Today I will be arriving in Rome, so please prepare yourself for every “when in Rome” joke possible. But before we get to Rome, we stop at Orvieto, a beautiful old town fortified naturally by large cliffs on nearly all sides. In order to reach the city we catch a very steep cable car up the side of the mountain and it is immediately obvious how effective this natural fortification would have been at protecting the city.
After a short walk through the beautiful streets of Orvieto we visit the Orvieto Cathedral before getting a Wild Boar sandwich for lunch. The remainder of our time in the raised city is spent exploring the quieter parts and taking in some pretty spectacular view from the walls at the east end of the city. The last sight we see here is the Orvieto well, which is 70m deep and surrounded by a spiral staircase. We only have 10min before our meeting time back at the cable car and naturally the stated times for descent and ascent of the well is 10min… each way… so we take it at a light jog. Thankfully the stairs surrounding the well are a double helix, so once we cross at the bottom there is a second set of stairs to come back up and the whole thing is one way!
We take a 360 photo of the view off the wall and are back on the bus, Roma bound.
Our walking tour in Rome starts at the Piazza del Popolo, or at least it tried to. Immediately upon attempting to enter the piazza we see that there is some sort of rally going on and people everywhere. SO. MANY. PEOPLE. So we exit and walk around the edge of the square instead.
We walk for a reasonable distance but see a lot of things, Rome is a magnificent city of both old and new architecture. The ancient ruins are everywhere but nothing more special than that of the Roman Forum and Colosseum, which we visit the following afternoon. But first it’s on with our holiest long pants and time to have tea with the pope.
Visiting the Vatican City was a great experience. Best of all, I didn’t burn up the second I stepped inside, so that was a bonus. Obviously I’m not religious, but even without the religious aspect it is easy to appreciate the architecture, art and history steeped in these walls. The Vatican museum contains some incredible art, but more importantly it displays a timeline of art starting from the 1100’s. Our Vatican guide, Fi, was hilarious and very knowledgeable, somehow managing to make an art history lesson actually interesting to the majority of our tour group of 20-something year olds. The Sistine Chapel was also amazing, but unfortunately no cameras of any kind were allowed inside. At first thought, the idea of Michelangelo spending 5 full years painting a ceiling sounds ridiculous, but once you see the scale of that ceiling, it suddenly makes sense.
St Peters’ Cathedral was similarly notable due to its scale and physical construction. I didn’t visit the catacombs while I was there, but I did climb the 500 odd steps to the top of the dome. It’s just a bunch of steps for a while, but when the path gets narrow, approx. 60cm wide, and the walls start leaning in, that’s when you know you’re really high up in this dome. The view out from the top is obviously a spectacular way to see Rome, but the view from the inside of the dome down over the church service and the alter is truly breathtaking.
We then explored inside the ruins of the Roman Forum, which are remarkably extensive. We explored the ruins, took some great photos for our respective Instagrams and then headed for the top lookout where we can see over the ruins and the Colosseum. Once we were done at the lookout, we were eager to get inside the Colosseum, but perhaps a little too eager. This is where today’s adventure turns bad… We lost THE GABBY.
In our rush to get out of the masses at the lookout, we managed to leave one of our party of 9 behind! We realised at the bottom of the steps down, barely a few hundred meters away, but unfortunately it was far enough that when I went back to look for her, she wasn’t there anymore as there were many ways down from this lookout and she had taken a different one. When none of us manage to call her, the team kicks into crisis mode. The remaining 8 split into 4 pairs, with each pair having at least one phone with battery and roaming cell service. Dave & Doug back to the lookout and take every other path down, Tess & Bot search the immediate area, Tash & Kirby head back around the way we came and Elisa & Bri go down to the Colosseum where we were meant to end up anyway. After about 10 minutes I got the phone call everyone wants to get; “WE FOUND THE GABBY”. Many sighs of relief were breathed, after all she is a founding member of the Topdeck Fam and it is highly likely Stephi would have killed us if we lost her for any longer than we did. And with that, on to the Colosseum!
The scale of both the forum and Colosseum are hard to describe in words. The Colosseum would hold 55,000 people in its day and although its particular flavour of entertainment was somewhat gruesome, it was an important part of how the Romans created a civilisation. It was not just the roads, and the aqueducts, sanitation, the infrastructure and mechanical technology, but also their understanding of people and society which enabled the Roman empire to expand and become not just a dominant force across Europe, but also an important element of our history and remarkably relevant and impressive to this day.
Yes, but what did the roman’s ever do for us?