One of my favorite places in Rome is the old Foro Romana, or the Roman Imperial Forum. I first visited this as a teenager with my late Aunt Rosemary, and of all the places we went, the Forum stuck most in my mind. It spurred a lifelong interest in Roman history, and whenever I get a chance to visit Rome, the Forum beckons.
The weather stayed lovely the evening after I left the Villa Borghese Museum, and I decided to use the last few hours of daylight prowling around my favorite ruins. The taxi ride from the Via Veneto to the Forum was made more harrowing than usual due to the large amount of people on the street. The driver told me this was the best day he’d had in a while, and he hopes the subway goes out again on strike later in the week. Every trial has a silver lining, I guess.
Once at the Forum, I happily prowled around the walkways. It’s a work in progress with excavations still continuing. They’d recently unearthed some excellent frescoes from the ruins of the Basilica Aemelia and put them on display in the Curia Iulia – the only building still in a good state of preservation. This was because it was turned into a church and thus was saved during the destructive centuries of early Christianity. Inside the curia, you can see the unearthed stone dais (or what remains of it) where the chair of the Roman Emperor was placed. As you look at it you can imagine Augustus, Tiberius or Claudius sitting there and giving the Senators a very hard time. If they were anything like our Senate, they probably deserved it.
Outside the Curia lie the ruins of the Temple of Saturn, the former treasury and armory of Ancient Rome. All that is left of the upper building are the amazing columns and upper frieze with the inscription still intact. They were working on the excavations of the basements at the time of my visit and a sign posted said there would be new exhibits coming later in the year. Rats – that would have been most interesting!
Around the next path the Basilica Iulia now has it’s foundation excavated, and the ruins of it’s pillars are easily seen. It was a large building for Rome, and pretty fitting for Caesar’s Folly. Just past the basilica is a tumble-down ruin with a big line of people. This is the spot where Julius Caesar was murdered by the disaffected Senators.
Old Julius is kind of a minor Deity around here. When you walk past the protective wall, you see a mound of stone with offerings of flowers, notes of petitions and candles placed on it. Delightfully pagan, and kind of sweet, actually.
Walking farther down the path you see the Temple of Vesta. Three pillars of this charmingly round temple remain, and they’re actually in pretty good shape. Makes for a nice picture. There are wandering groups of school children here, all in matching caps, and they all were listening attentively to their teachers explaining the history. Well, all except for the two ruffians trying to put dirt down the shirt of this cute little red-headed girl. Kids are the same the world over, but these were luckier than most – Rome is the city of endless field trips.
The Palatine was open, so I made the climb to the top of the hill to see the ruins of Augustus and Livia’s mansions, as well as the splendid view. They’re also still excavating here, and have recently uncovered a portion of Augustus’s garden, with a stone mural intact. Livia’s portion of the house was closed for excavations, and the archaeologists were just leaving for the day when I walked over. What a cool job they have.
Walking back down the stairs, you can exit out the back of the forum and end up right at the Colosseum. I had visited there several times, and it was getting late, so I decided to give it a miss. I decided to find a cab and go back to the hotel.
The cab drive back was an experience. First, the driver (who thought he was with NASCAR) sideswiped a bus. Didn’t even stop. Just cursed and continued. Add Rome to the list of cities where I’ve been in taxi accidents. At least it wasn’t a person this time, so I counted myself lucky and hung on a bit tighter to the chicken strap.
The subways were working again, so I couldn’t figure out why the traffic was so bad, so I figured I’d ask the budding Mario Andretti at the wheel. He explained that the Rome-InterMilan football game for the Italy Cup was going to start in an hour, and it was in the Rome Stadium. He was angry his company was making him work until he reached his quota of fares, so he couldn’t see the game – hence the sunny disposition and dangerous driving.
The rest of the drive, with me hanging on desperately in the back, was a tirade on the virtues of the Rome football team and the fact that InterMilan has no real Italians on the team. His diatribe was interspersed with Italian curses and shouts to the other drivers he encountered. I’m sure most of what he said is not found in any dictionary, but was fascinated at the flow of curses. He couldn’t find the hotel fast enough for his imaginary timetable, so he wanted to leave me on some other street. Using my Taxi Driver Arguing skills that were honed to a fine edge in New York City, I got him to leave me on the corner of the street where the hotel was and paid the rate we previously negotiated. Once back at the hotel, I had a glass of wine and watched the soccer match.
PS. for anyone who cares: The football game ended with InterMilan beating Rome 1-0.