Sweet, frosted Colosseum!

Rome, Italy

I generally prefer chocolate frosting, though an occasional cream cheese-based confection will really get me.  And while I have been slowly introducing Dario's family to some of my favorite American foods – stuffed chicken, pancakes, creamy salad dressing – we still haven't mastered frosting.

Part of the problem is that zucchero a velo (powdered sugar) isn't readily available at most grocery stores.  Dario made a lovely chocolate cake for us one evening, but the butter cream frosting ended up being more butter crunch since all we had was granulated sugar.  But sometimes you get lucky and the frosting comes to you.


Aww, yeeeah!  This is why we left Ireland this winter – Italian sun!


Ok, admittedly, this is a different kind of "frosting", but for two weekends in early February, Rome was hit by snowstorms.  Snow!  In ROME!  How weird is that?

Some areas of the center and suburbs were locked down, no driving permitted, and some were even without power.  I desperately wanted to get downtown and see the Colosseum looking like a hive for flying reindeer, but the first time it happened we were stuck – no driving and too far from the metro.  Buses were not running, either.  A tragedy beyond imagining!


On a clear day you can see St. Peter's from here.  No, really.


A photo that started making the internet rounds shortly after the first flake hit only served to fire up my determination to get downtown.  It shows a woman holding a red umbrella walking toward Il Colosseo in the snow.  The owners of the copyright want €50 to post it on TourAbsurd, so I'm just going to provide a link to where you can take a peek, an article about the Russian gas shortage, second photo down.  Go look — it's a work of art.

Unfortunately, no matter how much I wanted to go, it just wasn't happening.  On the other hand, we had tentatively been planning to head up to the mountains with Dario's sister and brother-in-law to take our niece to the snow for the first time.  It was going to serve the triple purpose of sharing a touching family moment, lobbing snowballs at Dario's face, and giving me a chance to review some snow boots I'd been sent by Nature Shop.  Snow had arrived rather late in the year at the nearest ski resorts, who were using snow machines on their slopes, so I kept sending apologetic / hopeful emails explaining that we'd go as soon as nature cooperated.  (Yay!  Review complete! :)


Yippee!  Snow boots in their natural habitat!


While we could not find a way around the driving ban that first weekend, we did have a lot of fun around the house.  Couple of quick snowball fights in the yard, the critters got to see snow for the first time, and we all got toasty around the fire afterward.  Groceries were a bit short (except for pasta, of course), but because we had electricity and internet, the whole thing was a lot of fun: snowed in during the Great Roman Cold Snap of 2012!


Dog: "…WTH?"


Later in the week, with snow still on the ground, we got the incomprehensible news that there was going to be another snowstorm the following weekend.  Instead of driving bans for the next round, however, Italian officials announced that restrictions were planned.  Only cars with chains or snow tires would be permitted to drive.  We stocked up on groceries and Papa managed to get some chains for the wee family car.  This time I was NOT going to miss out on snow at the Colosseum!


Spooky snowglow.


The weekend rolled around and the first snow hit.  I woke up at 2 a.m. to look out the window.  Not only had it snowed, but there was the promise of more, with an eerie glow in the sky as city lights reflected off ice crystals in the clouds.  If only we could get downtown before it melted!

Getting out of the house the next morning was a bit of a chore, but not because of the snow.  For one thing, Italians do, as rumored, like to chat.  A LOT.  And about everything.  I reconsidered the wisdom of introducing Dario and his parents to the Blarney Stone as I watched the snow melt away. 

For another thing, it hadn't occurred to me that this might be the first time anyone in the family had put chains on a car.  Glad I'd spend several years in Washington state and had learned a little bit about the procedure.  With some readjustments, grunts, and cold hands (mostly Dario and Papa's), the hubby and I managed to get on the road.  The weird thumping hum of driving with chains on streets that were, for the most part, quite clear intensified my anticipation – and my concern.


Does not seem to have put a damper on tourism.


As we approached the much venerated monument, I was both relieved and disappointed.  Relieved that we'd made it in time to see some snow, but disappointed that it was in the process of melting away.  More snow was forecast for the day, so I crossed my fingers and hoped it would happen while we were still around to see it.

We decided to shoot some photos and take in the sights of the nearby Roman Forum, Capitoline Hill, and Trajan's Market.  Both the Colosseum and the Forum were closed, a bit of a financial misstep on the part of the government, I think, considering how many tourists were still buzzing around with wallets in hand.  Still, some interesting views were available. 


Sticking a camera through the bars luckily did not result in a gladiator chopping off my arm.


Sadly, the freshly charged batteries of my Canon seemed to be allergic to cold and fizzled after a handful of shots.  But don't you worry – I had my trusty point-and-shoot!


Giant, icy paving stones, aka, "a death trap", next to the Arch of Constantine.


Roman Forum, as seen from Capitoline Hill.
Colosseum is all, "Hey, guys!  I'm in the back row!"  Shush, Colosseum.


Chunk o' Forum with Chiesa dei Santi Luca e Martina in the background.


Tourists do the darnedest things!


While standing on Capitoline Hill, basking in the wonder of history and feeling small in the face of the giant accomplishments of Romans past, I noticed that a lovely marble crossbeam had apparently become a carnival game.  "Toss a coin, win a prize!" ('cept, in Latin) must have been carved somewhere that I couldn't see.  I wonder if the prize was a spycam.  If so, I'm totally down with that.


"'Sup, Jules?"  "Just chillin', bro."


The temperature had been slowly dropping as we made our way around the area.  It also started to drizzle lightly.  Poor Dario, even with his experience living through an Irish winter, he was not prepared for the cold.  Still, we took a moment to hang with Julius Caesar before heading back to the Colosseum.

…And then it happened!




Poor Dario was ready to curl up and die by this point, but I was ecstatic.  Mmm…  delicious frosting.  Getting to see snow at the Colosseum – so fantastic!


Ice cream.  Just what I wanted.


I didn't manage to get any awesome magazine-worthy photos, but I did find a bit of sweet irony in the juxtaposition of the food vendor's stand and the snowy monument.  Ice cream, ice water, cold drinks – PERFECT!


Can't see the video?  Watch it on YouTube: http://youtu.be/ZiWlPgO6H-Q


…And just to provide a little further evidence that this whole encounter was not in any way the result of photo manipulation, here's a bit of handheld video action.  Just a simple scan of the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, and me trying not to move in sync with an inconveniently positioned umbrella vendor.  Still, I was in heaven.


Sometimes heaven is just getting what you want.


Before Dario could turn into an Italian-cicle on me, we made our way to a nearby Chinese restaurant to eat and warm up.  Sadly, the food did not taste of heaven, nor even China for that matter.  We did not stay to torture ourselves with dessert.  Our favorite Indian restaurant was half a block away, so we popped in for a quick gulab jaman and chai.  We were back in heaven.

We made our way to the car, remembered sadly that the car does not have a working heater, and thump-thumped our way slowly home.  Dario's toes were lumps of ice, poor guy.  (I used to be really susceptible to cold, but living in Washington and Ireland – ok, and gaining a few pounds – has helped me handle the cold better.  Also, I had on my rockin' snow boots!)  However, lest that ending to a day of historical coolness leave you cold, let me reassure you with this photo, friends.


Feeling warmer just looking at this.


We arrived at home, chilled but triumphant, and sat down with the family in front of the fire.  We set our wet coats and scarves on the radiators and shared a few photos.  We regaled them with our tales of harrowing journeys, closed monuments, and inclement weather.  Dario even regained feeling in his toes.  …Heaven again.


How are you keeping warm?


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  1. For some reason, I didn’t think that Romans would own big fluffy jackets like that!

  2. I never would’ve thought it would snow in Rome, at least I never before got to see the snow in Rome! What a pleasant surprise and great opportunity for you to be there when this happened. Truly amazing, even if it is wet snow.

  3. I just recently visited Rome for the first time. I had good weather, not always bright and sunny but good. The funny thing is I did keep trying to imagine the Colosseum or the Forum or the Baths of Caracalla under various depths of snow. Thanks for satisfying my curiosity with some great photographs!

    1. My pleasure, Thomas. Wish I had known you were in town. Would have loved to have picked your brain about archaeology. I know very little, but always find it fascinating! Before we traveled to Egypt we watched about 40 lectures from Professor Bob Brier on a series of DVDs from the Teaching Company. Made everything feel more alive when we were there and the whole trip so much more enjoyable.

  4. Lovely pictures, I wasn’t in Rome the days of the big snow, luckily, given the mess it has caused! ;)

    1. Thanks, Angela! I can imagine it would be inconvenient for someone on a tight travel schedule, especially if airplane or train tickets were involved. We were fortunate to have many free days and family living nearby, so it worked out well. :)

  5. Nice story and pics. There’s something so wonderful about snow — as long as you don’t have to endure an entire winter of it. I’d like to see the Colosseum with or without the white stuff someday. The fire does look nice and cozy.

    1. Well when are you coming to visit, Cathy? (Soon, I hope, soon!) Would love to visit the Colosseum with you and then hit up our favorite Indian restaurant afterward.

      We are looking Ireland-ward right now, though, so come soon or give me some notice so I can come meet you in Rome. :D

  6. I LOVE Snow Glow!!

    1. Hahahaha! I can never predict what, if anything, folks will like from the posts. Thanks, Diana. XD

  7. So strange to see Rome covered in snow. Hopefully it’s gone by April when TBU rolls around. Can’t stand the stuff (no matter how beautiful it looks :)

    1. It’s long gone. Dario tells me that, in Rome anyway, things typically get very warm for several weeks, then April turns cold and rainy. Right now I’ve got the window open. Papa has been laying new bricks and concrete in the garden, as well as adding a new layer of sod and planting vegetables. The apricot tree from the first photo is covered in tiny buds – there are going to be a LOT of apricots this year!

      Anyway, I think you’ll be fine. ;)

  8. Wow, that is a truly unique experience. The Roman forum looks particularly amazing in the snow, really dark and foreboding. Sure, it’s not sun, but it looks like you got the most out of it :D

    1. Thanks, Laurence. I was kind of wondering if I was making a big deal over nothing. I’m glad to see other folks think it’s as neato and weird as I do. :)

  9. Bemused Boomer says:

    Great post! I was wondering how you and Dario were doing in the rare cold snap. I like your snow pic with the purple umbrella in it. Nice.

    1. Yes, it was awfully nice of those colorfully accessorized people to walk by at that exact moment. I should have offered to buy them some ice cream! ;)

  10. So sad that the vendor wasn’t offering coffee or hot chocolate!

    Very nice that you got to see the ruins, if not covered in snow, at least with a dusting.

    1. I know! Where was the ingenuity? The walkaround vendors are amazingly swift in their swaps of merchandise. In clear weather, it’s clickety-clack toys and bizarre dancing Minnie and Mickey Mouse windups. If a drop of rain appears, the toys mysteriously dematerialize and within minutes they are offering umbrellas!

      If only the more stationary vendors were as flexible and forward-thinking, I might have been able to thaw out the Dario-cicle and gotten a few more shots of the romance. ;)

  11. Great shots, you can certainly see and feel the cold! Very entertaining to read, even if it was at the expense of Dario’s toes :)
    We had a spell of very cold wheather but very little snow up here in the NL, but compared to other parts of Europe, this was pretty bearable (I think the record temp reached -18 or so).

    1. Yes, fortunately Mr. Dario still has all his toes after enduring the snow. He really was a good sport about it! I think having a profound enjoyment of ironic situations (i.e., we left Ireland for the winter to avoid the cold!) probably helped a lot. ;)

      Going to share your ñoquis de papa recipe with Mamma. She’s planning on making gnocchi again in a couple of days (I think she uses potato flour, though ;). Looks yummy!

      1. Are you absolutely sure that you can recommend recipes to your Italian mother in law without putting yourself in danger? :) Mammas usually take food very seriously!

        1. Oh, yes! She’s great that way. Have already introduced her to pancakes (now a family favorite!), stuffed chicken, and, just the other night, hamburgers. She’s also said she will happily test out Erin’s (of La Tortuga Viajera) paella recipe. :D

  12. Rome looks GORGEOUS covered in snow!!! Those are the most romantic shots I’ve seen in awhile. Love!

    1. Oh, p’shaw, you! Go on with ya. Yer makin’ me blush. ;)

  13. Wow – this is a first for me – have never seen ANY winter photos of the Colosseum. Such a magical moment!

    1. :D Thanks, Andrea! Even though I already know that Rome gets cold and wet in the winter, and is not *quite* the sun-kissed paradise that most people imagine Italy to be, it’s usually warmer than other places in Europe. With weather patterns changing worldwide, it’s possible this will become a regular thing, but just in case, I HAD to go see it!

      …I have a feeling you’ll be getting your fill of snow sometime soon. Looking forward to hearing about your Norwegian adventures! :)

  14. Ahhh, what a transporting post! Love your descriptions, the video and photos, especially the “Ice cold drinks” one ;) I really missed out on snow this winter and as I sit here sweating in Ivorian humidity, this post is making me want to buy a ticket somewhere cold!

    1. Aww, thanks, Phil. Funny how the grass is always greener on the other side of the equator, no? I would love to be sweating in west Africa right now! ;)

  15. Snow! Ice! UGH! Hate ’em. Give me a sunny beach any time. I’ll trade you my fur coat for it. ;-D

    1. Oh, I love me some tropical beaches, don’t get me wrong! But when life give you snow, make snow cones! (Or granita, in the case of Italy. ;)

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