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En route from Vatican City to The Royal Marcella Hotel, Mom & I stopped at Henry Cow for a [typical, Italian] late dinner.  I had a white a.k.a. no tomato sauce pizza with added garlic chunks & ananas a.k.a. pineapple, while Mom had delicious lasagna.  Again, we ate at small patio tables that were barely big enough for the two of us… and forget about having a place to put your purse!

When we returned to the hotel room I was running a low-grade fever and had a pounding headache.  The busy day had taken its toll.  I promptly went to bed because I could not afford anymore sick days – especially since tomorrow we had non-refundable tickets to one of Italia’s “Big Three”: the Colosseum (the other two being Florence’s duomo & Pisa’s leaning tower”)

We awoke early -- according to Italian standards – and ascended to the rooftop for our free continental breakfast.  Aside from the runny eggs, everything was superb.  The food freak in me fell in love the first day with arancia rossa a.k.a. red orange juice.  It had a more bitter taste than American orange juice, almost like a grapefruit.  The fruit itself was more of a blood orange.  Like Australia – and unlike the U.S.A. -- Europe did not have an array of sweetened cereals.  In fact, the cereal and milk at the breakfast tasted gross to both Mom & me.  Still, a night of restful sleep must have been what I needed to feel better.
Since we had walked so much yesterday & from the brutal Acropolis, Mom’s knee was quite stiff and sore so we caught a city bus from Via XX Settembre.  After we validated our tickets in the yellow box (a must!), I gazed out the window.  The bus rounded a busy, tight corner when suddenly the city opened up & revealed the epic stadium’s silhouette due to the rising sun behind it.  Some call times like this “ah-ha moments”.  I refer to them as moments of truth – that instant when your imagination & reality merge.  Part of the glory of them is that they are completely unrepeatable.  Never again would I see the Colosseum again for the first time. 
As we approached the arena, I was approached by a pseudo-Spartan man probably in his mid-30s.  Clearly, he was clad in gear that was fitting for someone from the movie 300.  From the ground up his partner soldier & he were clad in Spartan gear: brown boots that were knee height; gold armor; a long, red cape; the traditional gold helmet with a pompous, red mowhawk  The only difference was he looked nothing like Leonidas a.k.a. Gerard Butler.  He told me his name was Lucca.  Instead of ripped abdominal muscles, he had a pot-belly.  Instead of a thick beard like Leonidas he had a scruffy, 5 o’clock shadow.  Instead of that passionate, madman look in his eye, Lucca looked half drunk.  He ended up asking me to get with drinks him in the evening but I gracefully declined.

Mom & I had pre-paid tickets -- an auspicious purchase considering even at 8:15 there was a long queue for tickets (then another queue to enter).  I crossed under the gigantic vomitoria a.k.a. one of the 80 entrance arches and, as corny as this sounds, felt like a Roman spectator as I walked through the dark tunnel toward the sunlight in the center.  Not far was the most significant feature in the Colosseum: its cross. 
From the center of the ellipse-shaped Colosseum, Mom & I admired the hypogeum a.k.a. underground network which was now exposed since the wooden floor had long eroded.  The floor used to be covered in sand to hide the booby traps and pulley systems used for hoisting felines up for public viewing.  I had a flashback to the movie Gladiator, where Russell Crowe walked up an underground ramp into the arena.  The only difference was – as Mom pointed out – there were two sub-terranean levels, not one.  We saw archways through archways. 

On one end of the structure a crew worked toward restoring the Colosseum’s original seating.  Although only a small section had been completed, the visual gave me an idea of the myriad of visitors that would pile into the stadium. 
In an effort to not follow the crowd, Mom & I went up the “down” stairs to the middle tier of the cavea a.k.a. seating area.  This gave us a much better view of the hypogeum and also the surrounding area.  We saw the Arco di Constantino a.k.a. Contstantine’s Arch, Arco di Tito, and Roman Forum spread out over the famed [seven] hills Roma was built upon.  Since we were higher up, it was easier to fathom the 1,920 year old building’s enormity.
There were workers on the top/third level, but it was only accessible to staff.  En route to the Roman Forum & Palatino, Mom was approached by “Tomas”.  This breathtakingly beautiful man was a replica of Achilles a.k.a. Brad Pitt from the movie Troy.  He stood 6’3”; had long, flowing blonde hair; flashed Mom a winning smile; showed off his six-pack (since he was shirtless) and great body in his man-skirt; and had golden skin.  He wanted paid for a keepsake photo with Mom… and me as a third wheel.  We declined but nonetheless he conversed with Mom.  Afterward, Tomas pointed us in the right direction, grabbed my mother’s face in his big hands, and planted a very friendly kiss on each cheek.  I got Lucca and my 50 year old mother caught the fancy of Tomas!

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