Last week I shared the beginning of our summer travels. We started off slowly, but a trip to the mountains was just what I needed to refresh my mind and spirit. Feeling a bit more like my old self, we entered the month of July.
In July, we participated in some unique evening events, right here in Rome.
The first was the Bioparco di Roma’s evening safari. Every Friday evening in July, the zoo hosted a guided tour through its grounds, allowing participants an opportunity to see animals that are less active during the zoos regular daylight hours. This was a fabulous, albeit late experience. We participated in one of the earlier tours of the evening. We set off at 9:15 for a 1.5 hour evening stroll through the zoo. Stops included feeding time with the lemurs, viewing the giraffes, lions, tigers, zebras, the hippo and a lengthy visit with the elephants. The tour was conducted in Italian, and even though we had some difficulty following the guides’ explanations, we found the evening at the zoo to be immensely enjoyable. Bioparco is hosting Safarinight again every Friday in September. Advance reservations are required, and the evenings tend to sell out early.
The evening was such a flawless success, that I began to feel a little overconfident in my summer adventure planning skills. Living here in Rome, life usually finds a way to humble you – just a bit.
Our second evening experience was the light show in Caesar’s forum. This was a fabulous opportunity to walk among the ruins while it is far less crowded – and much cooler. Once again, we purchased the earlier tickets of the evening – the first show in the summer months commences at 9:00 pm.
Unfortunately, I realized when we arrived, about 15 minutes before the show was to begin, that I had neglected to note exactly where the entrance to the show was. I had assumed (big mistake) that I knew where it was, based on where I had seen the lights on previous evening strolls. After a half an hour of searching every conceivable entrance to Caesar’s forum we could think of, we arrived at the tour’s starting point. Across the street from the Forum at the base of Trajan’s column. We arrived, slightly winded, sweaty, blistered and 15 minutes late for our scheduled tour.
After a bit of confusion at the entrance and a little discussion with various ticket people, the folks running the show were kind enough to let us join another tour.
The 55 minute tour is definitely one to include on your Rome itinerary. You’ll enter at Trajan’s column, and follow your guide beneath the street to Caesar’s forum. It was a fascinating combination of lights, history and storytelling. The light show covers several different areas of the forum, allowing you to become immersed in the past. Special headsets are available in an assortment of languages. It was especially helpful if, like me, you have a difficult time imagining exactly how the forum looked in its heyday, or exactly where the various buildings you read about are located.
We did not make it to the show in the Forum of Augustus this summer, but we absolutely plan to visit that another time. Both shows run from the end of April to the end of October. For tickets and other information, visit their website.
Our final evening tour in July took us back to World War II. Thanks to the Roma Sotteranea an association of archeologists dedicated to preserving the underground sites of Rome, we were able to tour the underground bunker at Villa Ada Savoia.
The bunker was built in the 1930’s for the protection of the Italian royal family. Its unusual shape and size allowed a car to be driven into the bunker.
Abandoned and neglected for nearly 70 years, it was recently thoughtfully restored by the association and opened for guided tours. The tour is a fascinating look into the precautions taken in World War II Italy. The Villa Ada Savoia grounds are home to a lovely park with dozens of beautiful paths.
Not all of our July travels happened at night. July in Rome is hot. It’s the kind of weather that makes everyone wish they were near the water, all day long.
During the month of July, we also attempted to visit some of the lovely Italian beaches. My family loves the beach. I do not. I am not a fan of the sun, the sand or the salt water. Clearly this was not my first choice of vacation spots.
I wanted to get a bit further from Rome than the nearby beaches at Ostia, but everything seemed to book up rather quickly. So I decided to head across the Italian peninsula to Abruzzo. We found a vacancy at the Hotel Sea Lion in Montesilvano, just north of Pescara. The hotel was fabulous, with private beachfront access, a pool and a very nice hotel restaurant. The weather unfortunately was not. The rain and winds made it impossible to enjoy the very lovely stretches of beaches in Abruzzo.
We chose a slightly closer location for our second beach trip and headed to Anzio. About an hour’s drive from Rome, Anzio is full of lovely beaches. We stopped at one of the first beaches we came to and enjoyed plentiful parking, and rented an umbrella and chairs from a local beach club. The water was calm and the air was warm, we caught a break and enjoyed a beautiful day at the beach.