‘….where the lazy Tiber flows, and where yesterday still grows ….’

Allez Racing, allez, an earlier blog post refers as that post in the end cost me a few bucks, but also delivered a hugely memorable weekend in Rome in February.

After it became known that we supported Racing over London Irish in Paris, some of our friends in the UK took offence and committed us for a weekend in Rome. Jenny phoned and announced ‘we bought tickets, will we see you in Rome?’ Who wouldn’t jump to the opportunity to spend a weekend in Rome, see your South African friends (who is living outside London) and attend the Six Nations clash between Italy and England nogal?

And what a terrific weekend it turned out to be!

Freezing in Rome, not an everyday sight

The weekend started off on Friday with our flight midmorning from Dusseldorf Flughafen, which meant the kids ‘had a day off from school’. Obviously that already was a treat and just the incentive to become ‘tourists’ for the weekend. Also referring back to my first blog post, 20 Oct 2011 it needs to be emphasized that we came to Germany to have access to Europe and its new experiences, which it will present to us. Thus, every now and then, the ‘lammervanger’ will have to be sidestepped when we give the kids some time off from school to enable something such as flying somewhere for an extended weekend or event. Its simply part of what we do.

February was an extremely cold month and it was evident in Rome too, which is supposed to be warmer than Köln, being in the Mediterranean. But the cold was one of the many factors that contributed to the lasting memory of this weekend.

Accommodation is always a challenge as it is always expensive, you’re never sure what you’ll get and in winter, very important that you sleep warm. Heleen found a self catering apartment at 24 Via Genoa, which is ideally situated within walking distance from old town Rome, with mind boggling historic sites such as the Colosseum and the Mamertine Prison to name just two. It was a three bedroomed with en suite bathrooms, ideal for the group of 6 and with a fully fitted kitchen to do your own brekkies.

The Marmetine Prison consists of two gloomy underground cells where Rome’s enemies were imprisoned (and usually died), of either starvation or strangulation. Famous prisoners here include the Goth Jugurtha, the indomitable Gaul Vercingetorix and, according to legend, St. Peter.

Several ancient writers, including Livy, who dated its construction to the 7th century BC under King Ancus, mention the Mamertime Prison:

“It was found that in so great a multitude the distinction between right and wrong had become obscured, and crimes were being secretly committed. Accordingly to overawe men’s growing lawlessness, a prison was built in the midst of the city, above the Forum.” (Livy 1.33.8)

The Colosseum

Furthermore, imagine the magnificence of the Colosseum. I realise not all are equally fascinated by history, but standing at the foot of a ‘sports’ arena on which construction started in 72 AD, which seated 50 000 spectators and where many people battled for their lives is one true awe-inspiring experience. This is a stadium the size of Loftus Versfeld and it too housed bloody battles, just centuries before the first Loftus battle!

We strolled through these world famous and truly magnificent sites on Saturday morning, but we were in Rome for a modern day battle and in another stadium, the Stadio Olympico Roma, a battle in the six Nations rugby tournament between Italy and England.

In Via Nazionale

The previous evening it started snowing, which, according to our evenly amazed waiter, was the first time it snowed in Rome in 27 years. By Saturday afternoon when we arrived at the stadium, it was snowing so heavily that rumours of the match being cancelled started amongst spectators. The atmosphere was so festive though, that it was simply amazing to people-watch and definitely worth the effort and cost to be there. The playing surface was covered in a layer of snow, it was still powdering down an hour before kick-off, but nonetheless the stadium was one huge ‘Peroni’ party, complete with beer and

The playing surface 80 minutes before kick-off

hats! There was a humorous link to the cruelty of the Colosseum though, in that while the party on the stands was festive and loud, there were a couple of ‘slaves’ in the centre arena, slaving away with brooms and shovels in an effort to clear the snow from the playing pitch.

With still some snow on the pitch, the game was not called off and kick-off was not delayed. Fortunately, by kick-off it had stopped snowing although it did on occasions snow during the game again. And since I had the question after my Allez Racing post where I declined to provide the result, again my team lost as England scraped in a victory. This second loss simply means I need to pursue more sporting occasions in Europe, at least until I taste the sweet taste of victory, maybe sooner than later.

When in Rome, do as the Romans do!

It’s the one thing that is so totally different in Europe than in SA. People are not afraid to walk. Its winter and the streets are covered in snow but the entire stadium simply hits the road walking after the match and heads back to town. We did stop ¾ of the way home to dig into some excellent pastas and pizzas (when in Rome ….) and then walked back to the apartment, but in the end it came down to a 6 km walk.

Me, my faithful Bok beret and plastic poncho

Thus, thanx to Jenny’s ‘challenge’ I could tick another great weekend and experience with the added novelty of test rugby played in snow to our growing bucket list of things to do while in Europe.