The easy thing about Pompeii was that even though people had been living on the site for possibly thousands of years, since the Etruscans, there was really only one story there. Bam, moment frozen in time. In Rome, after all the famous bits of emperors and triumphs and glory and acres of marble, people continued to live there. In droves. Even in Roman times you had a building standing for a couple of hundred years then it was swept away by flood or fire, then something else was built on the foundations, or incorporating the ruins. The mind bending effect is of all history all at once. You keep seeing things like this.
Just a bit of two thousand year old wall sticking out of a building a few hundred years old, adorned with Vespas.
We extracted a very prolonged squeak from the Horror by taking him on a little walk, then turning a corner to see this.
Once again we’ve used a tour guide recommended by Monika Iris, her name is Sonya Tavoletta and she’s been a very knowledgeable guide, and not just for the Roman stuff. This morning she took us through the Colosseum, even telling the boys things about it that they didn’t know, and we were especially amazed by the pulley mechanisms they had going so they could pop such things as whole trees out of the floor to run a wild animal hunt.
She took us on a walk past the Palatine Hill, giving us a whole lot of good information about Augustus, the Republic, later Emperors and pointed out some medieval farm buildings that had made use of the site after it had been abandoned and before the archaeologists started getting interested in the place in the nineteenth century. A lot of sites had been preserved when they were turned into churches, and there is not a more impressive example than the Pantheon.
Gave me the shivers the first time I saw it twenty five years ago, and gives me the shivers now. The magnificence inside is what the whole Palatine Hill and all the other relics jutting out about the place would have looked like in the days when labour was almost free. The Moose is working up debating points for why slavery should be reintroduced, but I think it’s just because he wants to live in a marble palace. The Horror and the Muffet were more interested in gelato than the glory inside the Pantheon.
The smaller kids prefer their ruins ruined, but I highly recommend the blueberry gelato. The Horror is just surprised to find how much like mandarin his mandarin gelato tasted. He liked it in the end. Muffet like her ruins also infested by cats, something that’s guaranteed when you operate a cat shelter in the Theatre of Pompey.
The Muffet visited the shelter and it reminded me of what my house would smell like in the eventuality that I do become a crazy cat lady. This particular cat was sitting metres from the spot upon which Julius Caesar was stabbed repeatedly by his business associates. Here is the spot even closer.
Just a fenced off area surrounded by busy streets which we’re finally learning to cross. You find a small gap then march across confidently, heads held high, not making eye contact with drivers. Last time I was here I’d find a nun to cross with, but we’re not staying that close to the Vatican this time.
Back to the Forum in the afternoon, past the shop that sells ecclesiastical duds to the Pope.
I guess you have to get your cardinal’s gear somewhere. There were a few shops nearby also selling stuff with which to fit out your church. Or personal altar.
I did love the Forum, you could spend all day there. It’s another site that could greatly benefit from the German touch. Sonya had given us enough information to be going on with, and there were the odd information signs. I do love the foundations of identifiable buildings, but I also love the random bits of marble lying around.
In a personal example of how Roman design still influences us today, I think that if you visit my new bathroom you’ll find this very design on the decorative border tiles around the room.
You could spend days mooning about the Forum, but they boot you out in a multilingual fashion at four, so we meandered back to our slightly run down hotel past the Colosseum to drink it in a little more. It’s an amazing thing to have hanging about the place.
Sonya’s son attends school about ten metres from the thing, which immediately had the Horror petitioning to be left here in her care. It’s hard to compete with. We have seen many school excursions popping in to ancient churches and museums, a very far cry indeed from a visit to Homebush.
If other parts of Italy, the Renaissance has been then strongest historical echo, but here it is overwhelmingly the classical Roman past. I wonder if that is how it seems to the residents? I’ll have to ask Sonya tomorrow, when she guides us through that other looming presence in Italy, the Catholic Church. More specifically, its physical centre, just a couple of Metro stops away. Always something new to look forward to.