Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Roma Day 2

We woke up, had breakfast and were off for a day of Gladiator School and seeing the Vatican with another fabulous guide from Rome4Kids.  The day got off to a rocky start when Ryan took Drew to get a muffin and said he would meet us at the bus stop but didn't mention which bus stop.  Trevor and I stood at the top of the stairs for a bit trying to figure out which way to go (the hotspot was with Ryan and not us) when we finally figured it out - we had to run to the bus to catch it.  We were actually supposed to do Gladiator School yesterday (Friday) when we were visiting The Pantheon and wandering around Piazza Navona but I had my days mixed up (vacation will do that for you) and we completely forgot.  Luckily I was able to reschedule for today at 1100.  One problem is that the outfit I am wearing for the Vatican (legs and shoulders covered) is not the best for combat.

I posted this on FB already but Drew was already over waiting for the but before the day even started.
Gladiator School is run by a group that is dedicated to preserving the history and art of the military of the Roman Empire and Gladiators (I think of Renaissance Fair people).  It is outside of town along the Appian Way and it was a little bit of a haul to get there.  We got off at the wrong bus stop too so had a farther walk than we were supposed to.  Remember how you have to ring the bell for the driver to stop?  We were sitting on the wrong side of the bus to see the signs for the stops as we whizzed by them so we got off a stop too early.

Our instructor at Gladiator School was Emmanuelo.  We were in a group with another family with 3 kids from California - their parents weren't cool enough to participate.  We started inside with a history of the Roman military and Gladiators.  Emmanuelo was amusingly intimidating with the kids and grown ups.  Romans were considerably shorter and smaller than many of the Northern Barbarians that they conquered.  They used intelligent armour design and military tactics to overcome these weaknesses.  For example, their helmets were designed so that a blow from above was deflected off to the side.  They would frequently coat their swords with garlic (anti-coagulant effect) or horse manure (which carried typhus) to make their wounds more deadly.  They also fought in regiments or lines with the least experience fighters in front (they were more expendable than the veterans).  After 2 minutes of combat, the general would whistle and those men would fall to the back of the line with fresh fighters coming up to take over.  He also went over the history of the Gladiator.  They got their name from the Gladious, or sword, that they used.  Contrary to what we had been told by other guides, there were professional gladiators.  These men had usually started out as slaves or prisoners of war.  After you won 20 matches you earned your freedom but many of these guys had nowhere to go (how far away was your country of origin?  was your wife still waiting for you after all this time?) and being a gladiator offered some prestige so they would sign a new contract to work for themselves and pay rent to stay in the gladiator barracks.  These bouts were more like wrestling of today - theatrical with wounds made to produce lots of blood but not much injury.

After our history lesson we went outside (where thankfully it was a little shaded) to receive our instruction.  First we did some warm ups with running, push ups, jumping over obstacles, and dodging swinging bags filled with sand.  Turns out my footwear was more inappropriate for the task at hand than my pants.  I ended up crashing while jumping over obstacles and got a big knee boo boo so I ditched the shoes.  We were then taught 4 offensive moves, practice our moves on a pole and then sparred.
He is one big dude.

Drew and Trevor sparing.  I think she won this round.

A good blow to the stomach

Mano e mano

Drew vanquishing her opponent from the other family

Drew and Trevor going after each other again.

At the end we all got certificates.  This was a great start to our day.  Then we headed back to the bus stop to make out way back into town and Vatican City.

Our tour guide Carol was excellent.  She has lived in Italy for 35 years but was born in the US so we didn't have to fight our way through an accent.  She just showed us the highlights of the Vatican Museum and sat us down on a bench with her Ipad for a long chat about the Sistine Chapel.  This was vital because you get herded through there like sheep and there is hardly time to look at it as you go through.  You were allowed to take photos inside St. Peters but no flash so a lot of them are too dark.
The kids enjoyed looking at the various Popemobiles

The Holy Door that gets opened during Jubilee Years.  Apparently the Pope just recently announced he would make this a Jubilee year (like 10 years ahead of schedule or something) and the Italian police are absolutely freaking out about having to provide security on such short notice.

The ceiling of St. Peters
This is the body of Pope Innocent XI.  According to our guide, his coffin was not long enough and they had to cut off his feet.  His face and hands have lead masks covering them.

The Swiss Guard
After the Vatican we separated from our guide and made our way back home.  Relaxation time ensued and then we went to a fabulous little restaurant for dinner.  They hardly spoke any English at all but we had fabulous pasta and lamb and the kids had some beef.

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