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We have been to the heartland of the Roman Empire. We customarily ate pizza, pasta, gelato & tiramisu. We drank vino, prosecco, beer, & cappuccinos. We enjoyed the twenty degree warmth, basking in the sunshine! But mostly we were left speechless by the stunning architecture and archaeological remains.

We had a guided tour of the “Crypts, Bones & Catacombs!” As the other family that had booked on the tour didn’t show, we ended up with a private tour, and our guide Amy was fabulous! She took us to some out the way places, off the beaten tourist route; she made us laugh, and told us loads of nitty-gritty details. In short this was one of the highlights of our trip!

We booked another tour to see The Forum, The Palatine Hill and The Colosseum. Our VIP access meant our group was only twelve in number, and we had access to the stage and underground areas of the arena. We also headed up to the top most level, only open for private groups! Walking out onto the stage was simply amazing! Moving out the shadows of the gateway and into the sunlight, it was easy to picture yourself as a gladiator, about to fight for your life, and imagining the crowd roaring at your arrival. Well worth every penny!

The rest of the time, we wandered the streets of Rome on our own. We had a peek at the Vatican City, then wandered past Hadrian’s mausoleum, now called Castel Sant’ Anglo, and also the mausoleum of Augustus for good measure. Weaving our way back to the city centre, we were totally blown away by the Pantheon. The building is indescribably huge! In typical Roman fashion, if they were going to build a temple, they were going to make sure it was one of the biggest and best temples ever! And that’s what it is. One of the most stunning places I have been privileged to sit in the shade of.

We searched for the Mamertine Prison, now a place for Christians to visit as it was once supposedly the cell of St Peter. We were more interested in one of its earlier, more long term prisoners… Vercingetorix, King of the Gauls. Under Vercingetorix, warring tribes banded together, a feat rarely achieve in Celtic history. This Celtic leader managed to give Julius Caesar a run for his money and the wars in Gaul lasted eight years. This tiny three meter circular cell is where he spent the last six years of his life before being executed by Caesar. Kev was particularly unnerved being down here. As a man used to living his life under the big blue sky and hearing the wind rustling leaves in the trees, it sent a shiver down his spine to know Vercingetorix spent nigh on 2190 days in this dark, dank, lifeless cell.
We headed south to the Aventine to dine in one of the little restaurants carved into a hillside. The place is called, Monte Testaccio, and a closer inspection will reveal that the hillside is built out of amphorae, the vessels used to transport goods such as olive oil and wine. So basically it is a rubbish tip from ancient Rome. Now 2000 years later the hillside is covered in vegetation, and restaurants are carved into the base of the mound.

Fabulous! We loved it!  Arrivederci Roma e grazie!

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