We started our day with a delicious brioche breakfast. It had been quite a surprise yesterday when we had visited the lobby to use the Internet and the man at reception gave us directions for how to get to breakfast. The hotel has no common area for serving a continental breakfast so they have cut a deal with a cafe around the back of the building. When we got there we just had to hand over some tickets reception man had given us and we were presented with a brioche & hot beverage each. Free breakfast is the best.
After eating, we walked to the train station and caught the metro to the Colosseo stop. Can anyone guess what we saw when we emerged from the station?
The most famous building in Rome has to be the Colosseum. This building is 2000 years old and is an example of perfect Roman engineering. The Romans pioneered the use of concrete and the rounded arch which allowed them to build on such a grand scale. But with function you sometimes lose the fashion, and the Romans weren’t the best at making things look nice. To fix this they added some Greek columns for esthetic value. From the outside the building looks incredibly impressive. The arches stack up perfectly for 3 stories of architectural marvelousness. We did a whole lap of the place to see it from all angles. The north side has remained the most intact; it still has it’s top floor.
The Colosseum was built in 80 AD when the Roman Empire was at its peak. It was an arena for gladiator contests and public spectacles. Killing had become a spectator sport and the Romans wanted to share the fun with as many people as possible. At its height, the Colosseum could accommodate 50,000 roaring fans and entrance was entirely free. In the present day we had to pay to get in, but it was definitely worth it. The interior is more what you picture when you think fo ruins. There is only one small section that contains any seats, and those are a reconstruction. You have to use your imagination to picture how so many people could sit & watch the games. What wasn’t hard to see though were the structural components. Without floors & seats covering them, all of the arches and support columns are on full display. You don’t think about how strong a simple Roman arch is until you see 3 more stories of arches, floors and various other stones stacked on top of it.
Gladiators, criminals and wild animals fought to the death here in every conceivable scenario. There was beast vs beast, man vs beast and the main event: man vs man. The floor has been reconstructed at one end to give you an idea of the depth of the lower level where the animals were kept before they were lifted up in elevators. The animals (including lions, tigers, bears (Oh My!) and other exotic creatures) would pop out from behind blinds into the arena…the gladiator didn’t know where, when or by what he’d be attacked. Gladiators were the modern day equivalent of star athletes, they even had there own fan clubs and cheering sections. The underground passageways really were a treat to see. It is a vast maze of cages, cells and open spaces for warming up.
The Arch of Constantine is important for anyone who is a Christian, was raised a Christian or is simply from a Christian nation. This arch, from 312 AD, marks the turning point in history where Emperor Constantine defeated his rival and made Christianity the religion of the Empire. Almost over night it went from being illegal to worship Christ to being illegal if you didn’t. The arch is a hulking big piece of white marble. In itself it is impressive, but it is made all the more picturesque by it’s placement, right between the Colosseum & Palantine Hill.
The Roman Forum is ancient Rome’s birthplace and civic center. In the Roman empire, the forum was the center of any city (much as present day Italian cities revolve around their piazzas) and as Rome was the center of the empire, this set of ruins was really the core of the entire civilization. In other words, although it may look like a crumbly bunch of bricks it was a huge deal in history. Walking around it’s hard to picture what this place would have looked like all those years ago. The forum would have been full of blinding white marble buildings with 40 foot high columns and shining bronze roofs, as well as rows of statues painted in realistic colors.
Each end is marked by a large white arch. They are similar to that of Constantine but celebrate instead Titus & Septimus Severus. They were two other emperors, the first of early Rome and the second during it’s decline. A couple of other things stand out on the almost flattened area: The Senate House stands as the only whole & operational building…due to the fact that it was converted into a church upon Rome’s fall. The Basilica of Constantine stands towering over everything else, despite the fact that it is only a fraction of it’s original size. All that is left now are a triplet of the most massive arches we have ever seen and will probably ever see in our lives.
The Temple of Julius Caesar is where Caesar’s body was burned after his assassination. There are constantly flowers on the site…given to remember the man who, more than any other personified the greatness of Rome. Although publically Julius Caesar refused the laurel headdress that would have made him sole leader of Rome, privately he slowly abolished the power of the senate until he ruled as a dictator. This ushered in a new era of control for emperors during which their title changed to “Ceasar”. Though loved by the masses, not everyone liked him. In the end he was ambushed and stabbed to death by a conspiracy of senators. The temple where he was burned is not an overly impressive sight; it is the significance of it that really hits you. People worship this political leader like he was a god! Not something that would happen today, that’s for sure!
The Temple of Vesta is perhaps Rome’s most sacred spot. As long as the sacred flame burned, like the fire at the center of a Roman home, Rome would stand. The flame was tended by priestesses known as Vestal Virgins. These women were chosen from noble families before they reached the age of ten. The 6 Vestal Virgins would serve a 30 year term in which they took a vow of chastity. If she served her term faithfully she was given a huge dowry and allowed to marry. However many women found it difficult to keep there virginity. If found out, she was strapped to a funeral car, paraded through the streets if the forum, taken to a crypt, given a loaf of bread and a lamp and then buried alive. Yikes! Their sacred home is still a lovely garden with large reflecting pools & statues of those women who were able to retain their virtue.
Palatine Hill, located above the forum is full of even more history and ancient ruins. This was where the emperors lived. The hill was once so filled with palaces that later emperors had to build outwards & downwards. On the hill we saw the remains of the Imperial Palace, the huts of Romulus and Remus (orphaned twins who legend tells us were raised by the she-wolf on Palatine Hill and founded Rome) and the House of Emperor Augustus, which we were able to enter and see newly discovered frescoes.
By the time we finished with the ancient sites it was well past lunch time & we were starving. We found a place on a side street and sat down for some pizza. We were back to Italian thin crust, versus the raised crust required to hold in the pizza soup served in Naples. We went halvesies on a margherita & mushroom.
We spent our afternoon in the only way we know how in Rome, apparently. We sat at the Trevi Fountain for over an hour and then on the Spanish Steps for almost two. In between we wandered the streets that link the two sights and did some stellar shopping. Couple more Christmas presents checked off the list…including a couple of gifts for ourselves 😉 Eventually it got dark and we meandered to the fountain again. It looks beautiful when it’s all lit up!
For supper we found a place not far from the fountain, but far enough that it wasn’t crazy expensive. It was still a touristy enough area though that we didn’t have to eat alone for once! Kristin had cannelloni, as it was on her To Eat Before we Leave Italy list, and Justine had tortellini with mushroom & cream sauce. The portion sizes look small but we were both stuffed by the time we finished!
Thing We Learned Today:
– The word ”palace” comes from Palatine Hill, because this was where the Emperors chose to live.
– You cannot walk around Italy in a white & red or white & blue striped shirt…you just look like you should drive a gondola. We had a gondola man (or man who dresses like he wants to be one!) spotting at the Trevi Funtain today.
Highlight of the Day:
– The Colosseum obviously!
– But also haggling with a street vendor so that instead of getting two bags for €45 each we got two bags for €40 total.
Love, Luck & Lupa the she-wolf,
And because it’s been awhile, how about a participation question!?!?!?
The two of us have found this young adult book series that we enjoy listening to the audiobooks of at work. It’s called Percy Jackson and is about Percy who is a Demi-god. A Demi-god is a person with one human parent and one God parent. Now it’s research time! We want you to look into the Roman gods, and the Greek ones who they are originally based on. Now imagine that we are all Demi-gods…based on our personality traits who do you think our Godly parent would be & why? And how about you…who do you think your Godly parent would be? If you answer for both us and yourself we will give you lots of points & maybe even reply with who we think your parent would be!