It seems that no matter which street we turn down, which piazza we cross or which monument we visit, the ruins of Roman civilization are in, around and most definitely under what stands here today.
Visited the enormous ‘white wedding cake’ that is the Monument to Victor Emmanuel, the first king of Italy. It now a military museum and the site of the eternal flame and the tomb of the unknown soldier. Classic Baroque marble sculptures adorn the forecourt and bronze statues are perched atop the museum.
Another walk and we are at Teatro Marcello, the ruins of an ancient Roman theatre with similarities to the exterior of the Colosseum. It is currently being excavated, but layers of contemporary buildings have been built on top of the ruins.
Another walk and we are at the site of the Circus Maximus, which today is an open field but was then a chariot and horse racing stadium that could seat 400,000! Pleasingly there are archaeological excavations being undertaken to expose the buildings that have been buried under metres of soil for over 2000 years. The central spina (spine) that formed the divide between both sides of the track, originally had stolen Ancient Egyptian obelisks along its length! However these were removed and placed within the city, and crowned with crucifixes, to signify the location of Catholic churches for pilgrims entering Rome. According to our guide, private companies have taken responsibility for resurrecting the major Roman ruins as the city does not have the money, despite the fees charged to tourists to enter them.
Yet another walk and we are at the Spanish Steps…….misnamed as it was built with French money, for a walking tour. The highlights were the column of Marcus Aurelias, said to be the last great emperor of Rome, depicting his legendary battles on a hollow column with steps inside leading to the top of the column. Then to the Pantheon, a temple celebrating the Roman gods, housing the world’s largest unsupported dome. It is not in ruins today because it was later consecrated as a church. The lowlight was the Trevi Fountain as it was under restoration and cleaning, so instead of throwing a coin and making a wish, we just got to wish it didn’t have scaffolding covering it.
Our walking tour ended at Piazza Navona, which was originally a 400 metre running track but is now a beautiful open space with Baroque inspired fountains, but that was not the end of the walking, as we still had a 30 minute stroll back to Hotel Rex.