Sunday 14th October
It was another sunny morning but no early walk today. We had a decent walk ahead of us this morning to get down to Domus Aurea, near the Colosseum, so had a lazy one this morning.
We left the apartment before 10 am to allow time to collect tickets for our 11 am tour of Nero’s ancient Palace – Domus Aureas. Yet again, the streets were packed with families, couples, tour groups and lots of student groups. Our early arrival though meant we were put forward to the 10.30 am group tour.
The 75 minute tour took our small group through sections of excavated Emperors Nero’s Palace that was built between 66-68 AD, after the Great Fire of Rome destroyed much of the city; an event that many blame Nero himself for! The Palace was built as an entertainment precinct, as there is no evidence of any bedrooms or bathrooms, but Nero only enjoyed this for a few years before his death in 68 AD; he was actually executed for his presumed role in the fire! The Palace was eventually stripped of its marble and riches and most of the structure was filled in and covered by Emperor Trajan and that is why Nero’s Palace has been so well preserved and it is the focus of ongoing excavations and archaeological study. In fact, the site is only open to the public on Saturday and Sunday as it is an active dig site from Monday to Friday. One great part of this tour was the 10-minute virtual reality segment that showed a recreation of the Palace as it would have originally looked in Nero’s time. The combination of walking through this 1st century Palace and the virtual reality segment made this a great activity and one I would highly recommend.
We had a coffee rest stop by the Colosseum after this tour and before starting our next activity, a Detour audio guided tour called Piazza Venezia: Power Play in Rome. This self-paced walking tour lasted a bit over an hour and gave a potted history of Italian politics over the last 100 years. It was truly fascinating and I never knew just how closely aligned the lifestyle of Silvio Berlusconi was to that of Donald Trump! The similarities are absolutely fascinating! Also, there are parallels between Mussolini and Trump! I wonder if that’s why so many Americans are here at the moment; we’re surrounded by hoards of them!
Key points that caught my attention during this Detour walk are noted below:
- King Vittorio Emmanuel 2: his statue sits at the top of Monument Vittorio: He is given the credit for bringing the country together after the War of Unification where, 10 years later, Rome was made capital. He was the first King of a unified Italy.
- However, WW1 was when Italy was united the most.
- A power vacuum after WW1 made it possible for Mussolini to rise to power.
- People liked Mussolini at first because he said Italy (Rome) was once great and united and he told the masses that he will make Italy great again – does this sound at all familiar?
- 1940 : Italy and entry into WW2: Mussolini told the masses that they’d be victorious and so they did feel united then; for a short time at least!
- Celebration of Mussolini’s death, though, was probably the most united the masses had been in some time.
- After Mussolini; Christian Democrats ruled: an un-holy alliance between the Church and big business as there was a lot of corruption.
- In 1978 the Communists came close to victory over Christian Democrats.
- Students rallied against Christian Democrat and the leader of the Party, Aldo Moro.
- In response to this uprising, Aldo Moro attempted to compromise with Communists.
- On March 16, 1978, Moro was on his way to Parliament to announce a compromise but he was kidnapped and, eventually, murdered.
- Red Brigade, extremist faction of Communists, took credit for it.
- A plaque marks the area where Moro’s body found: in an area half way between Christians Democrats and Communist headquarters.
- A compromise between the two parties was then impossible.
- In 1992 some members of the Christian Democrat party were charged with corruption and the Party collapsed.
- Church then didn’t have a party to support and big business was at a loss too.
- This created another vacuum and a small man steps in: Silvio Berlusconi.
- Silvio Berlusconi’s claim to fame at this time, 1980-1990s, was that he owned a soccer team, TV stations and was a business man and not a politician. Sound familiar?
- Many people were shocked by his election.
- Silvio Berlusconi ran a campaign with slick posters and a catch phrase set to music: “Let’s go Italy”. Sounding more familiar?
- At this time, Silvio Berlusconi was almost bankrupt and scared of Leftist Party investigators checking into his finances due to mafia money connection.
- So, to confuse everyone, he formed a coalition between Separatists and Nationalists.
- Silvio Berlusconi ran a sort of mass hypnosis; he conned the nation and, in doing so, had them help him prop up his failing businesses.
- FYI: Silvio Berlusconi started life as a singer on cruise ships!
- His undoing was his Boonga boonga parties: the Secret Service agents taped his conversations where they discovered he was using underage girls. He had rented an entire building for these girls. When the story came out Silvio Berlusconi’s empire crumpled.
- Mussolini and Silvio Berlusconi both held office for 20 years.
We headed home after this Detour to recharge our phones and headed out again at 4.30 pm to take another Detour guided walk. This time, of the Roman Forum. This walk had greater relevance for us due to the coverage of Emperor Trajan and his involvement with our morning tour at Nero’s Palace. It was another hour well spent and had us end up at a roof top bar overlooking the Roman Forum during sunset; can’t ask for much more than that. Although my Aperol Spritz cost $25 AUD! We weren’t too hungry but drifted towards home with a stop-off for another meatball dinner; albeit not a patch on last night’s dinner.
Tomorrow is our last day and we plan to take two more audio guided walks; of the Campo de’ Fiori and the Jewish Quarter.