I’d arranged a Colosseum tour in advance based on several people’s advice. The iconic symbol of ancient Rome, built between 72-80AD is an oval amphitheater also known Flavian’s Amphitheater or to Romans, the Colosseo According to Wiki, ‘Built of travertine, tuff and brick-faced concrete, it is the largest amphitheater ever built.’ When you stand in its shadow, it is indeed colossal.
Miracle of miracles, it dawned bright and sunny once again despite the rain forecast. We walked back to the Colosseum in time for our morning tour. What a thrill spotting it in the distance. We got a kick out of the ‘gladiators’ that wandered the grounds providing photo opps for visitors… for a fee, of course. It was very Las Vegas-esque.
The three hour tour was great, but long. We found we can walk for miles and hours, but standing around in one place listening or walking slowly for very long and our backs start hurting. The crowds were overwhelming. A voice over the loud speaker continually announced that the maximum 3,000 person capacity had been reached and the entry gates were closed until further notice. Looking over the walls at the long queues waiting to get in, we were particularly glad we were already inside.
There is still archaeological excavation in progress on the underground levels and work is continually done to reinforce the structure itself. We climbed steps and walked up ramps just as the Roman citizens used to do two millennia ago. The Colosseum was built for entertainment … gladiatorial bouts, exotic animal ‘hunting’, executions. The entertainment never stopped. Much of the structure and décor has been damaged or pillaged through the centuries, but still, what a splendorous, amazing place it must have been when the Romans gathered here.
From the Colosseum, we entered the grounds for the Forum, the center of commerce and government in the Roman times. Again, I refer to Wiki’s knowledge… ‘The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history.’ As we walked through the ruins of old temples, triumphal arches, massive palazzas and the marketplace, we could feel the history, the spirit of millions of footsteps that have passed on this stone paved walk before us. Again archaeological activity is active and progressing. Our tour guide said that only 42% of the ruins have been excavated and that Rome is the largest archaeological dig in the world. Building a subway line takes decades because every time they excavate, they find something of importance and have to stop for evaluation and sometimes change their route.
We tramped along the uneven stones of the Roman road, the Sacra Via to the top of the Palatine Hill. The views from the top of the hill were stupendous. The rain continued to hold off as the tour ended, but the clouds were building and the sky was ominous. Just click on the thumbnails below to enlarge them.
The Forum is a maze of walkways and paths and we soon found ourselves in the ruins of the Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo), best known for its chariot races. It was an unexpected treat for us for the first 45 minutes, but soon became a bit of frustration until we finally managed to find an exit that was open.
We boarded the hop-on/hop-off bus to see the major highlights of the city… famous churches, landmarks, the Tiber River and, of course, the entrance to the Vatican City to which we will return.
All in all, an awesome day. The sky, now thoroughly darkened, belted out a tremendous clap of thunder and the rains came… nothing dreadful as we had our rain gear with us. We ducked into a small cafe for a very late lunch and by the time we’d finished, most of the rain had subsided and other than puddle-wet shoes, we were no worse for the wear.
Back at the hotel, we were exhausted, jet-lagged and mind-boggled over what we’d seen, done and experienced this first day in Rome. And there’s more to come! Next up? The Vatican City.
Join us … it’s awesome!