Our trip from Florence to Rome was straight-forward. It’s a good investment to pay for taxis to resolve our baggage weight problem and particularly in Rome from the train station it takes away the concerns of pick pockets and crammed buses. Once again our apartment is perfect but Rome is a big place so although possible to walk to most things it is not so welcoming to walk in the hot sun for an hour. Yes the apartment is great except here we really do suffer from loud road noise as the new metro line C is being built right along our road so all the lanes are squashed into one lane and the bus stop is located 2 metres from our door step almost directly under our bedroom. Here is the view from our windows:

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To date this would be the noisiest location and it stays that way until around 2am in the morning. Nothing like listening to buses and cars idle right outside your window while they wait at a traffic light; and, then zoom off in the distance after that. But hey this is Rome and it’s a big city – sleep is overrated.

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On Thursday after a morning at home, (we thought the kids were missing maths and reading), we headed off on our walk down to the Pantheon via the Colosseum. We intended to leave the Colosseum until another day but it was mid-way to the Pantheon so an interesting landmark for all of us. It took us about an hour to walk to the Pantheon and the sun was really hot.

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The Pantheon is one of those places you must see. Approaching it you wonder if you have got to the right place or not because the outside isn’t all that spectacular until you get to the stairs leading up to the giant granite columns. That evidently was the aim of the designer who wanted to hide the magnificent dome by the outside walls. It was built in about 126AD by Emperor Hadrian (Caesar Publius Aelius Traianus Hadrianus Augustus) on the same spot where Marcus Agrippa built a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome. Emperor Hadrian is the same chap who built Hadrian’s Wall (we’ll see this in the UK in a month or so from now) which began around 122AD. Although it started life as a temple to all the gods it was converted to a church in AD609. It is one of the best preserved Roman buildings and the Pantheon’s dome is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. Did I mention it was built almost two thousand years ago! If you were into Civil Engineering you would have to get excited about this – it really is an engineering marvel.

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On Friday we went to the Colosseum and Saturday the Roman Forum. You won’t regret reading about it at http://www.travellingeuropewithkids.com/italy-rome-the-colosseum-roman-forum-and-a-history-lesson/

On Monday after the kids did a bit of home schooling in the morning we set off on a walk-about tour. I had quite an ambitious walk planned so wasn’t too sure if we would make it to the end. First we took Metro Line A to the Flamino stop so we could walk through Piazza del Popolo.

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Then we made our way along Via del Babuino to the Spanish Steps (Scalinata della Trinità dei Monti) which is a set of stairs that rise from Piazza di Spagna at the base to Piazza Trinità dei Monti at the top. Built in the 1720s, there are 138 steps and I read somewhere that they are the widest in Europe. The name arises because the Spanish embassy to the Vatican was located in the lower Piazza.

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Next another 10 minute walk to the Fontana di Trevi which was absolutely crowded even more so than the Spanish Steps. We found a spot to admire this magnificent fountain and Karen read the story of the fountain to us which is no doubt one of the most famous fountains in the world.

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We then marched off to Piazza Navona via the Pantheon. It was about 5:30pm, we continued on to the bridge named Ponte Sant Angelo. We all needed an energy refill so along the way I popped into a shop and bought ice creams. Ponte Sant Angelo has had a few different names one of which is the Bridge of Hadrian as it was built by the Roman Emperor Hadrian and completed in 134 AD. This is certainly the oldest bridge I have ever walked over. It has also being called the “Bridge of Saint Peter” (pons Sancti Petri) as in the past pilgrims used this bridge to reach St Peter’s Basilica.

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The next stop was my secret stop, the Vatican City! At one point we were alongside a low wrought iron fence; at a gap in the fence and I told Karen and the kids to hold hands then we stepped through the gate and I announced that we had now entered Vatican City to which they erupted with all the right sort of screams.

I had planned to make the trip around the perimeter of Vatican City but after seeing next to no queue to get into St Peter’s Basilica we wandered on in and spent about an hour looking around. I am afraid I don’t have any good photos outside as the sun was too bright and of the inside because there was not enough light ….

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On Tuesday at last I went for my run. I wanted to go for a run on Sunday but felt a bit il,l and I didn’t want to miss running in Rome. I ran down to the closest Metro then had a relaxing trip on the train to Vatican City. I had two goals. The first was to run around VC and the second was to run home. I had hoped to leave earlier so I could see what the queue is like for the Vatican Museum at open time, 9am, but as I slept in a little I didn’t get to VC until about 9:34am by which time the queues looked like they were a km long and 6 people deep. Tomorrow we plan to go to the museum so we better get there way before 9am or we will spend the day in line.

Initially I had planned to run both ways to and from the VC but I am sure glad I didn’t attempt that as it would surely have ended in failure! VC took 25 minutes to run around, longer than I had expected, it is not a flat run and in a few places you don’t really have any footpath on the VC wall side of the road so you have to peep around the corner to see if an cars are approaching before jumping out on to the road. After making it round VC I headed of toward the Ponte Sant Angelo (bridge) but took a few wrong turns so ended up going over Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II. In a roundabout way I ran to Piazza Navona and then to what I thought was the direction of the Pantheon. After a while I stopped asking for directions to the Pantheon because everyone seemed to point behind me toward where I had come from. I must have missed it by a whisker! I adjusted my sights to the Coliseum and armed with a new set of directions continued. Before long I gazed upon the now familiar sight the Complesso del Vittoriano (Vittoriano Museum Complex) at the end of Piazza Venezia.

Now I knew exactly where I was going! Not long after I was running alongside the Colosseum. In search of a WC I ran around the Colosseum. After success I braved my way across the busy Via N. Salvi and in my homeward direction. Running along Via San Giovanni in the shade is nice but I wasn’t looking forward to the last part of my journey, in fact the 1 euro in my pocked was leading a mutiny with my sore legs trying to convince me to catch a bus home. I kept on going and overcoming my mental weakness I managed to run up our road Via La Spenzia and arrived at our door step. That was the end of a 1 hour 25 minute run. The photo below is me outside my favourite coffee shop which is immediately next to our apartment entry. I am writing this at 3pm and I have already had two Cappuccinos and one Espresso today. Although I haven’t tried Italian Pizza yet, and may never do so, I have had my share of Italian coffee.

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Tuesday we got up about 6:30am, real early for us travellers, and headed out the door by 7:30am to the Vatican City Museum. We arrived at the entry queue at 8:15amand waited outside until it opened at 9am. By the way we waited about that long in the queue at McD’s to use the toilet yesterday so it wasn’t too bad.

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What can I say about the V.C. Museum? Well it’s big and it’s crowded and you are pretty much overloaded with good stuff that you don’t appreciate like you should. It’s actually not just one but a bunch of museums together. I think my favourite room was the Museo Gregoriano Egizio, that’s where the Egyptian collection was. I really liked seeing the old language scripts and also the various artefacts that concur with Biblical data.

Here is a stone with an inscription from around 700BC!

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… and they say my writing is hard to read!

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I guess I should own up, the first thing we did we when got in the museum was find the café and have a Cappuccino.

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We looked around the museum until about 1:30pm when we were about expired but that’s 4 hours of walking and taking things in so we didn’t do too bad. I don’t think the kids complained at all which is quite remarkable. I think the trick was that the day before Karen and the kids looked online to work out what they wanted to see and so it was kind of fun to find “their” things. I was looking forward to the Sistine Chapel but sadly found the security guy telling everyone to “shh… shh… shh…” the most interesting part. I had hoped the ceiling paintings by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapter would be more inspiring but they failed to speak to me. I think next time, and this goes for any museum or sight, it would pay to read more about them before I go to see them so I can understand better what I am looking at. Possibly one of the most memorable lessons I learned in Rome was from a fellow traveller at the Coliseum who was almost in tears seeing it. He explained that he had been reading about Roman history for 20 years and saving for his trip for 12 years!

Well this marks the end of our first 3 months, tomorrow we are on to England, the motherland.

(Week 12B-13A: Wednesday 9 May 2012 – Wednesday 16 May 2012.)