We each had one major attraction left on our must-see list for this trip. TJ's was the Circus Maximus. Laying in the valley between the Aventine and Palatine hills, the Circus Maximus was a massive stadium in which 150,000 spectators gathered to watch chariot races. It was 621m x 118 m and became the model for stadiums throughout the Empire. Today, it's just a park. No ruins. Just…a park.
(La Bocca della Verità). This marble carving of a man's face is located in the portico of the church of Santa Maria in Cosmedin. It was probably part of a fountain in its heyday, but now it is mostly remembered as a "lie detector." A Middle Ages old wives' tale suggests that someone who tells a lie while placing his hand in the sculpture's mouth will quickly have it bitten off. This little tidbit made its way into the film Roman Holiday, starring Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, which I just happened to watch prior to departing on this particular journey. I wasn't very interested int he church itself…but since we were already there...
That's not creepy at all...
The Roman Ghetto lay nearby. This district was established in 1555 as a result of a charter issued by Pope Paul IV that required all Roman Jews, then numbering around 2,000, to live within the confines of the ghetto. The charter remained in effect, minus a gap here and there, until 1882. The walls were torn down in 1888 and the ghetto was completely demolished. It was the last remaining ghetto in Western Europe until Nazi Germany reintroduced them in the 1930s. Three hundred years of isolation led to a certain attachment to the area, regardless of circumstances. As a result, there is still a large Jewish presence in the district today.
Random street views entertained us as we made our way to our final stop of the vacation...
As with most historical sites, it now serves as a museum.
We return to the Vatican in an attempt to gain access to the gift shop. At this point in our journey, we greatly regretted not purchasing the bust of Narcissus that we had ogled. They wouldn't let us in for five minutes, even with an escort, to drop 200 euro in the gift shop, unless we could present our previous entry ticket. It was in our suitcase. At the hotel. I was sad.
But then we had gelato. And it was oh, so good.
Thus concludes 15 days of the most amazing vacation we have ever taken together. I cleared off a number of bucket list sites, and I did it with the most amazing person imaginable.
I'll be more diligent going forward so that these posts are timely and relevant (and fresh on my mind).
It's a tragedy that it took almost six months to chronicle the entirety of our first anniversary. But it's also exciting to realize that I'm only six months away from our second.