Travels with myself …. and family: Italy Part 2

The following day we walked to the Colosseum via the Victor Emmanuel monument. This monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a united Italy also contains the tomb of the unknown soldier. Begun in 1885 the monument wasn’t completed until the time of Mussolini, who added various fascist symbols which were removed at the end of World War II.

The Colosseum is really something to behold. There is huge restoration work being carried out now and, although this acted as something of a distraction, we could still imagine what it would have been like to arrive there as a person or even animal about to appear in the arena or indeed one of the baying crowds who would sit in increasingly precarious positions up the sides of the surrounding amphitheatre, which held 50,000. We imagined that we would be plebs perched near the top of the building a long way away from the arena and without the benefit of today’s TV screens which make sure that everyone can see what’s happening on stage. (That was an uncomfortable thought but we felt that, had we lived in that time, we would have been there).

Yet again we dodged the queue and, after buying our tickets, were directed to a lift which took us up to the upper levels. The view was amazing and you could imagine just how people were caught up in the excitement. At the same time we were horrified at the thought of what they were excited about. Down on the ground floor again there was so much work going on that it was difficult to see the original arena but you could look down to where the animals and the gladiators and the prisoners were kept until they made their way into to the arena. As you leave there is an interesting exhibition which has been put together with artefacts, information sheets, pictures, statues etc.

We set out late the next day and arrived just in time for a picnic lunch in the Piazza del Popolo, on the steps of the Egyptian Obelisk, cooled by the mist blowing from the surrounding fountain. (I thought we Brits were good at stealing artefacts from other countries, but the Romans certainly set us an example! We saw obelisks all over Rome). After lunch, we looked around one of the churches in the square and then retired to a cafe, where we argued as to whether we should take a taxi and ride up the steep incline to the Borghese gardens or whether we should walk. I’m afraid that Yorkshire thrift won over sense and, between them, they pushed me, in the heat, to the top of the hill, where we were relieved to see golf buggies for hire. If only they had been based at the bottom!! We spent a pleasant hour exploring the gardens (the third largest public gardens in Rome) by buggy and made our way to the Villa Borghese, which was commissioned in the 17th Century by Cardinal Scipioni Borghese and is now an art gallery. We had not booked a visit, so we simply admired it from the outside.

I was a little concerned about the j0urney, by wheelchair, back down the steep hill but my son held on to me and we arrived safely back at the piazza. We stopped for a drink on the way ‘home’, where we were treated to a dinner made by my son and his girlfriend. (A benefit of ‘home’ being outside a tourist area was that we were surrounded by little supermarkets.

Friday was going to be spent looking at antique shops but most were closed and their owners seemed to have disappeared for the summer. So instead of having a purpose today we mostly just meandered the streets and enjoyed taking in the beautiful buildings which kept surprising us around every corner. At the beginning of our meanderings we booked tickets for a concert advertised as three tenors and a soprano, so we eventually returned to our apartment to get changed for our great evening out. While we were waiting for the concert venue to open, someone came out and expressed the concern that I would not be able to to park my wheelchair in the aisle, so would I mind sitting at the back? (Yes! Another free ticket). We were a little surprised but pointed out that I could walk a short distance in order to sit alongside the other members of the family. When we went inside, we discovered that we were in a fairly small church, at least it seems small compared to the enormous churches we had been in throughout the week. Not only was the church small, the audience for small too. And not only was the audience small but the ensemble of entertainers had shrunk to one tenor, a soprano and and a string quartet. Nevertheless we enjoyed the concert of everyone’s favorites including: “Nessun dorma”, “La donna e mobile”, “O mia babbino caro” and “O sole mio”. Afterwards we had a lovely meal and on the way back discovered the exquisite Chiesa del Gesù, a church dedicated to St. Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, just in time to view it before it closed.

Our final full day found us meandering again and revisiting some of our favourite sites from earlier in the week, including the Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps. On Sunday we packed and endeavored to eat up the food mountain which we still had in the fridge. We walked along the road for a coffee and a snack (arancini, the favourite of, Sicilian detective Inspector Montalbano). It was just starting to rain when my son noticed our transport arriving and we had to hurry back. By the time all the luggage was loaded we were in the middle of an absolute downpour! Once again I was help through the airport by the wonderful assistance team and delivered into the aircraft via an amazing mobile lift system. After the short flight home we caught the bus back to the car park and thanks to my my foresight in writing down the exact space where the car was located, we got off at the right stop and were heading back to south London.

We spent the next day, in temperatures matching those in Rome, enjoying the garden which my son and his girlfriend have been working on all summer. There were no direct trains on the east coast due to to major engineering works taking place over the bank holiday weekend so I travelled home on Tuesday.

I loved my first visit to Rome. I loved all all the historic sites we visited and the beautiful buildings, churches, squares and idiosyncrasies of the city. I loved being with other people for a change especially as I have not been on holiday with my son since he was a teenager (he’s 40 now). I’m especially grateful to him for suggesting that we could go on holiday. After falling and badly breaking my arm earlier in the year, I had cancelled the solo holiday I had booked many months before and wasn’t expecting to have a holiday at all this year. My holidays are usually planned months in advance and doing something last minute, if you can call 3 months last minute, is not something that I would usually contemplate. So thank you, Jonny, if you are reading this!

And now, full of renewed confidence, I have already booked a holiday on my own for next year!

Here are some fairly random photos. As I explained last time, I didn’t take many photos myself, so I thank my son for these. Not sure where they all are (except for the Colosseum obviously) but they are different from last time!