Ahhhhhh...........................no. Rome in August. One word comes to mind. HOT!!! I knew it was going to be hot in Rome, but I'd taken, what I thought was adequate steps to minimize the discomfort. Ahhhhhhh............no. Still, we moved forward with another semi-plan:
Bus tour for overview and hop on hop off convenience.
Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Forum
Vatican (maybe not touring inside)
Borghese Grounds and Museum
Moonlight Rome walk
Of course, the bus tour was to be first. We had bought tickets for the Colosseum, Palatine and Forum online and they were good for 8/4 and 8/5. The plan was to see the Colosseum on 8/4 in the evening followed by the moonlight walk (since we didn't do it on 8/3) and then do the Palantine on 8/5 and finish with the Borghese on 8/5 in the evening. Good plan. Ahhhhhhhhhhh.................
We went to Termini and signed onto a tour. It was the Christian Rome tour. Why, you may be asking yourself, did we sign up for the Christian Rome tour when we are not, as mentioned previously, church visiting types? I don't have a good answer to that question. I noticed that it stopped at most of the places we wanted to see, so on we hopped.
I think Bob would agree that the circuit on the bus was a good idea. It allowed him to get an overview of the city and its layout as well as offering views of the city you cannot get otherwise. Like the other tour buses, it had recorded information about the sights, and it was good to have that background (minimal, but a good start) information.
We went once around and then got off at the Pantheon/Piazza Navona stop, at which you could see neither the Pantheon nor the Piazza Navona. Did I mention that Bob is not a good navigator.............after a bit of trekking........did I mention it was damned hot.............we arrived at the rear of the Pantheon (not the best way to approach, but blessedly shady). The Pantheon is beyond description when you consider when its origins. We spent quite a long time both inside and outside of the Pantheon, bathed in sunlight streaming through the occulus and enthralled by its history and grandure.
From there, we wandered aimlessly and eventually stumbled into Piazza Navona. As Bob said, "Wow."
We spent some time there soaking in the vitality of the piazza and the beauty of the buildings and, of course, Bernini's fountain before "hopping on" (more accurately, staggering, tired and sweaty toward the bus stop, praying that we hadn't missed it, causing us to wait in the sun for 20 minutes) to visit St. Paul's.
We decided that though taking the Christian Rome tour bus had not been intended, it was worth it just for the stop at St. Paul's Basilica. I had been to Rome and most of the sites we were visiting, I had already visited. I had not, however, visited St. Paul's. The tour bus tape told us that St. Paul's was the largest basilica until St. Peter's was built. The outside of the church is beautiful. Basilica di San Paolo fuori le Mura — known in English as the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls or St Paul-without-the-Walls is beautiful. The top of the church is painted with a vivid mural and the approach to the church is a welcoming courtyard. As you stand at the entrance, you are treated to large, marble sculptures and MASSIVE doors.
When we arrived, there were only 2 other visitors there besides those attending the church service. We spent over an hour in immersed in the beauty and peace of this special place. Bob decided after the visit that he would not tour the Vatican so that he could relish St. Paul's and not become overwhelmed.
Refreshed by our inspired visit, the cool marble interiors and shaded courtyard, we got back on the bus for our evening Colosseum tour. Plan going well so far................ahh............enjoy it while you can!
One would think that with all of the visitors to the Colosseum, the entrance would be quite well marked. Ahhhhh....................no. After circumnavigating it not once, but twice (did I mention problems with navigation and extreme heat yet?) we discovered that the entrance was not well-marked because it was CLOSED. We missed making our evening tour by 5 minutes. While the Colosseum remains open until 8:30 or so (depending on dusk), it closes at 6 for entry..............sigh. Moonlight walk anyone?
"Screw the moonlight walk. My dogs are barkin' and I feel like I'm in a wet tee shirt contest!"
Plan adjustment...we must now do the Colosseum, Palatine, Forum and The Borghese Grounds and Museum all in one day. So much for kicking some Roman bootie.