Day 5: Rome: Underground

There is a point in every vacation where I wonder how I’m going to make it through all those days, then comes the half way point, where it all seems to be slipping away.  It was already Thursday, and we would leave Rome on Sunday.


On this day we had pre-purchased tickets for the Coliseum, Palantine Hill and the Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House).  The Coliseum tickets were good all day, but the Nero tickets included a guided tour at a specific time.


We tried to take it easy that morning, having walked most of the way across Rome the day before.  Jane wanted to go over near the Coliseum early and visit the church called San Pietro In Vincoli or Saint Peter in Chains.  The kids decided to stay at the apartment and rest.  They would meet us at the Coliseum Metro Station before the tour.


The Coliseum Metro Station in Rome.  Where you can get Ice Cream, Gelati, Pasta and Spaghetti on the go.


The Coliseum Metro station is kind of interesting.  Naturally, there are a lot of tourists, including tour groups that meet there. As you emerge from the underground, and walk through the turnstiles there are two big open doors.  Just outside them is the first view of the Coliseum for many people.  I heard and American woman say, “Boy, it puts you off right at the place!”.


A tour group of older Americans was assembled near the door.  The Italian guide was telling them, “When we go out side, there will be liquid falling from the sky. Don’t be afraid, it is only WATER.”.  Her geriatric audience met her with stony silence.  She continued, “If any of you don’t want to go, you can stay here.  I am going to go!”.  “She’s going to go.”, an older woman muttered under her breath.  Nobody stayed behind, as she took her group bravely into the rain.


Jane and I took an exit up some stairs that put us out at the top of the hill.  Then we walked around a while looking for the church.  We ended up finding a park where Jane used to sit with our son Christian when he was a baby.  The park had a bench and a nice view of the Coliseum.


Jane stops at a Park she used to visit with Christian 27 years ago


We wandered past a college.  There were protest banners hanging outside, but I couldn’t make out what they were protesting.


Then, we came around the corner and found the church.  We went inside.  We were the only people in the building except for a caretaker, who quietly cleaned in a corner.  We walked along the walls of the church built in the 4th century AD, looking at different art displays.  Then, we came upon the famous statue of Moses by Michelangelo carved in 1515.



It was hard to imagine that in all of Rome, that morning, that Jane and I were the only people viewing this masterpiece.  It sat quietly in the dark.  I noticed that there was a vending machine nearby.  For .50 Euro cents, you could turn on the lights.  I had all kinds of Euro coins, but no .50 cent piece.  Jane didn’t have one either.  So, we stood for a while longer and admired it in the dark.


Another group came in and broke the silence.  We moved on to another display, which consisted of chains in a box near the altar.  These are said to be the chains that bound Saint Peter in Jerusalem.


In very dim lighting, you can make out the Chains of Saint Peter


The people who came in after us had a .50 cent piece and they lit up the statue.  So, I went back over and took a picture using the professional lighting.


The statue of Moses by Michelangelo at the Saint Peter in Chains Church in Rome


We left the church, and stopped at a small bar for a cappuccino, then headed to the Metro station to meet up with the kids.


We headed to the Domus Aurea, or Nero’s Golden House. The Emperor Nero died in disgrace, and part of the punishment was to attempt to erase him from Rome.  His palace was buried and they placed the public baths on top.  Where his private lake was, they built the Coliseum.


During the Renaissance, students like Rafael cut holes and lowered themselves with ropes into the house to study ancient Roman artwork


So, to view Nero’s house, you have to go underground.  I was glad that we scheduled a guided tour, because there wasn’t really anything to tell you what you were looking at once you went into the area.  The Emperor Trajan had most of the art and valuables removed before the house was buried.  But, there was still some artwork on the walls. 


At one point, the tour guide mentioned that the only thing holding the house together was the roots of plants above us.


Part of an ancient Roman ceiling still partially intact


When we left Nero’s Golden House we went over to the Coliseum.  I had purchased advance tickets to help us not have to stand in line.  But, on this rainy day, the line wasn’t that bad anyway.


A year ago, the kids and I had taken a guided tour, and as fate would have it, I heard a familiar voice once inside.  It was the exact same tour guide we had last year.


We walked around the bottom circle, and then went upside to the top.  There was a very interesting display inside showing some ancient sculptures, some from 500 BC.


Ancient graffiti at the Coliseum showing Gladiators in battle and a charging feline.


It was getting late, and we were soaked.  Our tickets to the Coliseum also admitted us to the Palentine Hill, home of the rich and powerful in Rome.  But, we still needed to do laundry, so we elected to see the Palentine on another day, and headed back to the apartment.


Late that afternoon we trekked over to the next Piazza to wash our clothes, and checked our email at the Internet Café across the street.  Then off to Il Padellaccio 2 for dinner.


Next…we take a train trip to Tuscany, and visit the towns of Pisa and Lucca.


But first…


A picture of the gang inside the Coliseum wearing their “Italia” sweatshirts newly purchased from a street vendor just outside: