Touring on the HOHO Bus

On Saturday I decided to go get on one of those double decker buses that go all around the city. They hit all the major sites (or stop near them) and you can hop-on, hop-off (hoho for short) as much as you like. I figured it would be an easy way for me to get to the places I can’t walk to.

I knew the buses had a hub near St. Peter’s Square but I had looked online to compare companies and it said there were stops at Castel St. Angelo, which is right across the bridge from me. That is a bit closer, so I headed that way.

ImageThe bridge itself, Ponte Sant’ Angelo, was already a hotbed of activity. Since it leads to a major attraction, many vendors set up there. In fact you can barely walk on the sidewalk along the bridge because the vendors and performers are taking all the space!

I actually do enjoy some of the performers. The musicians add a nice touch and are usually pretty good. Today there was an accordion player, an acoustic guitar guy and an electric guitar guy who had his own CDs for sale. I have no idea how much money they take in, but I am past giving handouts myself.

So I wove through the crowd on the bridge and looked around from the Castel for the buses. Hmmm… can they be over to the right where I can’t see them? It’s the opposite direction of the stop at St. Peter’s, but there is a market of tents over that way, so I’ll go look.

The market was the typical street vendors and I have grown very hesitant to approach and look. Once you show any interest they are on you like a duck on a june bug and I find it unpleasant. I did reach out and touch a black and white purse that caught my eye. Instantly the vendor picks it up, unzips it and shoves it at me. “15 euro” he says. “No, thanks,” I reply. “Nice purse. You need. You buy.” he insists. I shake my head no. “Give me 12 euro!” he demands. I start to walk away. “Give me 10 euro!” he pleads. Well the thing can’t be leather at that price and I leave with him hollering after me.

At the end of the market there were no buses. Drats, went the wrong way again. And I don’t want to walk back through that market so I start off on the streets to loop around back to where I started. I thought it would just be a few blocks, but Roman streets are not always parallel – especially when I’m wandering around.

Half a mile later I ended up at the bus hub where I could have gone directly an hour before. Oh well, I have all day.

ImageThe ticket for the Roma Open Tour Bus is 22 euro and takes about 2 hours. Sounds good to me. But by the time I go up the narrow winding steps to the top deck and get a seat, I have my doubts about hopping on and off.

Then a VERY large girl with painted blue nails plops down next to me and crams me into my side of the bus. She has to reach over me to plug in her headset, which she has no qualms about doing. And she spent a good amount of time with her arm across me punching the buttons to get everything to her liking. I was squished and couldn’t even move my arms to unfold my map so we had a bit of a tussle while I situated myself and fought back. Really, she needed a seat and a half – and I certainly need a full seat to myself, so we jostled along and arm-butted for several stops.

Finally she and her equally large boyfriend got off and I spread out. Thankfully no one sat next to me for the rest of the trip.

The first part of the route was places I had already been so I just enjoyed seeing the view from the top of the bus. But eventually we got to further out parts of town and I was all eyes. I was thrilled when we came upon the Colosseum. What a great way to see it! I had no desire to go down to ground level and get in the long line to get in. Snapping pics from atop the bus was perfect.


How exciting to see this in person!


Constantine Arch

Right after the Colosseum was the Arch of Constantine, and if I missed anything it would have been the Arch of Titus (Arco di Tito) which is a little farther up and the bus didn’t go past it.


Arco di Tito

But here is a photo I found and a brief reason why I would like to have seen it…

This arch was built to commemorate the victory of the Romans over the Jews in 70AD. The Romans had destroyed the Jewish temple in Jerusalem, leaving nothing standing, and brought the Israelites back to Rome as slaves. Now ordinarily the Romans were pretty good about keeping slaves. They tolerated their customs as long as the slaves would make allegiance to the Roman Empire and worship the emperor as a god. This was no problem for most conquered tribes because they worshipped numerous gods anyway.

Not the Israelites. They had only one God, Jehovah, and refused to bow down to the emperor. So the Romans forced them to build this arch which celebrated the Roman victory over them. And they got to be part of the work force on the Colosseum as well. Throughout history, Popes used the Arch of Titus as a site for oaths of submission. Roman Jews always refused to walk under it. Then, when David Ben Gurion declared independence for the State of Israel, the chief rabbi gathered the entire Roman Jewish community by the arch and in solemn procession, walked the opposite way under the arch to symbolize the return to Jerusalem and Israel.

ImageFrom there it was on to more ancient sites: the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. It is thrilling to see such historical remains of the empire that shaped the modern western world.

We get our word “palace” from this hill – and there used to be so many here that later emperors had to build somewhere else. It must have been quite the neighborhood to be in!

ImageThen it was more riding to weave back through Rome to where we started. Several times we passed this huge building, Victor Emmanuel Monument, which was built for Italy’s first king. Locals actually make fun of it because of its grandiosity and refer to it as “the wedding cake,” or even more irreverently, “the dentures.” It really is quite a spectacle!

So I got my overview of the grandeur of Rome and loved it. Traffic was quite heavy so I was on the bus for about 2.5 hours. That was fine, but I was ready to get off when we got back to St. Peter’s Square.

Now I’ve seen everything I want to see, so on Sunday, my last full day here, I will probably walk back to a couple favorite areas and hang out for a while. One more day in Roma!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Ellyn
    Nov 04, 2012 @ 16:50:48

    Thanks for the fascinating history lesson. I’d love to see the Arch of Titus. I never knew the part about the Jews refusing to walk under it. Interesting!


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