Tag Archives | Ancient History

The Seven Hills of Rome: What Are They and What Can You See?

Seven_Hills_of_Rome

Map via Wikipedia

 

The Seven Hills of Rome mark the traditional boundaries of the city. It was on these seven hills – Aventine, Caelian, Capitoline, Esquiline, Palatine, Quirinal, and Viminal – that the first settlements of Rome began and these seven hills were the ones protected within the Servian Walls. The foundations, gates, and ruins of these 4th century-BC walls can still be seen in some parts of the city. Subsequent builds of fortifications in Rome, such as the Aurelian Walls (3rd century AD) and the Leonine City (9th century AD) included other hills (Janiculum, Vatican, Pincian), but the original Seven Hills are the ones in bold above and included within the red border in the map to the right.

Now that you’ve had a short history lesson, you may be wondering what you can see today on Rome’s Seven Hills. Rather than tell you, I thought I would use the power of Google’s Street View to show you.

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Do You Know the Way to Pompeii?

About a year ago, I posted some information about going to Pompeii from Rome on a day trip. Just a few days ago, I was alerted of a new way to get there. When in Rome Tours has private and semi-private minibus tours to Pompeii. They’ll pick you up in Rome, drive to Pompeii via Cassino (site of the Montecassino Abbey) and Naples, take you to lunch, provide you with a Pompeii guide, and get you back to the Eternal City all within the same day (about 13 hours). They also provide walking tours of Rome and smallish bus tours of the Rome environs (no giant motorcoaches here!). So if you’re trying to put together a little jaunt down to Pompeii while visiting Rome, consider checking out When in Rome Tours. Thanks for the tip, Marie!

Photo by Paul Vlaar

Aerial Views of Ancient Rome

Leave it to Google to continue to make geography cool and engaging.

Yesterday, Google revealed the new Ancient Rome 3D layer, which allows viewers to “fly” over the city as it was during the heyday of the Forum and Colosseum. With this new layer, Google is also encouraging educators to use Ancient Rome 3D in their lesson plans and submit such curricula for a chance to win prizes such as a MacBook, digital camera, or $500 for school supplies from Target or Office Depot. According to the Google LatLong blog, this is the “first time” that Google has “incorporated an ancient city in Google Earth.” So, does that mean that fly-overs of Pompeii are not far on the horizon?

Further endearing Google to me more is the company’s recent release of Street Views for Italy. Again, the LatLong blog provides examples of Italian streetscapes, with many more in the works.

Ah, technology…what a wonderful thing.

Pompeii By Night

Pompeii By Night

Pompeii At Dusk

Question: What’s eerier than surveying the ruins of Pompeii? Answer: Visiting them at night.

According to the ansa.it news service, Pompeii will once again offer its popular “Sound-and-Light” tour, a one-hour look at the ancient Roman city complete with ambient music, flood-lit ruins, and a video simulation of the eruption of Vesuvius that destroyed the city in 79 AD. The tour will be available in English, Italian, and Japanese.

Sognopompei, as it is called in Italian, promises to be an unforgettable night and will show the “poetic side” of the must-see tourist trap:

The tour kicks off at the Terme Suburbane, a once-neglected district that has become a big draw for its frescoes graphically depicting a variety of sex acts – presumed to be an illustration of the services on offer at the local brothel.

It then winds its way up the main road, pointing out the curious cart ruts, craftsmen’s shops and famous villas.

The grand finale comes in the heart of the old city, the forum, when four giant projectors beam a special- effects-laden video reconstruction of the wrath of the volcano Vesuvius, which smothered the city and its lesser-known but equally fascinating neighbour Herculaneum in ash and cinders.

Sognopompei tours will run this summer, Fridays through Sundays, through November 13. Prices start at €20 per person, with discounts for Campania Artecard holders and families with children under 16. Reservations are required.

Photo by Pirate Alice

Day Trip to Pompeii from Rome

My friend Tom recently asked me if I knew of any good day trips to Pompeii from Rome. When I last visited Pompeii, I did it myself: taking the morning train to Naples then Pompeii and doing the reverse in the evening. My tour of Pompeii was solo and without a guide; quite frankly, being alone added an extra eerie element to the ruins around me.

Nevertheless, I know that there’s a better way to “do” Pompeii because I am sure that I missed a lot in my quest to be self-sufficient.

Tom’s question put me in research mode. Unfortunately, what I found were fairly expensive tours, the lowest of which started at $173 for a one-day trip or €115 (about $176) for a guided tour of Naples and Pompeii. The In Italy website had trips starting at a ridiculous €728 for a two-person tour. I’m sure that their guide is quite knowledgeable, but their trip still has travelers riding the same train that they could book for themselves.

I took a look to see what it costs today to ride the train from Rome to Pompeii. Currently, a train trip to Pompeii (transferring at Napoli Centrale) on the Ferrovie dello Stato costs €37.90 (or about $58) each way. The earliest trains depart from Rome’s Termini station to Napoli Centrale is 6:45 a.m.; total travel time is about 2 1/2 hours.

Once in Pompeii, travelers will no doubt come upon authorized and non-authorized Pompeii tour guides, whose expertise could cost about €50 for a two-hour tour of the archeological site. Alternatively, once inside the entrance, visitors can purchase an audioguide for €6.50 and pick up free maps of the excavations from the Information Point. To ask about additional services offered by the Pompeii Archeological Site, send an e-mail to [email protected].

In sum, a self-guided trip to Pompeii – taking the train, €11 admission, and using an audioguide – will cost a traveler about $142.50 a day, not including breakfast, lunch, and other knick-knacks. Add in those extras, and you may as well book one of the above trips. That, or find a friendly Italian guide who can drive you there and give you a tour for less. Good luck with that one.

So, Tom, I hope that this little bit of research comes in handy for your travel planning. I wish I could have found a better deal for you. Perhaps someone else has a tip? If so, please comment below!

One other idea that I write about in the Unofficial Guide (and that I was reminded of when reading about In Italy’s Pompeii tour) is to consider a daytrip to Ostia Antica. Located about 30 minutes by local train outside of Rome, this ancient ruined city is Pompeii in miniature. Sure, Ostia Antica didn’t die the dramatic death that Pompeii did (the silting up of its outlet to the sea and rampant malaria drove its populace out), it is still a beautiful, awe-inspiring, tour-worthy site.

Photo © Paul Vlaar

Roman Forum: No Longer Free

Roman Forum

Well, it was fun while it lasted. According to the folks at Dream of Italy and Tony Polzer from 3 Milennia Tours, the Roman Forum will begin to charge admission as of March 9th. Tony lays out the facts, including admission and access, on the Slow Travel forum.

We have not been able to independently confirm this development from a press release. But we hope to find info about this on the Comune di Roma or Romaturismo sites soon. In the meantime, you can read our post Saving Money with Combined Tickets, which has details about the Roma Archeologia card.

What’s Old Is New Again: Rome’s Via Appia Antica

The Via Appia Antica in RomeNow that we’ve entered the Holy Season, tourism to Rome is going to start heating up again quite quickly. Of course, you can follow the pilgrimage throngs around the Lenten Station circuit. Or, you can travel outside the city walls to check out the Via Appia Antica.

David Farley’s one-day itinerary along the ancient road recently published in the NY Times is a great break from the crowds of the Trevi Fountain, the Colosseum, and the Vatican Museums. Known in English as the Appian Way, Via Appia Antica is unfortunately left off of many tourists’ agendas. Blame Rome for having too darn much to do and see.

One hassle-free way to “do” the Appian Way is by taking the Archeobus, a tour bus service run by Rome’s municipal transportation company. You can hop on the Archeobus at several stops within town, including the Termini Train Station, the Circus Maximus, or the Baths of Caracalla, and travel to the attractions of the Appian Way, including the Catacombs. Once you get to the Appia Antica park, you can even rent a bike for a couple of euros.

The price for the Archeobus starts at €13. You’re lucky to even get a gelato at that price these days!

Photo from Parco Appia Antica website

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