It might seem as if I am stringing these Rome posts out as much as possible – which I guess I kind of am – but it’s because there’s so much to see and do here that it has taken me forever to write about it properly, so I am blaming it on Rome. It’s Rome’s fault…
Anyway, Day Three of our Roman adventure began with a visit to the Pantheon. At nearly 2000 years old, it started off life as a Pagan temple before being changed to a Christian church. Despite a varied history that includes fires, wars, being rebuilt a couple of times, and many many centuries, this beautiful (and often crowded) space is not only free to get in, but is still pretty much as it was seen by Roman eyes – which is worth a visit in itself don’t you think? Raphael is also buried here, alongside his sweetheart if you are wondering whose tomb everyone is heading for once through the doors!
Mr R (having done his gastronomical research beforehand) insisted on tagliata for lunch (essentially a perfectly seasoned, thinly sliced grilled steak – often served alongside rocket and parmesan) – something that carnivores visiting Rome really should try. And where better than Maxela just around the corner from The Pantheon itself. Maxela also happens to have a butcher’s shop smack bang in the middle of the restaurant, so you can watch your bit of steak being hacked off. At this point, it has to be said, the Small People were also hacked off. They had wanted to go to The Colosseum before lunch, but I had insisted that we eat to avoid any later moaning and harrumphing about being hungry. Thankfully they were won over by the food (best sausage pasta ever apparently!) and we had a nice relaxing lunch (mostly, I suspect thanks to the promise of a later pilgrimage to the incredible Grom) before visiting the biggest ever draw to Rome (there’s a Maxela in London too I have just found out!).
As I mentioned earlier, The Colosseum is not as big as your mind’s eye expects it to be, but that doesn’t make seeing the inside of the place any less incredible when you first see it – it still remains the biggest amphitheatre in the world! Whilst Mr R and I gasped and “wowed” at every turn and vista, the Small People had spotted “Father Christmas” (he actually did look quite a lot like him) and whilst pretending to listen to the educational audio tour of this vast Roman arena, were in fact following the pour chap around (at a distance) in the hope that they would find out whether he was the real deal (something I had’t realised they were doing for a good 10 minutes, so content were we to follow their “historically interested” lead!!)!.. Thankfully I managed to lure them away with the welcome distraction of the shop, where they spent a good twenty minutes browsing the aisles wondering what to spend their saved up tooth fairy/birthday present/ and general blackmail money on. They decided upon replica coins, educational books (surprisingly!) and tiny bronze cats – just because. Thankfully Father Christmas was elsewhere in Rome by the time they had finished.
We however, ventured onwards and upwards investigating the different layers and viewpoints. This is a building full of strange facts and history. Did you know that it has over 80 entrances, can seat up to 50,000 people, and was responsible for the near extinction of quite a few animals (as well as tens of thousands of humans I should imagine!)? Nope neither did I…. If you are organised, you might consider an official tour (which is the only way you get to see the bottom and very top layer by the way) – or perhaps you should just have a chat to one of the student guides outside who offer a more personal experience for a reasonable amount. It is still pretty mind-blowing to see though, however you choose to see it, Father Christmas or no Father Christmas.
Shortly after our visit it appeared that Small Boy had become slightly possessed (or hysterical perhaps from a history overload) and spent the rest of the afternoon (if not the next couple of days) as the reincarnation of a particularly annoying Roman dog called John (is John actually a Roman name?). He might have started off with that moniker, but was swiftly rechristened Mutt by his somewhat exasperated sister (reminiscent of the Ewok episode at Lake Garda last year!)… In any event. If this happens to one of your children whilst you are there, I highly recommend letting them burn off some “canine” energy by giving them free rein to gallop up and down the Circus Maximus – the skeleton of a Roman Charriot racing stadium nearby…
From here we made our way across the river to Trastevere, where we took temporary shelter from a lengthy downpour amongst the patrons and formica tables of a very local pasticcierre/bar (I am of the conclusion that it would be possible to visit Rome and not spend money on food if it wasn’t that important to you – you could order a drink and survive on the masses of crisps/nuts and olives they bring you pretty much anywhere!)… We had hoped to visit another excellent pizza restaurant in this lovely area, but typically it was closed, so we settled for another place instead. Unfortunately the girl in charge wasn’t comfortable with bestowing politeness on her patrons (not us, but I can’t stand rudeness in any form), so we upped and left, and decided to chance it elsewhere. It was by now pouring with rain again (and most restaurants were full to the brim), but we took a risk on a slightly retro Italian restaurant (the name of which I can’t find for the life of me) that (happily for us) served excellent spaghetti vongole (and pasta and meatballs for the small people) accompanied by a carafe or two of good house red, endless gifted sweets and chocolates for the younger members of our party, and various screens displaying the most bizarre 80’s Music TV I have ever seen in my life.
I think we must have walked around 515 miles that day, but none of us were complaining. It was our last full day (“phew” I hear you cry!), and we had achieved our mission to pack in as much of this city as possible…
Maxela: – Via della Coppelle 10 – 13, 00100 Rome, Italy – Tel: +39 06 68210313 – 7/10
Grom: Via della maddalena 30 A – 10/10