I visited Rome for the first time last November. As a Roman history buff, visiting Rome was the highlight of my Italian trip. On my first night in Rome I took a self-guided walking tour and became hopelessly lost. I discovered amazing architecture, a plethora of ancient fountains, and wonderful family owned restaurants and gelato shops. I was fascinated by the wonderful confluence of the ancient and modern as Romans rushed by me in designer clothing while talking on cell phones, surrounded by two thousand year old streets and sculpture. I did finally find my way back to my hotel, but my five hour trek took me all over the city and gave me a good working knowledge of its layout.
The next day I spent most of my time at the Palatine Hill. This was by far my favorite part of my stay in Rome, because it was truly like traveling back in time. I purchased a double ticket for the Palatine and the Coliseum. The line to get into the Coliseum stretched completely around the massive structure, so I decided to tackle the Palatine Hill first. There was no line to enter, and it was just like walking into a history book. I felt like I had entered the pages of Robert Graves’, I, Claudius. I was completely amazed by the palace ruins. The Palatine Hill is where the emperors of Rome resided for hundreds of years, and the palace and its ground is in remarkably good shape. I was breathless at the thought that I was walking on the very same mosaic tile that Emperor Augustus and Queen Livia walked, before the time of Christ.
The House of Livia and Augustus still stands a little way away from the palace. It is completely intact, standing white against the green hills just as it always has. This is the house that Augustus lived in before the construction of the palace. The house occasionally admits visitors, but it was undergoing renovations when I was there. The palace balconies offer spectacular views of the Roman Forum, the Coliseum, the Arch of Constantine, the dome of St. Peter’s, and the ancient chariot raceway. Even in November, the Palatine gardens were blooming and the olive trees gave off a lovely exotic scent.
I spent hours exploring the hill and then I descended to the Forum and marveled at the ruins of the ancient trade hub on my way to find some authentic Roma pizza for a late lunch. There are many options for pizza in Rome; I stopped at the first one I came to that had Italians eating al fresco and brick oven baking. Everyone should eat