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Sorry for the very long break between posts

The next day we set off to Messina for the short ferry ride to Reggio Calabria in the toe of Italy. Even though Messina was a transport hub, finding information about ferries to the mainland was hard to come by. The multiple ferry office addresses and piers listed but we couldn't find the correct one. With time running out, I dropped off the girls and the baggage at what we thought was the correct terminal and then drove off to the car hire office. That proved to be 2 kilometres away from the pier so I had to hustle to get back in time for the ferry. On the way back I came across a quaint little three wheel truck which I stopped to photograph. The owner came out and offered it to me for sale. As interesting as it was I had to say no!

Halfway back to the pier I came across the real pier and ticket office for the Reggio Calabria ferry route. I checked the timetable and it was due to leave in 45 minutes. I called the girls on the phone and told them to grab the bags and head back down the road and meet me halfway. Unfortunately this message really didn't seem to get through to them. "And go where?", Shelly asked "Come back the way we came!", I explained, again and again. Anyway, I had to run all the way back to the drop off point where the girls were still waiting. It was very hot and I was exhausted from the long job and I must admit I had lost all sense of humour by this time, especially as I now had to drag the girls bags all the way back to the ferry terminal. We made it just in time, bought our tickets and jumped aboard moments before the ferry pulled away.
We didn't spend any time in Reggio Calabria outside of the airport as the flight was due to leave in two hours. We checked in, went to the cafe for a coffee and waited. The flight time came and went without any announcement. First one hour, then two, eventually three. The small airport was packed with impatient passengers. We were then all shuffled into a very small waiting room without food, drink or services. What's more is that there were no seat reservations on the flight so the passengers became tenser and tenser as time went on, jostling each other to get to the head of the queue. Eventually a plane arrived in the late afternoon and after disembarking its passengers we were rushed onboard. Surprisingly there wasn't too much scrambling for a seat and we all got to sit together. On the flight to Rome we flew over Naples and the view was so clear we could see the ruins of Pompeii.
By the time we arrived in Rome the sun was beginning to set. We took a crazy taxi ride to our apartment on the Via Gulia, near the Vatican, nearly T-boning a car that pulled out of a side street. The elderly taxi driver complained enthusiastically about the terrible drivers in Rome without any sense of irony.

We cleaned ourselves up and wandered through the neighbourhood in search of a meal. It was a nice area with little trattoria and 'hole in the wall' bars but again we couldn't agree on what to eat. We eventually found ourselves at the Palazzo Farnasse where we settled in for a very nice meal and wine at the Per Te Ristorante. It was delicious.
After dinner we wandered past the magnificent Pantheon building and on to Giolitti for gelato. I would unreservedly state that Giolitti has the best gelato in Italy.
The Pantheon is my second favourite building the in the world (St Sophia in Istanbul is my favourite). These two buildings share a tenuous link - until St Sophia was built in 556AD, the Pantheon had the largest unsupported dome in the world. The Pantheon's dome with its open central occulus is truly stupendous. The building we see today is a 2nd century renovation of a much earlier temple erected by the first emperor Augustus' right hand man and son-in-law, Marcus Agrippa sometime around the turn of the millennium. Agrippa's temple was a standard colonnaded Greek style temple and still bears his name on the lintel facing the square. The temple had fallen into ruin by the reign of Hadrian in the 120s, so he had the building completely remodeled. The architects retained only the first two rows of columns at the front of the building, joining it to a new circular brick and concrete temple structure. To carry the enormous weight of the elegant, concrete dome required walls six and half metres thick. The solidity of its construction is one of the reasons the building has survived the ravages of time. In 609AD the Byzantine emperor Phocas donated the building to the Pope, who in turn erected a column to Phocas in the Forum - the last thing ever constructed their before the place fell into ruin. The pantheon became a Christian church and is now the resting place of the Italian kings Vittorio Emmanuel and his son.

Emma had never been to Rome before so we attempted to set off early the next morning on a whirlwind walking tour. Roman history is "one of my things" so I was in my element. We walked first to the Forum and the Colosseum. Last time we were in Rome you could walk through the Forum but now the entire area is gated off and there were huge queues. Tour guides were constantly offering their services to jump the queue but we refused. When did this become a thing? Rome does have a lot of ruins and I guess it is fair to charge for their upkeep.
We circled the Forum and headed towards the Colosseum. Shelly noticed there was a Barbie exhibit at a nearby museum so took the opportunity to give the Colosseum a miss (I have dragged here there before.... several times) so Emma and I went on while I banged on about the Roman Empire. Many people these days assume the Colosseum is so named because of its enormous size, but this is not the case (although the Colosseum IS the largest Roman amphitheater). The Colosseum was built over the remains of Nero's private pleasure gardens, called the Golden House. One of the features of the garden was a gigantic statue of Nero (think Statue of Liberty size) modeled after the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Wonders of the Ancient World. Consequently everyone called it the 'Colossus.' After Nero's death, the Emperor Vespasian had the buildings torn down and gave the site over for the new Flavian Amphitheater (named after his family, the Flavians). The statue was left in place and stood roughly in the space between the Colosseum and the 4th century AD Arch of Constantine. Vespasian prudently had Nero's face replaced by a bust of the god Apollo. The statue itself was melted down for its bronze during the desperate years of the 6th and 7th centuries, but having stood beside the amphitheatre for so many centuries the name rubbed off.
The Colosseum is now pared with the Arch of Constantine, a much later monument erected by the Emperor Constantine to celebrate his victory over rival emperor, Maxentius. Constantine is renown as the first Christian Roman emperor and his rival is damned as a footnote and Christian persecutor, but this is largely the work of Christian propaganda. Constantine was a ruthless power hungry megalomanic who murdered his way to the top. His son, wife, brother-in-law, son-in-law were all murdered at his command and after he died his three surviving sons had all of their relatives murdered - just in case. But he made Christianity the legal religion of the Roman Empire so all can be forgiven.
Emma and I caught up with Shelly and we cut across town to Castel de sant Angelo. This Papal fortress scenically sited on the banks of the Tiber was the tomb of the Emperor Hadrian. The central core of its rotunda is built like the Pantheon of metres of stone and concrete so it made an excellent fortress for the Pope. We circled the Castel and headed to a tratorria that our landlord had recommended for lunch. It was rustic and the food was good but it wasn't amazing.
A couple of wines later we were back on the road and marching to St Peters cathedral. The current building is at least the third St Peter's on this site and was built by Pope Julius II in 1505 (but it took 120 years to finish). I've never been particularly impressed by St Peter's from the outside, but the inside is simply awe inspiring. The scale of the building is simply mind blowing. It really is a must see site in Rome.
After walking around for an hour or so with our necks tilted up to the ceiling we set off toward home. Shelly again left us to do some shopping while Emma and I swung back through the centre of Rome. We visited the Pantheon, Temple of Hadrian, Campo de Fiori, and Plaza Navarro.

That night we ate at a pizzeria a few streets back from the Pantheon. It was a touristy restaurant - which usually never bodes well - but the pizza were really very nice. We again finished the meal with gelato from Giotti and wandered over to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, which are marvelous at night, but we were surprised to find the area almost deserted.
The steps were under renovation and fenced off. We took a couple of photos of where they should have been and then headed home. On our way back from the Steps we passed the Trevi again and found that the crowds had dispersed so we got to take a load of photos.

Posted by paulymx 06:00 Archived in Italy

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