I went down to the Piazza Cahen next to the funicular railway at 8am this morning. The air was crisp and the sun looked threatening. I crammed into a tour bus with about 50 other people who were students from the University of Arizona. The conversations that I was forced to listen to were the most inane, vacuous verbal diarrhea I have ever been subject to. Please, merciful god, do not make me endure that again.
The saying “all roads lead to Rome” takes on a whole new meaning when you are stuck in a tour bus with only a two-lane highway leading into the city. It took about three hours to get into Rome, a journey that takes only an hour and a half by train. I was thankful to step out of the bus and into the warm Roman air.
For a history buff and someone interested in classical archaeology, Rome is incredibly overwhelming. Around every turn is a piece of thousand year old or older history. Scooters and cars whip around the narrow streets creating a constant whir. It’s almost nauseating. I was unable to do very much sightseeing since Dr. Soren, Noelle, and I had to walk briskly around the city to sure up our locations. They did, however, take me around to see some pretty cool stuff. It’s also a blessing to have two classical archaeologists give you a private tour around Rome, a city they have both been traveling to for over 40 years.
Rome has an interesting method in their preservation of ancient buildings: they merely build them into the modern structures. One good example is the Theatre of Pompey, one of the locations we wish to film. The ancient theatre has long been plundered, but the ancient structure still exists within apartments and restaurants in the area. The apartment building follows the semi-circle architecture of where the theatre once stood. Noelle told me that artifacts remain in some of the apartments. She said she saw an ancient column standing next to a hot water heater in one of the units. We received permission from one of the restaurants to film in their basement, where part of the theatre’s basement still exists.
Dr. Soren walked me to the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated by Casca and his jolly band of conspirators. The actual location of the murder is directly underneath a bridge today (as can be seen in one of my pictures). The surrounding area is also a cat sanctuary today. It is surreal to see cats napping on top of more than thousand year old columns (again, check out the pictures). I’ve always been interested in Julius Caesar so this site was very satisfying to visit.
Dr. Soren and Noelle also took me out to lunch to meet one of their friends, Archer, who works at the American University. He is one of the top experts in Roman pottery and is fluent in 11 languages. We ate at a Michelin Star restaurant and the food was incredible. Archer was very interesting and it was fun to listen to all of their stories. They have known each other for over 25 years and the banter reminded me of home. Dr. Soren and his wife also told me that this year, they will be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary. Dr. Soren joked that it didn’t feel that long…it only felt like 44 years.
After lunch, we had some time to kill before the bus came back, so Dr. Soren and Noelle took me to the Portico of Octavia and the Temple of Apollo. The facade of what was left of the Temple of Apollo was gorgeous. Italy definitely knows the importance of restoration and takes pretty good care of their sites.
The Portico of Octavia was built by Augustus in 27 BC and was named after his sister. The structure is in pretty good shape despite several fires and restorations. The Portico of Octavia also marks the beginning of the Jewish Quarter of Rome. On October 16, 1943, the Jews of Rome were rounded up and brought to the Portico of Octavia to be processed and shipped to extermination camps. Thousands of Roman Jews as well as another thousand Italian political prisoners were killed in the Holocaust. Their journey began at the Portico.
At 4pm, we headed back to the bus rally point with the 90°F sun beating down on us. The heat combined with the smell of a big city made me feel a little queasy. Luckily we were able to find some shade before the bus showed up. Then, it was another three hour ride back to Orvieto.
research / travel / musings
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