THE EVIL MAP OF ROME
Written by Rick Archer
stop on the Barcelona 2009 Cruise was Rome, the Eternal
City. Rome is special to Marla and me. We both agree the highlight of our
previous 2008 Greece-Italy-Turkey Cruise had been the
day the three of us (including my daughter Sam, 17) had
taken a long, exciting walk through the winding streets of
Rome. What a marvelous experience that had been!
is a huge metropolis of 4 million people that sprawls over
the Italian countryside. Despite its vast size, what
is unique about the city is that almost all the famous sites
are within a couple miles walking distance of each other. You
literally cannot turn a corner without some famous landmark
either staring you in the face or looming up just ahead.
In a far-flung
city like Barcelona, bus tours are the only way to go. You get only a
fleeting glimpse of things on the bus tours unless you have
the patience to play the hop on - hop off game.
However, ancient Rome was so compact that it becomes very
tempting to simply walk around and take in the
historical sites on foot.
For example, I estimate that
last year's 2008 Walk Across Rome from the
Borghese Museum to the Colosseum was only about three miles.
Along the way we saw the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain,
the Pantheon, the Victor Emanuel Monument, and many other
interesting sites as well.
By the way, I received
several compliments on my story of last year's walk.
If you have a couple extra moments, I think you will enjoy
reading about the 2008
Walk Across Rome. Let me add that reading
last year's account will help put this story of our
2009 Walk Across Rome into much better perspective.
Travel can be
so frustrating because there are so many things to see and
simply not enough time. On our 2008 Walk,
there were plenty of places we were forced to walk right
past because we didn't have enough time to stop and look
The biggest disappointment of the day had been
missing the Roman Forum. As we walked
down the Imperial Highway on our way to catch the last
Colosseum Tour of the day, our path took us right
past the Roman Forum. Marla's eyes bulged as one important
structure after another tempted her to come over and take a
closer look. She got out her guide book and tried to
identify each building. I literally had to take her
arm and pull her away before we missed the Colosseum Tour.
Marla gave me the most pitiful look; she really wanted to
was so clearly bummed out from missing the Roman Forum, I
agreed to make it the highlight of our 2009 Walk
Across Rome. As I studied the map, the
Forum appeared to be about 4 miles from our departure
point at St. Peter's Train Station. However, since we were
getting a much earlier start, I didn't figure one extra mile
would cause much of a problem. This would be our chance to
make another triumphant march through Rome. I was so
The Roman Forum of
Today is pretty
THE STORY OF
THE EVIL MAP BEGINS
I got terribly
lost during last year's 2008 Rome Walk. I got lost
again this year on our
2009 Rome Walk. Both times my problems were
caused by the same map.
Known to me as
this map tricked me last year and was
responsible for all my misery this year.
For the following story about
to make any sense, let's start by looking at the map yourself and
see what conclusions you draw on your own.
Please study the map below and decide if you can see any reason
whatsoever to suggest why Marla and Rick should not simply walk
through the Park on the way to the Forum.
Regarding the Evil
What this map does not show is
that a formidable 14 foot high stone wall surrounds
the entire park. There is no information on
the Evil Map to suggest any sort of barrier
such as the wall shown in the picture. To the unaware and unsuspecting,
this park looks just like any normal city
park that one would enjoy walking through. Nor does
the Evil Map indicate that there is NO ENTRANCE
to the park from the Vatican side.
As it turned out, we hit a spot that made it
very dangerous to continue forward. At this
point, we had already invested 30 minutes into our
walk. It would have cost us an entire hour to
turn around and retrace our steps. Considering
we had no idea how much time we would need see the
Forum, we believed we had no time to spare. In other
words, we were in no position to do the "sensible
thing" and turn around.
decided the only way we could possibly see
everything we wanted to see was to gamble that we
could survive the dangerous one-way street that
presented itself. Now look at this picture
again. Do you see Marla walking ahead of me?
We were forced to walk over half a mile down a 3-foot wide
walkway with cars hurtling at us at 60 mph.
Both of us were scared out of wits.
NOT SO FUNNY HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE ROMAN FORUM
ship docked at Civitavecchia, a port located
50 miles northwest of Rome. From there we took a quick
45 minute train trip into Rome and stopped at St. Peter's
Train Station a quarter mile south of the
Using the Evil
Map as a guide, you can see there is a fabulous city park
just across the street from the train station.
Gianicolense Park is said to be "Home
to 7,000 species scattered across bucolic gardens".
was to take a leisurely stroll through the park on the way to Roman Forum.
passengers from the cruise ship headed north
towards the Vatican. All but two, that is. As
you can see from the map, Marla and I
headed south. I figured that by cutting
through the park, this route would not only be pretty, it
would also be a direct
path to the Forum. Only one problem - we were never
able to get into the park!!
to the magic of Google Earth, here is a look at the
first leg of our journey. According to Google
Earth, the route that we took to the Trastavere
section of Rome was only about 1.3
miles long. However, it took us over an hour to
cover this distance.
irony is that Marla and I walk Houston's 3 mile Memorial
Park jogging trail in 50 minutes. 1.3
miles should have taken us 20 minutes, not 60
on earth did this part of the walk cost us nearly an
hour in lost time?? The answer is that
we could not cut through the park. We were
forced to take the long way.
In addition, we missed
a shortcut I have named The Secret Passage.
Using this picture, find the "Secret Passage".
Reflecting on our daylong misery, it doesn't help to
we missed our best chance to enjoy our day at the
very first moment of our walk.
what is Marla pointing to?
Marla has noticed an
interesting driveway right across the street that
seems to lead directly into Gianicolense Park.
This was the Secret Passage (except
we didn't know it at the time.)
turned out, this was the ONLY WAY into the park.
it wasn't marked. Our
only clue was an obscure sign that said "Vendiamo Box"
(Italian for "We sell boxes").
Obviously the sign was just an advertisement.
I took one look at that sign and dismissed
it. It didn't make any sense that this
inconspicuous driveway was
a possible entrance into the park.
reveals an overview of this position. As one can see, there is
no formal entrance to the park.
That driveway appears to be a service entrance, but the sideways
view doesn't indicate any purpose for the driveway at all.
It seems odd that the only Northern entrance to the park wasn't
It is also questionable whether a person on foot could somehow get to the
"Giant Hill" that connected to the park we wished to cross.
I noticed there was a metal fence at the end of the driveway.
I wished I had followed Marla's
suggestion and at least gone up the driveway to have a look.
It would have cost all of five minutes. My oversight
meant our best chance of avoiding the later danger was gone.
This is a 2013 look at the same driveway using
Notice the green gate. It may have been a
"Secret Passage" in 2009,
but it is definitely no longer an option.
This is a 2013 look at the same driveway using
Notice the metal fences. Those fences were
also there in 2009 which suggests we
probably did not have access. Still, it
would not have hurt to look.
I drew the
black line where that stone wall is in the picture on
the Evil Map gave absolutely no clue that there was a
That would prove to be my downfall.
Here is yet
another look at the Evil Map. There is nothing to
suggest the giant 14 foot high STONE WALL lining
that ruined our day.
The map clearly suggests there is an entrance to the park in
the spot I have marked "Secret Passage". My problem
was the map seemed to indicate there was a large entrance to
the park at that point, not some diddlysquat unmarked
driveway with a stupid name like "Vendiamo Box".
In my mind, I expected a
Glorious Entrance complete with a
welcome gate and proper sign that said "Gianicolense
Park" in bold letters followed by the
No such luck.
another good reason I didn't pay more attention to the
Secret Passage. I wasn't concerned at the time
because the Evil Map CLEARLY
INDICATED another entrance just down the road, the one I
have marked "Iron Gate Entrance". All
we had to do was walk to it. What I did not know was
that the second entrance to the park would have an iron gate blocking it.
The "Iron Gate" wasn't on the Evil Map either.
skipped checking out the Secret Passage
(thanks to my skepticism), we started walking south down the Via Fornacci on
the sidewalk. Soon we
made a very unpleasant discovery - the stunning
Gianicolense Park was protected by a formidable 14
foot brick wall!
I think this was the point where Marla suggested we go back
and give that driveway another look. I absolutely do
not recall hearing her make this suggestion, but as things
turned out, I wish I had. We were about to walk into a
So where was everybody else?
Many of the people in our cruise group were on a guided tour
of Rome arranged by Dana LeDoux. At a cost of a couple
hundred dollars or so, they rode in a comfortable bus around
Rome and saw all the most important sites (by the way, I
heard that Dana's tour was a huge hit).
But Marla and I had seen many of the spots that Dana's Tour
would visit on our trip to Rome the year before. We
decided to rough it and see Rome all by ourselves.
As we ambled
along looking for the correct entrance to the park, I was proud of
our decision to take this walk. For the remainder of
the trip, we would be relying on guides to help us in
Florence, the Riviera, and Marseilles. But not today.
would be relying on maps and our own two feet to see Rome.
No guides, no buses, no tours, just Marla and me setting off
on a big adventure across one of the most
interesting cities in the world. Not only would our
do-it-yourself hike save us four hundred dollars of
guided tour money, I was really proud of our self-reliance!
Plus I was on
a mission of redemption today. Thanks to me, last year we
had encountered quite a
fiasco in the morning
which was my fault. In
2008, I had completely misunderstood the tour guide
map supplied by the hotel (yes, The Evil Map!)
So I screwed up a little last year.
Big deal. It all worked out in the end. That was 2008.
This was 2009. This year I
had it covered. No way I was going to get lost
this year. I knew exactly where I was going.
was one problem - our sidewalk had just come to a complete
See the picture. The only
thing left was a narrow roadway with one-way traffic hurtling
at us moving 60 miles an hour! We had just hit a dead
end... and when I say "dead", it seemed
that's exactly what would happen if we continued...
There was supposed to be an entrance just up ahead on the Evil Map
that indicated we should be able to walk through the
park. Where was that stupid entrance? Surely it
was close at hand. We had walked over half a mile from
the secret passage area to get to this point. If we
turned around now, it would cost us an entire hour plus an
enormous amount of wasted energy... mind you, this walking
stuff gets tiring after a while. Would we have enough
energy left in the tank if we turned back? Would
we have enough time?
I did not want
to turn around. There had to be an entrance
just up ahead. The Evil Map said it was there! As Marla glared darts at me, I kept
peeking around that corner. Was there any hint of a
sidewalk further up ahead?
Or maybe I could spot the
life-saving entrance to the park just down the road a bit.
When the traffic let up for a moment, I walked out a few
steps into the road. I could have sworn I saw a patch
of sun light crossing the street. That light meant
there had to be some sort of break in the massive wall up
Although it would be dangerous to get to that opening, at
least the light reaffirmed my belief that surely an entrance
to the park was just down the street.
Light or no
light, Marla had no
intention of continuing. She thought I was out of my
mind. This wasn't worth the risk! This narrow
roadway felt like a
trap. There were huge walls on either side of the
road. Walking on such a narrow roadway would be
like walking in a narrow canyon. There was no escape.
Walking this road
was tantamount to suicide in her mind. And what if that
light I saw wasn't what I hoped it would be?
Would it be
instead the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel which
turns out to be a train, not an exit? Any one of those
hurtling cars could take us out in an instant.
We stood there for a good five minutes talking it over.
Marla was very unhappy. She had almost convinced me to
turn around when out of nowhere some teenage boy came along
and started walking down a narrow path right on the edge of
the huge wall.
at the boy in shock. I stared at the boy in shock.
We both expected him to be hideously smashed to death
against the stone wall. There was nowhere to run,
nowhere to hide. Amazingly, the boy continued unhurt
as the cars whizzed past.
As Marla's eyes tracked his progress, she shook her head
in disgust. She knew what this meant. I would
say if that kid could do it, so could we. Finally,
with a huge frown on her face, Marla threw in the towel.
Without saying a word, Marla crossed the street and began
walking down the narrow path.
As the cars
whizzed by, it took a large amount of courage to hang in
there. I was feeling pretty grim. Marla was
ahead of me walking fast. Each time I stopped to take a picture,
the distance increased. Pretty soon Marla was over two
hundred yards ahead of me.
I noticed that
Marla was getting closer and closer to the mysterious light
that crossed the road. My heart sank when she didn't
bother to stop. Soon enough, I discovered that
although it was indeed an entrance, it was blocked by an iron
gate. My heart dropped.
continued to walk the dangerous roadway,
it seemed like Marla kept getting further and further ahead.
If the science of body language is accurate, I would assume she was sending me a
pretty clear message she wasn't at all happy about this.
you blame her? Marla felt she was in danger. At the time I remember being
worried that a car could take her out at any moment and I would
have a horror story on my conscience for the rest of my
Yes, I was
definitely in the doghouse. This was supposed to have
been a lovely walk through a beautiful park. How was I
supposed to know there was no access to the stupid garden?
Instead we were forced to risk our lives walking along this
treacherous road. Maybe this "do-it-yourself" tourist
adventure wasn't such a good idea after all.
Our walk down
Via Fornacci was nearly a mile. The dangerous
walk covered half a mile. What an ordeal.
This one-way street was a freeway. These cars were
supposed to drive fast. I cringed every time a car
approached. These speeding bullets took a serious toll on my
nerves. I was
literally scared for my life as I cautiously made my way.
Although Marla never said another word about it, I have
little doubt she felt just as scared as I did.
You can always
tell the pioneers by the arrows in their backs. One
car hurtling by at 60 miles an hour missed me by no more
than a foot. The displaced wind from the car was so
strong it bounced
me up against the wall. This was nuts!
Thanks to the Evil Map, we had just risked our lives.
Footnote: Thanks to another Rick and Marla
argument over directions on a map during our
2012 visit to Tallinn,
can now report that three years later, Marla has still not
forgiven me for leading us into danger in Rome.
Now that I am
aware that I will be in the doghouse for life when it comes
to maps, I decided to revisit this story of our near
To be honest,
I still have nightmares about our 15 minute walk with the
cars hurtling towards us. It really was just as
dangerous as I have described. I cannot recall another
time in my adult life when I have felt more in peril.
The Park we wanted
to cross is behind that wall. When I looked for
the entrance to
Via Nuova Delle
these parked cars were in
the exact place where the map had indicated an opening to the
This gave us two
choices: Turn back now or follow
to the right. We decided to follow
Uh oh. The
Via Fornacci Sidewalk ended right here. Now what?
As you can see, not
much room for error. One careless driver on a
cell phone and there would no escape.
That little bitty
car doesn't look very threatening in the picture,
but when it comes shooting at you 60 mph, it is terrifying.
If you look closely, Marla is way up ahead.
Up ahead was the
light crossing the street that I had seen. Only one
problem: Marla was walking right past it. Uh oh.
There's the source
of the light. It's an entrance, all right,
but what good does it do us?
for the GRAND ENTRANCE
to the park promised by the Evil Map
WAITING FOR US
AT THE END OF THE ROAD
reached the end of Via Fornacci. There
was a strange surprise waiting for us.
At the corner of Via Fornacci and Via Aurelia, we discovered two military
with huge automatic rifles. They stared at us with
very suspicious eyes.
I assume they were posted there to protect the entrance to
behind the huge wall on the right that we had been walking along.
Mind you, these were not your average security guards.
They were Italian military. More than likely, the estate
hidden behind the walls belonged to a government official.
I stared back
at them with big eyes. I could not believe the size of their
weapons! They were definitely not happy to see us. I can't
imagine very many people appear out of nowhere from the direction we
I wanted to take
picture to show how menacing they were, but hesitated. Judging by the hostile looks
I had been greeted with, I
didn't think they would appreciate me taking their
picture... so I didn't.
I wasn't sure why they were so unhappy to see us, but I
could see they were actually evaluating us as a potential
threat. I can't say for sure, but from the way they
stared at us, Marla and I were probably one of the few tourists
to ever show up on their watch. Judging by their stern
faces, they did not let their
guard down for a moment. The guards sensed we were a
watched us out just in case our ridiculous
appearance turned out to be a disguise. Marla definitely looked like she wanted to
kill someone. They just didn't realize it was me who was the
target, not their boss. Personally I was glad they were there.
Curious to know what the sentries were guarding, I later checked.
Behind that massive wall was a huge 27 acre estate known as
Villa Abamelek. The estate is situated near the hill
Gianicolo in the immediate vicinity of Porta San
Pancrazio. (I assume that the nearby
Gianicolense Park that Marla and I missed visiting was named
for Gianicolo Hill).
The estate was purchased in 1863 by Prince Abamelek, a rich banker
from Russia. His wife Maria Demidoff survived him and
continued to live there until 1936. At this point control of
the estate passed over to the Soviet Union. Today the estate is the
current residence of the Russian ambassadors.
I MAKE A CRUEL
Now that we
were at the corner of Fornaci and
Aurelia, Marla and I
turned our attention to our next
problem. Via Aurelia, the new street, was no picnic
either. Like Fornaci, it was a freeway too. In fact, the traffic was
much heavier than Via Fornaci.
Making our problem worse, there was no
stop sign or stop light at this intersection.
This meant there was no way we could cross Via Aurelia.
Our only choice was walk against traffic on Via Aurelia
which meant no sidewalk again.
But first we
had to cross from one side of Via Fornaci to
the other side, a distance of about 12 feet. You would
assume this was no big deal, but in reality it was a big problem. Thanks to
cars that were constantly turning right from Via
Aurelia onto Via Fornaci, we couldn't
just walk across. We had to wait for a break in the
In all, I estimate it took Marla and me a full five minutes to simply get from
one side of Via Fornaci to the other.
The entire time we felt the automatic weapons poised at our
readiness should we turn out to be terrorists. You
think I am kidding? I am not. Those guards
continued to treat us as a legitimate threat.
Finally we got
across. As you can see
from the picture, walking east on the new street, Via Aurelia,
was no walk in the park either. Which reminds me... we
were supposed to take a walk in a park today, weren't we?
Instead we spent the morning dodging speeding cars. This day
had definitely not gotten off to a very good start.
half a mile later,
we reached this large monument. Finally the danger was over.
This monument is Porta
San Pancrazio, a gate in the district
The monument was built in 1854 by Virginio
Vespignani. It replaced the old one which was erected at the
time of Pope Urban VIII. However the monument was later severely damaged
a second time during
battles in 1849. The Janiculum Hill area
in Rome was where Giuseppi Garibaldi fought
the French for Italian independence.
do not realize that Italy has been a country for a 100 years
time than our own United States.
There was no "Italy" in 1849. The Italian peninsula
was still divided into a collection of independent city states
controlled by foreign interests... primarily France,
Austria, Sicily, and Spain. The Italian Revolution
actually began against Austria up in the northeast corner of
the peninsula closer to Venice. The fighting spread throughout the
countryside until eventually the people of Rome decided to
revolt as well. Rome was a special case - the Catholic
Church ruled Rome!
15, 1848, Pellegrino Rossi, Prime Minister of the Papal
States, was assassinated. Pope Pius IX fled to the fortress of
Gaeta 75 miles away under the protection of King Ferdinand
II of Spain. In February 1849, he was joined by Leopold II, Grand
Duke of Tuscany who had to flee there because of
Giuseppe Garibaldi came to build a "Rome of the People". A
new Roman Republic was proclaimed. Unfortunately the
new Roman Republic
didn't last very long. A few months later a huge force
came to the rescue of the Pope. However it wasn't
Austria, but another, unexpected enemy that put an end to
the insurrection. In France, President Louis Napoleon needed
the endorsement of the Catholics. Seeking their favor,
he decided to send troops to restore the Pope as a sort of
The French arrived April 20, 1849, but Garibaldi's attack
sent them back to the ocean. A siege constricted Rome
through June. Then then whole thing was over in early July.
Garibaldi escaped to the United States, but Italy had not
heard the last of him. Garibaldi would return in the 1850s
to help Victor Emanuel complete the Italian reunification (read
Rick's complete story about Italian Independence).
Just as Marla
and I walked past the Porta San Pancrazio
monument, I noticed a large green area complete with a fancy
gate. I had a bad feeling about this.
control myself, I morbidly walked over to look closer.
Sure enough, yes, my worst suspicions were confirmed. Apparently
the heaviest bit of Garibaldi's fighting with the French
had taken place right here in the area Marla and I were walking
through. Not only did they put a monument to Garibaldi
in that park we were unable to visit, this
Porta San Pancrazio
monument now marked
the Grand Entrance to that park we were unable to visit.
Those were the key words... "unable to visit".
Yes, here it
was. I had finally found the Grand Entrance to the
park I had been looking for complete with a Giant Monument.
The irony was not lost on me. Too bad they didn't put
a decent sign in front of the Secret Passage as a clue.
If Marla and I had taken the secret passage, this would be
the exact spot where we would have exited Garibaldi's lovely
park. This particular piece of knowledge did not
improve my mood one bit.
A few blocks
further, we came to the Fontana dell'Aqua Paola.
Also known as Il Fontanone (the big fountain),
this monumental fountain is located on Janiculum Hill,
near the church of San Pietro. As we stared
at the pretty fountain, I sighed with a combination of
sadness and relief.
the day had been a complete ordeal. Yes, we were safe
now, but that didn't erase the tension from the ordeal.
Far from it. We had just spent the past hour worried
sick that some inattentive driver on a cell phone might
slightly lose control of his car and hit us. If that
happened, we would be out of luck. Thanks to the
claustrophobic narrow roadways, there was no way we could
have ever dodged any oncoming vehicle.
still pretty mad at me. Yes, our gamble had worked,
but had it really been worth that much of a risk?
Walking along Via Aurelia was dangerous too
Porta San Pancrazio
the French in Rome, 1849
entrance to the park. Too bad there wasn't an
like this on the other side near the train station.
THE EVIL MAP
made another mistake. We were so interested in
the fountain that we walked right past a pathway
that would have shaved us at least half an hour off our
Using the Google Earth scenario
for reference, our eyes were so riveted to the
fountain on the
right that we failed to notice the
purple shortcut path
we stood in front of the fountain, the new secret
passage was only 20 feet away, but it was out of sight
wasn't like I didn't study the Evil Map. Actually
I looked at it all the time!
was that my Evil Map was confusing. Look
for yourself. On the Evil Map, there is no hint of the
new Secret Passage.
What it does show is that Via Pancrazio merges with
was completely misleading!
The Evil Map
made it appear that all we had to do to get to Via
Garibaldi was walk straight to it down Via
Pancrazio. Study the area marked by the
Well, guess what? In reality, at the end of Via
Pancrazio there was a CLIFF! We were standing at
the top of a huge hill. Now it is true
that Via Garibaldi was at the very end of Via
Pancrazio if you were willing to jump. You
see, Via Garibaldi was 200 feet below from
where we stood staring down at it!
Was there anything in the Evil Map that warned us a 200 foot
drop separated the two
streets? No, of course not. I had been set up again.
to the problem with the hill, now we were forced to take a
long detour. This marked our fourth bad break of the
we missed the Secret Passage to Gianicolense Park.
entrance to Gianicolense Park marked on the map was blocked
by an iron gate.
Third, we had missed a fairly obvious short cut down to
Via Garibaldi because it didn't appear on the
Fourth, the Evil Map had set us up by indicating that
Via Pancrazio merged with Via Garibaldi.
In reality it was a dead end unless I
wanted to jump off the cliff. Actually, that was a
real possibility. No doubt Marla was considering pushing me
little lab rats that hit the wall of the maze, we could
either retrace our route... which would have brought us back
to the short cut we had missed... or we could take the
obvious right turn and see where it led us. We decided
against backtracking and took the right turn instead.
Now we were locked into a massive detour. Although it was undeniably a very pretty
walk, as you can see from the map above, we were forced to walk
at least a
mile further than we needed to.
As you can see
from Marla's body language, I was still in the doghouse. It was
about to get worse. Marla didn't know about the latest
Secret Passage that we missed. Nor did she understand
at the time how the Evil Map had confused me. However,
her instincts told her this was taking way too much time.
She was getting very frustrated.
At the bottom of the hill, on the
corner of Via Garibaldi and Via Fabrizi,
Marla and I had a huge disagreement about which way to go
next. I was
surprised by the dispute. Yes, we were getting some
bad breaks, but I also knew we weren't lost.
Maybe Via Garibaldi was a roundabout way, but
it was definitely the right direction.
so certain. At the bottom of the hill, Marla stopped, looked
at her map, and wanted to go south on Via Fabrizi.
I disagreed. I said this wasn't a good idea. I was
certain this was the wrong way. Unfortunately, I had
lost so much credibility that morning that Marla was
skeptical of anything I said at this point. She had
run out of patience with me and no longer trusted
my judgment. To her credit, Marla was willing to let
me state my case. She kept studying
the map carefully to try to get it right.
did eventually agree to go in my direction, I remember
feeling very shaken by the disagreement. I have a lot
of confidence in my ability to read a map. I remember
bewildered by her loss of confidence. It hurt to realize that
she had lost so much respect for my sense of direction. Yes, it was
true that on this latest disagreement I was right, but
everyone is right some of the time. How
was Marla supposed to know when I was correct and when I was
Marla had a
right to doubt me. I now had three strikes against me when it came to
directions in Rome. My confusion last year over the
bus direction to the Borghese Museum was not forgotten.
Today when I ignored her suggestion that we at least
explore the secret passage to the park, I had doomed us to
the scary walk (although I still contend I never heard her).
Now this ridiculous time-consuming
detour was sapping what little was left of her patience. Marla
didn't have any proof, but she was convinced we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere up
above. This walk was taking forever.
We were both
getting very tired. It is difficult to be patient
when you are exhausted. I think we were both
disappointed that our long-awaited 2009 March Across
Rome so far had captured absolutely none of the
magic and fun of last year's adventure.
dispirited by the morning's events, we trudged on.
Fortunately things were about to get better. The worst
part of the day was behind us.
Via Garibaldi took us through an area of Rome
known as Trastavere. It is supposed to
be a great section of town for nightlife, but during the day
I can assure you the area is very quiet.
The Evil Map said the
two streets merged, but when we got to the end of
we discovered that
was actually 200 feet below at the bottom of Janiculum Hill.
The long detour
down the hill which
added half an hour to our walk
Marla is definitely
not happy. She is studying the map trying to decide
whether to trust my interpretation or not. As the results
would show, my interpretation was correct. However, my
credibility had fallen to zero.
WE CROSS THE
Curious about Trastavere, I took a quick peek
at my guide book.
I learned we
were traversing the ancient slums of Rome. The book said that Trastavere
was a ghetto in ancient Rome. The Tiber River served
as the dividing line between the poor and the rich.
The famous Servian Wall built to defend Rome
stopped right in front of Trastavere on the
other side of the Tiber.
There was no civic planning in the ghetto... people built
wherever they could. That is how Trastevere developed
its narrow, winding, irregular streets. The
streets were so narrow there was no space for carriages to
pass. Ever since then, Trastevere has remained a maze of
narrow streets. I frowned at this note. No
wonder we kept getting lost.
later we made it to the Tiber River. About two
hours had passed since we got off the train. It was
now close to 1 pm. This had turned into much longer walk
than we had expected. When does the fun start?
lifted somewhat after we crossed the Tiber using the
Sisto Bridge. We knew we were finally getting
pretty close to the Roman Forum.
As we walked
along the Tiber River, we came to the famous Isola
Tiberina, aka Tiber Island. The
Tiber Island is a boat-shaped island which has long been
associated with healing. It is the only island in the Tiber
River which runs through Rome.
As you can
see, there are bridges on either side of the island.
We saw lots of people on the banks of the island laying on
the grass as a lazy way to view the river. In
addition, there were quite a few fishermen. It is a
very pretty area. In case you are curious, that
impressive building on the island is a hospital.
Now that we
had crossed the Tiber, Marla and I
wandered around. As usual, we were unsure how to read
the Evil Map, so we ended up climbing a mysterious large hill to
did we know we had accidentally climbed up Capitoline Hill, one of Rome's famous
Seven Hills. Coming in from the back, we
had no idea what to expect.
top of the hill, we walked through a row of buildings.
emerged onto this amazing plaza, the Piazza
Campidoglio. Apparently this wonderful place had been designed by
gasped. The statues in
this place were unbelievable!
The Seven Hills
of Rome are all located east of the Tiber River. The
Vatican Hill is northwest of the Tiber and is not one
of the Seven Hills of Rome. Likewise, the Pincian Hill
to the north and the Janiculum Hill to the west
are not counted among the traditional Seven Hills. Connected
by the Servian Wall, the Seven Hills have always
formed the geographical heart of ancient Rome.
that the Seven Hills were first occupied by small settlements and
not grouped or recognized as a city called Rome. The denizens of the
seven hills began to participate in a series of religious games,
which started to bond the groups. The city of Rome, thus, came into
being as these separate settlements began to act as a group,
draining the marshy valleys between them and turning them into
markets and forums.
Capitoline Hill is
definitely the highest of the
Seven Hills of Rome
and, along with the Palatine Hill, one of the
two most famous
(Washington DC's Capitol Hill gets its name from this
contains relatively few ancient ground-level ruins.
are almost entirely covered up by Medieval palaces (known
Capitoline Museums) that surround the
However the greatest Temple of them all was once located atop
Jupiter (built in 509 BC) once graced the top of
Capolitine Hill. Unfortunately, it burned down in 81 BC during a fire
the erupted during a civil war initiated by the dictator Sulla which
was fought right
in the middle of Rome.
Temple of Jupiter had been rebuilt, it was
destroyed again during another dramatic civil war fought right in
the center of Rome in 69 AD.
In a time known as The Year
of the Four Emperors, after the death of Nero in 68,
Rome saw a succession of short-lived emperors and a year of civil
wars. First Galba was murdered by Otho,
who in turn was defeated by Vitellius. Otho's
supporters, looking for another candidate to support, settled on
Vespasian. Seeking to overthrow Vitellius,
Vespasian sent an army to Rome. There was a
dramatic battle fought long and hard right on Capolitine Hill.
Unfortunately the Temple of Jupiter was destroyed
during the fighting.
That is the Temple of
Jupiter up on Capolitine Hill behind the Forum. Today very little
remains of the greatest temple of all.
Vespasian was the winner of the Civil War. He and his two sons Titus and Domitian made sure the Temple
was repaired, but 400 years later the Temple was destroyed yet a third time
during battles with the invading Vandals led by Genseric in 455 AD.
Rome, now in
full decline ("The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire"),
didn't put up much of a fight against Genseric. Apparently the Temple of
Jupiter was one of the casualties of the fierce attack.
history remembers the Vandal sack of Rome as extremely brutal —
making the word "vandalism" a term for any wantonly
destructive act — in actuality the Vandals did not wreak great
destruction in the city; they did, however, take a great deal of
gold, silver and many other things of value.
Temple of Jupiter was never rebuilt. What little
remained became part of the Palazzo dei Conservatori,
built during Michelangelo's renovations of the Capolitine Hill.
This statue of Marcus Aurelius
dominates the square.
That building is the Palazzo Senatorio
famed Renaissance artist and architect Michelangelo
Buonarroti created the
Piazza del Campidoglio and the surrounding palazzos in 1536
- 1546. The beauty of this square cannot be
adequately described. In the middle
of the plaza stands the only equestrian bronze
statue to have
survived since antiquity, that of Marcus Aurelius, the
gifted philosopher emperor
The red building with
the bell tower on top and the statue of Roman Emperor
in front (see picture above) is known as the
Palazzo Senatorio. These days it serves as Rome's
current City Hall. During our
inadvertent visit to the Piazza Campidoglio,
Marla and I figured out that the Roman Forum was
directly behind that building. Unfortunately, it was time to
Leaving the Campidoglio wasn't easy. There were
designed by Michelangelo all over the the plaza plus at least three museums that
all beckoned to have us come visit them.
Roman Forum was at the top of our list and time was
precious. We made a calculated decision to move on,
but neither of us was happy to be leaving such a beautiful
place. The Campidoglio definitely rates
another visit if we are lucky enough to be given another chance.
NEXT STORY: THE ROMAN