We are moths. Flitting senseless. Up from La Biga and into the dark streets by the Colosseum. We spiral in stumbleform towards the searing blue lights in the sky.
Not a colorful or majestic Lepidoptera like you’d find in the southern rainforests or the mothra beasts of Asia. Lacking the beauty of a rattlebox nor atlas in size. Just a couple of doped up, aimless guttermoths. Having emerged prematurely from our cocoons. A new species. Nearctic. Maritime, of the temperate mixed coniferous regions in origin. Most active in the deep nocturnal. Even more heightened and nonsensically active when ethanol is used as stimulant to increase the neurohormone dopamine. And naturally, suffering from the same positive photoaxis like all moths, helplessly attracted to the closest, brightest roadside attraction.
And so, just moments into our pilgrimage towards the blue blaze, we are already distracted by the lights nearest to us. It is Rome after all. You’d have to expect they’d light up all of their many monuments in a brilliant glow in the middle of the night. So when we come around the corner from the Colosseum and spot a giant expanse of glowing ruins, we are obliged to investigate.
These are the ruins of an ancient forum built by Julius Caesar in 46 BCE. Beside this is the Forum of Augustus, built by Caesar’s adopted son, also known as Octavius. Arguably the greatest Roman emperor of all time and he even got one of the twelve months named after him (as did Caesar actually, July).
In the distance is Trajan’s Market. The world’s oldest hybrid shopping mall and apartment complex, built around 100 CE (parallel thought – hopefully the eyesore that is the Redlands Mall won’t be standing for another two centuries, though it feels like that already). Beside this is Trajan’s Forum and Trajan’s column. Monuments well earned since Trajan extended the Roman empire to it’s max territory and was arguably the second greatest emperor of all time.
“This shit’s insane.” “Seriously, let’s take a closer look.” We are ruinmoths.
Trajan’s Forum. Impressive column there, Trajan.
We flit over to the marketplace. So cool.
Ok this is all super rad, but our main mothjective is still to investigate the insane lights tracing holes in reality southwest of here. Unfortunately we’re blocked by a large excavation site called the Roman Forum. A massive rectangular plot in the center of the city replete with a palpable density of history. You can feel the heartbeat of generations pulsing from the city’s core right over there. A sprawling expanse of columns, roads, and gardens.
Seems cool, but how do we get around it to those lights? What is going on over there? It must be the most crazy drugged up vampire orgy Europe has ever seen. Our newly de-hangovered brains crave sensory overload. So how do we circumnavigate the ruins of one of the most culturally consequential locations in human history and get to those dazzling blue blazers over there?
Ahh, this way. Through the Piazza Venezia and Vittorriano.
Beside Trajan’s Forum is this massive central square dominated by an elaborate national monument to Victor Emmanuel II. Built out of white marble between 1885 and 1935 in honour of the first king and soldiers of the first world war. It encapsulates the Altar of the Fatherland, an altar of the goddess Roma, diety of the city, and a Shrine to the Unknown Soldier, those lost in war.
This is nuts. And aside from the military guard, there are almost no other people (or moths) in the vicinity.
Around the corner from this is the Cordonata Capitolina. “Jeezaz, now what the hell is this?” “Yeah, so Rome…”
This leads up to the Piazza del Campidoglio which was designed by Michelangelo and constructed between 1536-46 using nunchucks as hammers.
And now back down the hill towards the sky lights we get a good view down into the Roman Forum.
We’re down on some service road now and judging by the vehicles it looks like we don’t have the proper security clearance to be in this type of place. So we just continue along until someone tells us we can’t be here.
“Well we’re totally lost, but this drunken stroll is really working out.” “Dude. Central Rome is insane. Can’t believe no one is out here right now. It looks amazing at night.” “Ya weird. It’s not even that late really.”
We dip under the crossbar of some empty security check point and come out onto a road at the base of the hill. “Ohhhh here we go!”
Our wing speed quickens as we hone in on the light show. What the hell is it?
Ahh shit. It’s nothing. It’s going to be something soon, but currently it looks like a light test. They’re setting up for some event.
“Well that was anticlimactic.” “Looks sick though.”
A nice security guard sees our interest and comes over. We ask what’s happening. The words thrown over the language barrier indicate that they’re setting up for an old car show that starts tomorrow and goes all day and night. “Come back tomorrow!” “Sure man, thanks!”
“Old car show? This is a way over the top set up for an old car show.” “Ya, right. Looks like a Muse concert. Still worth the trek over. Just crossing all that insane shit in the city center.” “For sure. Now what?” “Flip on the Bardar I guess. Need a re-up.”
The Bardar is on point and leads us directly across the street. A couple of folks are on a street side patio smoking with drinks. There’s a staircase leading into the underbelly. In the Navy is playing over the house speakers. “I wanna take you to a gay bar, gay bar, gay bar!” “Haha ya. Could be. Let’s check it out.’
We go down into a dimly lit narrow bar area. Pretty cool spot. Handful of people getting drinks and chatting. zerosettantacinque is written on the ceiling. All one word. The place opens up into more restaurant style seating in another room off tp the side. “Well…?” “Sit at the bar?” “Yep.”
“Zero seventy five?” “Guess so. Don’t know the significance.” “Building’s been here since 75 AD?” “Pfffft damn well could be.” I look up at the menu above the bar. Realize we haven’t eaten for a while. “Nachos.” “Definitely.” “Double G&Ts?” “Most definitely.”
The bartender comes over and we fire some things in with her. They’re ready in no time. This place is chill. Digging it.
Looking around and there are a bunch of famous pieces of art with thought and chat bubbles. We’re pointing around getting a kick out of them.
We start thinking about things to do tomorrow. “Go to the Vatican?” “That other country right over there?” “Ha ya. And the Sistine Chapel.” “Yep. Could actually go in to the Colosseum too.” “Oh man. And then get into some Halloween shenanigans.” “Sounds like the hostel bar is going to nuke it.” “Right. If it’s anything like Loki it’ll be super fun.”
Another round and the bar is starting to close down. It’s getting on two o’clock. “Goodbye shot?” 0.75 Girl is holding up a bottle of Tanquery and a couple of plastic cups. “For free. And then put drinks in these.” “Haha sure, why not? Salute!” “Cin cin!”
She pours a shot in each of the cups and we down them then pour what’s left of our drinks in. “Gin to go haha!” “This here is a real bad idea.” “This here is the beeeeees kneeeeees.”
And we’re back out into the streets. Blinded by the old car show production. “Guess we should head back, eh? Got a bit of a hike.”
There’s no one around. Just two guttermoths and our gins to go.
We take a different route back to Yellow just to see what else we can stumble upon. And pretty much every block has something remarkable about it.
Here’s the Marcelo Theater, which predates the Coloseum
Turtle Fountain from the renaissance era
Largo di Torre Argentina. A square with four temples. This is apparently the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
And the Pantheon built during Augustus’ reign and rebuilt by Hadrian. Looks to be in phenomenal shape.
The streets remain eerily empty and silent as we flutter by the never ending history hit parade.
Up to the Triton Fountain and we’re starting to be in familiar territory. The train station is just east of here and our hostel is north of that. We pound the rest of our drinks like sea gods.
Get back to the room and crash on the beds under the Godfather.
“Successful walkabout.” “Ya. Rome is insane. Overwhelming.” “And gins to go. What’s not to like?” “Not a bad outing considering we said we weren’t going out.” “Ya well…. just wait for the double hangover tomorrow.”