Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Roman Colosseum, the Forum, Angel Tours and a quintessential Italian lunch at Ristorante Mario's in the Piazza Del Grillo

A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum... the city wormed its way into our hearts and we truly fell in love with Rome.  On our recent trip to the Eternal City, the ancient hub of Roman society in addition to the neighboring Colosseum were on the top of my husband's "to visit" list.  Filled with history and the lore of ancient times, these ancient sites are some of the most recognizable remains of the Roman Empire, and we were there.  

Posing in the Forum with the Colosseum in the background
Waking early with anticipation on the second day of our Roman Holiday, my husband and I sipped our Italian Cappuccinos provided by our B and B, the Amaranto Romano, as we reviewed the schedule for the day.  Angel Tours was to provide the events of our day with guided tours of some of our most eagerly anticipated sites in our vacation.

Lindy met us with her angel umbrella at the pre-arranged meeting location and guided us quickly to the ticket line at the Forum (far shorter than the one at the Colosseum) and into the Forum grounds.  Extraordinarily knowledgeable and personable, Lindy treated us to stories of the era while filling us in on life in Roman times, architecture, culture and  art.  Her engaging personality had our attention held rapt throughout the tour and with our small group of 8 guests, questions were quickly answered.

The Roman Forum
With my knowledge of the Roman Forum being next to nill, the tour was absolutely fascinating and provided glimpses of a time long gone.  The remaining ruins, just pieces of what used to be, gave evidence of beautiful marble structures filled with treasures and opulence.  My husband, who has read at length about the Forum, was enthralled to be standing in such an historic location and thoroughly enjoyed being a part of history.

Beginning as a marketplace, the Forum became an economic and religious hub and the center of Rome.  Falling into ruin after the fall of the empire, much of the Forum that remains is simply columns and pieces of structures, but with some imagination (and a helpful before and after replica in a tour book), one can see what an amazing place this must have been.

Moving from the Forum to the Colosseum we were treated to glimpses of what a day in the life of a gladiator must have been like as well as those who sat in the marbled stands watching the fights that often ended in death.  Apparently well organized, the arena held some 50,000 spectators who sat in the tiered "stands" according to one's status in society, the Emperor and the Vestal Virgins receiving the best of the viewing areas, of course.  The seats and sections were numbered allowing one to know exactly where to sit, and I've read that the many entrances and organized avenues allowed the Colosseum to be emptied within 15 minutes of the conclusion of the day.  Seems to work much better than our current local arenas.

The wooden floor that was covered by sand is now long gone, however much of the hypogeum, or the elaborate underground structure, still remains.  The network of tunnels held the many workers, gladiators and exotic animals who would provid the "entertainment" for the crowd.  Filled with elevators, pulleys were used to raise and lower props, gladiators and the animals who then fought to the death in front of the deafening roars of the excited crowds.

Today the remaining ruins serve to give us a glimpse of what the arena must have been, however the marble, which covered much of the massive structure, is long gone having been plundered and used to create other structures throughout the city.  Imagining the structure as it must have been is simply fantastic, and truly brings a different world to life.

We simply can't thank Lindy at Angel Tours enough for bringing both of these Roman locations to life.  Her running narrative provided a delightful morning taking us back to Ancient Rome.  At the end of the tour we took her up on her offer for local restaurant recommendations, and ended up with a wonderful lunch close to the Colosseum at Mario's.

Located just a block from the Colosseum in the Piazza Del Grillo in Rome, Ristorante Mario's provided the quintessential Italian lunch... bruschetta, pasta, and tiramisu.  Also included: one handsome Italian server.

René greeted us and promptly brought a much needed 1/2 litre of red wine as we perused the menu selecting the bruschetta for a starter.  Fresh pastas and sauces filled the menu making selecting just one a difficult decision.
Clockwise from upper left:  Handsome Italian Server - René, Italian wine, Penne with Tomatoes and Basil, Fettuccine with Meat Sauce, Erin and Emily from our tour, the Bruschetta (I actually forgot to take a photo of the bruschetta, but you can see how good it was!!)
Choosing different dishes so we could share, we were extraordinarily pleased with the Penne with Fresh Tomatoes and Basil and a serving of the Fettuccine Alla Bolognese.  About the time we were finishing our plates we looked up to see Emily and Erin, another couple who took Lindy's recommendation and we spent the rest of our meal enjoyably chatting with them over our pasta bowls.

Also eager for pasta, the two followed our lead and chose two dishes to share enjoying the same Fettuccine as my husband and the fresh Gnocchi with Meat Sauce.  While I didn't take her up on the offer to taste, I duly recorded Erin's review with two thumbs up on the Gnocchi.

Deeming it improper to leave Mario's without a taste of the tempting dessert offerings, I had René bring me a slice of the Tiramisu.  Taking my first bite I had full intentions of sharing with my husband, however after he had a taste and offered to let me eat the rest I did just that.  Light and absolutely heavenly, the Tiramisu met all my Italian expectations and more.

Bidding goodbye to René we made our way back along the cobblestoned streets, past the historic Forum and the massive Colosseum to the Amaranto Romano, our home in Rome, for a traditional siesta.  Days of touring, leisurely lunches and siestas are not a tall difficult to get used to...

The perfect ending...


  1. And that's a rather handsome tiramisu, too. What a wonderful trip - you've taken me right back to our romantic trip 9 years ago. Gosh, time flies. I'm booking that ticket! Although now that my eldest is doing a Rome project for school I think it maybe more family academic than twosome romantic. What lovely photos, Kim. You look a couple of movie stars! Cheers to many more romantic holidays and dinners together. J xo

  2. Perfect indeed, complete with hot Italian waiter, I mean handsome, wink, wink. I could only imagine being surrounded by all that history. I made your cranberry sauce and it was delish. Hope you have a great week.

  3. You make my heart hurt to go back to Italy. Just seeing the red roofs in the background of your pictures brings it all back. The Colosseum was awe-inspiring, wasn't it. To think about how they put that all together without the lack of computer models and architect

    I'm not even going to get into the food part. I probably will have to make a pasta dish for dinner now because of you. :)

  4. What a grand day for you both! We took a similar tour about 1 1/2 years ago...wish we would have made our way to Mario's! Your tiramisu looks amazing!

  5. Liz Rome is so gorgeous and your photos are fantastic.
    I went to Rome many years ago and was just awed at how well things which were so old still remained standing.
    Thanks so much for sharing this.

  6. It sounds and looks like your trip was a blast -- just like mine when I visited the Colosseum over the summer. It was truly a mind-blowing experience, and that tiramisu looks to-die-for...

  7. Very very beautiful I would love to go, we are trying to plan the trip next year to ROME where my whole family is from originally and Sicily for my husband, a trip of memories that last a lifetime, just beautiful grateful to have the pleasure to be a foodie friend to enjoy these thank you so much!

  8. What an amazing trip. I can't imagine what it feels like to be there with all there is to see and smell and most importantly, taste!

  9. What an amazing tour...I love Rome - so much to see and do...and eat!

  10. One of the most beautiful cities in the world and your photos are spectacular. You both look so happy:)xx

  11. You both look so happy and relaxed! How nice to get away for awhile in a different city and country to enjoy the sights, people and FOOD! I would love to go and see this for myself one blogger field trip? :)

    That tiramisu looks delicious! I hope you had a good week my dear friend!

  12. What a lovely post on Rome! You have a stunning blog Kim! I have always dreamed of visiting Italy! Your photos has made me think of it again!

  13. Wow!! its amazing !! lovely!! its a attractive Tourist hub , i would like to enjoy Colosseum group tours!! Thanx for sharing excellent informations. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this blog
    Walking tours in Rome


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