Communion Of Dreams


Italy, 2012: The most valuable thing in Rome.
July 31, 2012, 5:00 pm
Filed under: Architecture, Art, Italy, Religion, Society, Travel | Tags: , , , , ,

Saturday: no class. Rather, the whole day was spent visiting sites.

Which meant a nice early breakfast, then pack up for a day’s hiking around.

We headed over to the Roman Forum, entering just east of the Colosseum. Down into the grounds, then left and up a series of walkways to the top of Palatine Hill. Our goal for the first part of the morning was the house of Augustus and the rest of the grounds around it. Easy to see why the emperor wanted to live there – great views, nice breeze, close to the cultural/civic/market center of the city. Some images to share:

Central courtyard of Augustus’ place.

Nice view.

* * * * * * *

From there we descended down into the Forum. It is packed to the gills with history, monuments, and tourists. There’s the site of the House of the Vestal Virgins:

A nice little thing called the Arch of Titus:

Arch of Titus.

Temple and civic building bits galore:

The Arch of Septimius Severus:

Arch of Septimius Severus.

Even the altar of the Temple of Julius Caesar where his body was cremated:

Yeah, people leave flowers still . . .

But the most curious item for me was the Lacus Curtiu.  There are several stories behind this simple little hole in the ground. The one I found most compelling is the most supernatural: that a mysterious hole had opened in the Forum – the heart of Rome – and no conventional efforts were able to fill or close it. Oracles were consulted, and it was told that the city could only be saved, and the hole in the Forum closed, if it sacrificed what it held most dear. While a debate raged over whether this was gold, or artworks, or religious objects, a young nobleman donned his arms and armor, mounted his horse, and lept into the gap. Immediately, the hole closed up, and Rome was saved.

Note the marble panel image.

There was once a hole here.

The young nobleman was Marcus Curtius. I think the meaning and implications of the story are clear, and revealing of the Roman character even so early in their history.

* * * * * * *

We exited the Roman Forum, crossed the street and had a delightful lunch outdoors in a shaded courtyard.

After lunch, we stopped at one of the many simple fountains to be found in the city to fill our water bottles. These are not fountains in the sense of having large beautiful sculptures and places where you can “make a wish”, but rather in the sense of being a drinking fountain. They are simple structures, sometimes free-standing, sometimes built into the side of a building. Out sticks a metal spigot, usually with no shut-off valve. And from that springs a stream of cold, pure water. Constantly. It just pours continuously, the water splashing into a drain below. Anyone and everyone is welcome to stop, drink directly, fill a bottle or a bucket.

In this way modern Rome continues the old Roman tradition of providing safe and palatable water to all.

* * * * * * *

Next we walked a bit down the street to see what we could of the Forum of Caesar. Interesting, and some of the images are pretty striking.

But mostly, to be honest, I just enjoyed people watching. The tourists from all parts of the planet. The small souvenir and snacks/drinks sellers. The Roman legionnaires in their flashy leather lorica (mine was better, though probably also hotter) who posed for pics for a few Euros. The colorful buskers who played instruments, or sang, or did tricks with trained parakeets. Grizzled old guys hawking hot roasted hazelnuts even when it is nearly 100 degrees out, standing over their braziers, scooping nuts into a twist of white paper.

Rome is vibrant, alive, layered with people and cultures just as it is layered with history. Just stay out of the streets if you value your life.

* * * * * * *

Across the street . . . wait, what street is this that I keep referring to? It’s the Via dei Fori Imperiali, a wide, beautifully straight and tree-lined road perfectly suitable for triumphal parades, built in the finest imperial style by Mussolini in the ‘30’s.

Yeah, it keeps traffic moving. It also obliterated a couple thousand years worth of the city’s history.

* * * * * * *

Anyway, across the street – actually, a lot of it is *under* the street – is Trajan’s Forum, the last of the grand imperial fora.

It’s impressive for a number of reasons. There are the typical “rubble-filled parking lots” (Steve’s phrasing, not mine):

Park your chariot, sir?

Surviving bits of great temples:

A multi-tiered shopping complex which was hacked out of a cliff face:

And, of course, Trajan’s column:



* * * * * * *

Dinner that night was in a little pizzeria not far from hotel, which had a decor straight out of the late 1960s, with music to match. Bit strange. Made moreso by the heavy application of liquid refreshments, which might just get my vote for the most valuable thing in the city.

And the pizza was good.

Jim Downey


3 Comments so far
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[…] no class. Rather, the whole day was spent visiting sites. Which meant a nice early breakfasource This entry was posted in europe by poster. Bookmark the […]

Pingback by Italy, 2012: The most valuable thing in Rome. | Home Far Away From Home

We are also always amazed that the fresh clean water flows all over – with no end in sight! Did you get to the Colosseum at night? I understand it has been opened for limited # of people on tours at night….can’t wait to try that!

Comment by Susan and Wade

Didn’t get to do that this trip – perhaps another time!

Comment by James Downey




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