Lovely breakfast of french toast with cinnamon/sugar this morning before heading off on the bus to the Forum Romanum. Started off at the Regia (where the Rex Sacrorum and Pontifex Maximus had offices and/or lived), then the Temple and Atrium of Vesta next door. The Temple of Vesta is where the eternal flame of Rome resided (along with, allegedly, the Palladium from Troy), but it turns out most of the circular remains we see of the temple are coin-based reconstruction work from 1930 (with a few bits of authentic marble worked in). The house of the Vestals used to be much more normal sized (remember, there are only 6 at a time, and they serve for 30 years each), but after the fire of 64 AD, it was greatly expanded to the large Atrium we see the remains of today (most of the remains we see are of Severan date).
Next we saw the Lacus Curtius, an opening in the middle of the Forum connected with the preservation of the state. Behind this are an olive tree, a fig tree, and grape vines, respectively signifying peace, safety, and prosperity. We stopped briefly at the Shrine of Venus Cloacina (the sewer goddess), then stopped by the Curia to talk about the original Curia Hostilia, the Comitium, and the Lapis Niger.
Having officially finished for the day, we were free to explore. Matt, Mike, Laurie and I (and some others) visited the Tullianum underneath the Mamertine prison. Neat spot for me to see—the Tullianum was just a hole in the ground below the Capitoline where the lowered prisoners to be held and/or strangled; people like Vercingetorix, Jugurtha, and the Catilinarian conspirators were held/killed in that tiny room I was in today!
After lunch (tortelline alla crema, spinach, wine) at a small restaurant, we visited the Fountain of Trevi and the Pantheon, then grabbed gelato at Giolitti (same spot I was at yesterday). The gelato experience was not as good today, as I got swindled out of 5 euros (I gave the cashier a 10 euro note and was told I had given a 5 and not given proper change—very expensive gelato!). So, now I know to announce the amount I am handing over each time. We then headed for Piazza Navona (the old Circus of Domitian) before walking through more of the Campus Martius to the Ponte Sisto and crossing the Tiber into Trastevere. We walked through a neat neighborhood of bars, etc. and stopped in at the Church of S. Maria in Trastevere (where they seem to have incorporated old Latin inscriptions in the walls), then walked the rest of the way back to the Centro.
Dinner was wonderful as always—salad, fettucine with red sauce, caprese salad, and nocciola panna cotta (a chocolately mouse). After dinner a good-sized group of us went for an evening walk and ended up by the Statue of Girabaldi overlooking Rome in lovely weather. Good day. Tomorrow, an early start to see the tombs at Tarquinia and Cerveteri.