Monday 23 April 2012

Rome - Italy

Built in 72AD, the Colosseum could seat 50,000 people. A global icon true masterpiece of engineering

The first thing I discovered about my trip to Rome was that I wouldn't get to meet Maximus from the film Gladiator. Turns out that whole movie is make believe. "Strength and honour", Even the bit when he takes off his mask. Totally made up. I know, devastating right?

That earth-shattering news aside, this is probably the place in Europe I always wanted to go to the most. To me looking from afar it had everything. Amazing food, beautiful architecture, great weather, a plephora of museums, tons of history and full of passionate, charismatic people who love their sport. And only a two and a half hour sleazy-jet flight away. Perfect?

At this point I should say that the reality is actually the opposite and it is a horrible place to visit. But the thing is that it really is incredible.

I was here in June so the weather was stunning. I have heard that it can rain a lot and get quite cold in the winter, but most of Europe does. And with so much to offer tourists, even the most unpleasant of days couldn't ruin this place because it has what super-rich cities like Doha, Abu Dhabi & Dubai will never have. Authenticity and identity.

In Rome for only a day and a half, much like San Fran the objective of my run was to try and see some sites so I could enjoy the day taking in the city and the atmosphere and not have to sprint around ticking them off.
I was staying near the Piazzo Navano to the north west of city, just east of the River Tiber that runs north to south of Rome, around 0.6km from the Pantheon and approx 2.5km from the Colosseum. Unsurprisingly I set off south east to find Maximus see the sites.
I ran this route very early in the morning, before 7.30am so just bear in mind the later you run the busier the streets will be. With authentic hand made pizzas, breads and pastas, carbing up prior to your run in Rome is not particularly difficult.

This route may well be a first for me, as it contains neither a Park or River!

From Piazza Navano, I headed south and then east for 50 metres until I picked up Corso del Rinascimento, at which point zig zagged my way east along Vias del Staderari and Dogana Vecchia for 0.5km until I could see the Pantheon.

What a piece of architecture. Built in 126AD, getting on for 2000 years ago, it has the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. One can only imagine just how spectacular it must have looked then if it looks this good so long after construction.
Wherever you go in Rome, there is a sense of drama and you can't help imagine what it must have been like to be there at the height of the Empire

From the Pantheon, I headed south with the Colosseum next on my list. The streets in Rome, especially around the tourist hotspots, are cobbled and uneven, so I would say take it steady, especially if it is wet. Don't go flying out the traps like a lunatic - Nobody wants a broken ankle.
Leaving the Pantheon, with it now on my right hand side, I headed east along Via del Seminario for over a kilometre past the beautiful Sant'Ignazio all the way to Via del Corso where I took a right, turning south ever closer to the Colosseum.
All of a sudden I was greeted by a phenomenal white marble building that I have to say I have never heard of; The Monument of Victor Emmanuel located where Via del Corso meets Piazza. For anyone visiting Rome, make sure you see this for your own eyes, I won't ruin the surprise for you!

I knew at this point I was close to the Colosseum as there was an increasing number of people dressed as Gladiators and posing for photographs with tourists, even though it was not yet 8am.

From the Monument, the Via del Fori Imperiali takes you all the way there, only 2km from the Pantheon. The great thing about Rome is that if you get a central hotel you can walk to most of the sites and attractions, saving you lots on taxis and public transport.

With parking skills like this, it's no surprise Italians excel at motorsports

The road is almost completely straight and from at least 700-800 metres away on the horizon you can this beautiful grey structure. Immediately I sped up. It wasn't a conscious decision, it just seemed to happen as a surge of adrenaline kicked in.

To some it may look like a run down derelict piece of rock, but for me it is probably the finest combination of architecture and engineering you could ask to see. Considering how long ago it was built, even today it has an aesthetic beauty, with much of the core of the building in tact despite being just shy of 2000 years old.

But most of all it just has a presence. It may sound odd to say a building has an aura but it just does. There is almost a hush around the outside as the millions of tourist who pose for a photo in front of it take in just what an achievement it is.

Reluctantly, I complete a lap of the outer walkway and depart back along del Fori Imperiali. Next stop, the Trevi Fountain.

I was advised by my hotel not to take my phone with me, which I use as both ipod and camera, so my snaps in this route were taken later in the day.

Personally though I would say there is no risk in it at all, especially during the day, so long as you stick to the main streets. Running at night however I would not recommend, but mainly due to the utter chaos, sorry I mean traffic, that is on the roads. 
From the Colosseum to the Fountain like most of Rome is a relatively short straight forward journey north for 1.8km. This time, instead of passing the Monument, where the road forks in front of you take the right route on Via Alessandrina. A pretty good road for running along, which goes for most in Rome. Maybe not for quality of surface but simply for the romantic feeling on show much like Paris.

It can get very cold out of season - it was June around 8am when I did this run so I just wore shorts and a long sleeve lightweight top with an undershirt. Even then it was certainly not hot, so I would say pack a thermal top or hat if coming any time but summer.

Right (east) on Via delle Tre Cannelle and then left onto della Pilotta takes you all the way north to the Fountain. I know this is getting a bit boring by now but...this is pretty special as well.

Not your average fountain, legend has it if you throw in a coin you will be sure of a return to Rome. It must be true because I had no money on me and I've never been back! Plenty of people do though, as on average 3000 Euros is thrown in each day (straight into the Berlusconi party fund no doubt).

I was quite surprised to see so few other runners out. I know it was quite early, but when compared to many other European cities it seemed to be eerily empty any joggers.

From the Fountain it is just a case of heading west 1.3km on Via del Muratte which will lead you all the way back to Piazza Navano. A nice gentle route taking some of Rome's best sites, leaving you with some energy for a day strolling around the city.

Okay so Italy has no money - what, it's true alright. At the time of writing, they're even worse of than we are and that is saying something!

Their economy may be as doomed as an underwater hairdryer or inflatable dartboard, but when it comes to a weekend break in Europe for someone looking to continue training while away, the Italians done good. Look no further than Rome.

You can follow me and my blog on Twitter @fairboyruns, Instagram @tomlfairbrother or on Facebook. You can also follow my running progress on Power of 10

Start - Piazza Navano, north west Rome
Journey - Head south east to the Pantheon, than continue east on Via del Seminario and south on Via del Corso. Passed The Monument of Victor Emmanuel, south on Via del Fori Imperiali to Colosseum. Then north to Trevi Fountain on Via Alessandrina and della Pilotta. Then west from Fountain to Piazza Navano for 1.3km on Via del Muratte
Finish - Piazza Navano
Inside the Colosseum you can really see the detail of the design, Bottom left of the photo shows where the Gladiators and Animals were kept prior to entering the arena

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