked and doing a load of laundry in Rome by 3pm.

Here we are schlepping our stuff to the train in Lucca (and staying in the shade!)












The kids have done really well, hauling (most of) their own stuff around

We had a “good surprise” Friday night…our apartment is at the bottom of a hill so after dinner we walked up the 126 steps and then farther to the top of the hill and looked over the edge and were rewarded with a superb view over the city as the sun set. Turns out this Janiculum Hill, although not one of the legendary “Seven Hills” of Rome, is considered one of the best view spots in town.   Here’s the view:









We could see the Vatican from the hill, which led the kids to today’s deep and unanswerable questions, which went from: what is the Vatican, to who is the Pope, to who elects the Pope, to why isn’t the Church more of a Democracy where everyone gets a vote, to if everyone has to do what the Pope says doesn’t that make him a Dictator, etc.


Saturday we got out and about; our first thing in each new city is to take the double-decker open-top bus tour around, to get our bearings and understand the major sights.

I was shocked by the number of cases where over the years they simply built new buildings right around or on top of the old Roman structures.  I’m not sure how I’d feel if the foundation of my apartment was a 2,000-year-old stone arch, but I guess they built them well and arches are held up by physics, not by the quality of the mortar.  Here are a few (of many) examples:

This palazzo was glued to the top of the Theater of Marcellus in the 1500s:









And this church was built right around some Roman pillars









Then since it’s 95 degrees in the afternoons, we exercised the lessons we learned in Spain, and came home and took a siesta!   Then after dinner, we did a long walk around the area of the major Roman ruins… the old Forum (civic center), Circus Maximus, Colosseum, etc.












The number of ruins in the old section of town are pretty overwhelming… every block there’s a big hole in the ground with a fence around it, and someone has made a halfhearted attempt to remove the dirt from around the fallen blocks of marble.  (The Roman streets are at least 15 feet below the current ground level). But then they just left the hole to the weeds and the feral cats.  There are no signs to tell you what you’re looking at, and no indication that it’s anything special.  It must be simply too much for the government to deal with.

Our walking political discussion of today happened on the way to the Forum: we walked past the Jewish synagogue, which had a small memorial to  the Israeli athletes who were killed in the Munich Olympics. So the question thread went: who killed them, why were the Palestinians mad at the Israelis, why are they fighting over the same land, why can’t they split up Palestine in a way that everyone gets a little, and why can’t they just make Jerusalem a city of its own, just like the Vatican, and wouldn’t that solve all the problems?  Out of the mouths of babes… I think Tom Clancy ended one of his books with that solution.

Every now and then they push too hard trying to get clarity on these issues, and I have to just end the discussion with “It’s Complicated”.


A few random bits:

Bird on the head of emperor:

All around town are water fountains, useful for washing hands or feet or drinking or whatever you wish, that run all the time… no shutoff valve at all









The fruit in the stands along the street is superb…  1 euro for a big hunk of watermelon is a great value on a hot day








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One Comment
  1. Uncle Phil permalink

    We have a candidate for understatement of the century:
    We have the ruins of an ancient empire, three millennia of religious conflict, the conundrum of the world’s largest organized religion, the interaction of the church and state, centuries of political strife and oppression, abandoned worksites, failed Socialist policies, the crumbling glory of the grandeur that was Rome, watermelon hunks and Euros, and Dave sums it up with “It’s Complicated!”

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