We decided to skip Florence altogether and went straight to Rome. It was a regretful decision for us but we didn't have the time to go to both cities. Sadly, we also had to give Cinque Terre and Sorrento a miss. Sob... sob...
Now that I am back in Singapore, I have the luxury of researching more on Italy. And the more I learn about Italy, the longer is the list of places that I want to go to; it really makes me want to fly back to Italy in the near future.
Photo credit to: http://www.monogramstravelagent.com/
That day, we reached Roma Termini around 1 pm via train. By now, I was quite familiar and used to the train services. It had certainly made travelling convenient and easy for us.
Rome is a sight to behold as it is truly an open air museum. The ancient ruins of the Roman empire sit together and blend well with the present buildings. Here, we can walk along any busy street and come across an ancient ruin. What's amazing is, we'll find yet again another site unexpectedly when we make our next turn.
Walking along Via dei Fori Imperiali, we came across our first historical site, the ruins of ancient Roman city. This site was just right behind our accommodation! Notice the brown building? That's the present day apartments.
The photo above is the Forum of Augustus, built by the Emperor Augustus himself in 42 BC. After the war that avenge the death of Julius Caesar, Augustus and Mark Anthony commanded the forum to be built. This included the Temple of Mars Ultor, which is dedicated to Mars, the God of War.
Just directly across the road, there was also another forum, The Forum of Caesar. But because it's the oldest of all the Forums, you can't really make out the structures. What's left are the columns, some architectural fragments and huge rocks.
Seriously, I find Roman history very difficult to understand. Italy is such an old nation and for me, it's like looking at small pieces of jigsaw puzzles. All I hope is that I had pieced some of the Roman history correctly.
Next to the Forum of Augustus is the Forum of Trajan, built in AD 112 by the Emperor Trajan. This is the greatest and also the last forum of the Roman Empire. The photo shows the Trajan's market, which is equivalent to a modern shopping centre in that period.
A few steps away from Via dei Fori Imperiali, we came to another era of Italian history, the period of a unified Italy. Notice that as time changes, the building structure changes too. It's really fascinating.
This building is known as the Victor Emmanuel Monument. It was really huge and high. The roof of the building looks like it is touching the clouds and the marble walls were stark white, which was a huge contrast to other buildings in the vicinity.
Given that the monument was dedicated to the first king of Italy, I was surprised that there are so many nicknames tagged to it - the wedding cake, the typewriter and the urinal. It seems that most Italians did not approve of this monument as it was built on the archaeological ground of the ancient Roman city.
An equestrian statue featuring Victor Emmanuel on a horse could be seen here.
The shopping belt of Rome, Via del Corso, was just right in front of the monument. It was around 5 pm when we noticed a huge crowd started to gather on the streets. Barricades were also put up along the roads by several fully-geared policemen. We had no idea what was going on but it looked like all of them were waiting for someone important to pass through.
We chose the highest spot to watch the "event". Waiting, but not really knowing what or who would pass by. We stayed put at our location because there's no way we could get through the human traffic below.
We waited for more than an hour and the Pope suddenly emerged from a black car.
There was a loud cheer from the crowd. People were reaching out to touch and kiss his hand as he walked along the road. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to capture clearer photos because the vapour in the air had condensed on my lense and I had already zoomed my lense to its max.
I overheard from the crowd that the Pope was there to light up the Christmas lighting. So I did some research on this and found out that the occasion was called Immaculate Conception. On that day, the Catholics celebrate Virgin Mary's conception of Jesus. It is also a public holiday in the Italian calender, which explains the huge crowd.
The tradition in the past used to be the Pope riding out from the Vatican to Piazza di Spagna on a caravan, before placing a wreath at the Colonna dell'Immacolata. This was not the case anymore. Well, I'm glad I've found out something new on that day. Travelling really opens my mind and that's why I love doing it. My next post will be on the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill.