This was Sunday, May 3rd (I’m already falling a little behind).
As I knew from the day before, the ticket for the Colosseum & Forum was going to be free today, so I made sure to get to the Colosseum a little early to take advantage of that. I got there about 20 minutes before opening, and there was already a long line. But by the time it opened, the line was significantly longer. It also moved much faster today, than other days, because when you got to the ticket window, they just gave you a ticket since they didn’t need to deal with money changing hands. So while the crowds were larger because it was free, I was still inside in just under an hour, and at no charge, so very happy with that decision.
Inside the Colosseum was great, though obviously pretty crowded. I think it’s definitely worth going inside if you have the chance, gives you an even better perspective of the size and scale. Plus something that large and that old makes for a fascinating combination. Interesting seeing all the workings underneath where the floor of the arena was. Plus with movies like Gladiator it makes it that much better. Not too much else to say about it really, so here are a couple of photos.
After the Colosseum I made my way over to the Forum, the same ticket is good for both. I expected a shorter line for those with tickets, but because it was free today, the lines were reversed. Long line for ticket holders, essentially no line to just walk up to the window and be given a ticket. I was in line here for about 30 minutes or so.
While waiting in a long line at bigger tourist attractions, tour guides are always walking up trying to sell you on a guided tour, with a variety of pitches. Usually about getting in faster as one of the main selling points, along with some additional info they can provide. While waiting in line, one tour guide came up to the group of Australians next to me and tried to pitch them. They asked if it would get them in faster, and he said no, because today the long line is to show tickets and go through security, so he can’t skip that. They then asked him what the point was, and he then went into a pretty funny spiel. He told them that they’d be waiting in line a while then “just walking around and looking at some old bricks”, and don’t you at least want to know what you’re looking at? He then proceeded to say that he was Irish and just did this job to kill some time before he started his afternoon drinking. And that “if you’re going to spend 4 or 5 hours walking around you may as well know what you’re looking at”, instead of just looking at a bunch of “old bricks”. Pretty hilarious. The negative spin by this guy was too funny, was his tour going to be led that way? ‘Over here are some old bricks, these ones are even older. Oh and here’s a rare treat, some old marble.’ Pretty funny, but hey, he was the one of these guys that was actually memorable.
So I get inside, and I didn’t know too much what to expect. I know it’s both the Forum and Palatine Hill, and that it’s the old main center of Rome. But it was pretty incredible. It was massive and there’s just so much history in these ruins. After walking all around the Forum grounds, it was that much better to see it all from on high, atop Palatine Hill. And with the Colosseum visible at one end, you really get a sense of size and scale of the whole place. It must have been such a majestic display in its time. The power, authority, and success of Rome at that time, that’s what came to my mind any way. And it just made my interest to go to other old sites, and make it to Greece, even stronger.
After 6 hours on my feet, I decided I wanted to take the rest of the afternoon easy, so found an English language screening of the new Avengers movie. I knew I wanted lunch first, so I headed over to Barberini Square, where the theatre was, and planned to get a late lunch in the area first.
Well, this was my first food mistake, but I was due for one, so lesson learned. Instead of going a few blocks out of the way, I got lunch at a place near the square. I knew I would be paying slightly higher tourist prices, but I figured it couldn’t be that bad, right? I ordered a Gnocchi al Gorgonzola. The wine prices seemed pretty high, so I just ordered a beer instead, a Moretti, which sounded better anyway after a long tiring morning. But it was a nice looking place, on the sidewalk but nicely done up. The food came and it was, well not great. It wasn’t terrible, but it was extremely mediocre. Also perhaps the cream sauce on the gnocchi was made in the general vicinity of some gorgonzola, but if there was actually any in there I’d be surprised. I would have been underwhelmed by this meal at any generic restaurant in the US. It was okay, and filled me up, but definitely overpriced. So… fell into a tourist trap. Had to happen once. Live and learn.
Then the bill came. The freaking beer was 8 Euros… you have got to be kidding me… second lesson learned right there. This lunch cost me €23 and I would have been disappointed at less than half of that, really at any price. The significantly better Spaghetti meal I had the other day was about half the cost, and that was with a bunch of wine too.
I had no desire to linger at this place, so afterwards I headed nearby for an espresso and small cannoli at a table on the street while waiting for the movie. They were both quite good, but the place did charge more for eating/drinking at a table than if I’d just bought them indoors and had them at the counter. But in this case I thought it was worth the extra 2 Euros or so, as I had about half an hour to wait, and it was a great location for an outdoor table right on the square. While there I did have a nice chat with an American couple sitting at the table next to me. They were doing a 10 day tour group thing. But talking with them, they were complaining some about the prices of their tour and things like that, and it really was yet another reminder of just how much people can spend on travel. There are so many ways to do it much more affordably. So I’m very glad I did the research and am working on that side of things, though obviously as today’s lunch showed me, I still have a ways to go.
I enjoyed The Avengers, it was a nice break in a comfortable theater. Also fun seeing it with Italian subtitles. I learned my new favorite Italian words, “Ragazzi”, which means “guys”. It came up several time in Avengers, and I’ve heard it used a number of times by Italians since, such as when someone is leaving their friends “Ciao, ragazzi!” I think it’s a great sounding word for the meaning.
Tomorrow I’m planning on going to Vatican City, so up early for that one.