old & new

For the first time this holiday we’ve actually put a wake up alarm and since we managed to stay up until nine pm yesterday, we’re ready to roll around seven am. The usual breakfast and a shuttle pick-up at eight thirty to get to the Colosseum, where we meet Lucy, an architect turned guide, who will show us the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum this morning. While waiting for everybody to get together, we discuss the modern architecture buildings Rome has to offer and get some good advice on how to get there. The tour includes skipping the line and we’re grateful for it, as even at this early hour there is a line to get in and not everybody is guaranteed to get a ticket. Due to ongoing renovations they can only have 3000 people inside at any give time, that sounds like a lot but since they’re spread out over quite a large area the crowd pressure is not too bad. The guide is passionate and has a lot of interesting stories, but we also get a chance to walk around the second level by ourselves, enjoying the view over the arena and underground passages. It’s really strange to think that this was the place to be for violence and blood sports for so long, it really brings home the fact that the Roman culture had different values and ethics.

I find out some more about the construction method, interesting to compare it to the later methods used on Hadrian’s Wall in England, which I visited in the spring. We’re also finally getting the hang of the who built what/where/when during the Roman empire here, though we’re still pretty hazy on the early popes and how/when/why they transformed some of these ruins to churches. But even without a background in history, the sight of what remains standing in this area of Rome is very impressive. I’ve seen a lot of Roman remains during earlier travels, but mostly just floors and stubs of walls, incomparable to the big chunks of building that remain standing here, complete with doorways, arches, ..

the Roman Forum

After this impression of ancient history, the shuttle drops us off at a metro station and we make our way north by metro and tram to see something extremely modern. The MAXXI museum (Museo Nazionale della arti del XXI secolo) was designed by architect Zaha Hadid (who also has designed a beautiful building in Antwerp, Belgium) and holds both a modern art collection and an exhibition about modern architecture. After a quick lunch in the museum café we explore the interior of the building, it’s absolutely stunning, a beautiful space for the art installations. Modern art often doesn’t make sense to me, but I jump at the opportunity to participate in a Yoko Ono installation by adding a bit of paint to it.

Though pretty tired when exiting the MAXXI, we find some deep reserve of energy and walk the ten minutes to the Auditorium Parco della Musica, a concert venue designed by Renzo Piano. Also nice, but I prefer the MAXXI design because it’s lighter. We have the first drops of rain while exploring the building, but by the time we leave to catch a tram it’s more of a drizzle. The weather predictions have been gloomy every morning for the last couple of days and today we had our rain jackets on proactively, but all in all we’re pretty lucky with the weather.

My muscles are getting a bit achy from all the standing around looking at buildings and art, but a hot bath in the hotel perks me right up and we decide to go out for dinner. After some judicious googling, mom decides on a restaurant not too far away. Excellent wine, excellent food (though they really messed up our order). It’s nine thirty now, a record but definitely time to rest.

  • Total km today: 12,3
  • Total steps today: 18723
  • Flights climbed: 19

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