The Colosseum (Rome day 4)

Well, without further adieu let me continue telling you about my recent trip to Rome, Italy (and a few other places, but mostly Rome!). Since blogging about something different yesterday I got a barrage of emails, phone calls, and texts asking me WHEN OH WHEN would I be continuing…okay, one text asking if I was done with the Rome recaps and I can only assume that was a hopeful text, but NO. THERE’S MORE!

(If you’ve missed a day here are the trip recaps–)

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

On my last trip to Italy, back in the summer of 2001, we spent a couple days in Rome and did get to visit the Roman Forum and the Colosseum, but I really wanted to go again. It had been awhile, and I also remembered how much I enjoyed it.

So, Tuesday morning we woke up and waited for Louie’s stepdad to arrive. He had managed to sort out his passport troubles and rebook his flight to join us for the rest of the week (yay!) and arrived at the hotel in the mid-morning. Before he got there we took another trip to Cafe Greco for a nice shot of espresso to get us going…the cappuccino the hotel served at breakfast was very nice but it just didn’t have enough caffeine for the day. Louie said that he’d heard that Italians liked to drink espresso every once in awhile throughout the day, versus the American way of loading up first thing and then sometimes not having any more, so when in Rome…

We all decided to walk to the Colosseum from the hotel—it was a long walk, but doable, and of course there were plenty of sights along the way.

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I don’t remember WHAT this was, except that we peeked into a little museum with a gorgeous courtyard and had to take pictures.

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The Victor Emmanuel Monument. Evidently some people think this is quite tacky.

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Typical tourist picture…trying to figure out where we are going!

We also walked up the stairs to a church (Santa Maria in Aracoeli) right behind it and there were some nice views.

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“Peter! I can see your house from up here!”

We bought sandwiches from a truck and ate them while sitting on the sidewalk surrounded by pigeons. Note: the sandwiches weren’t great, but the sparkling water was delicious and cold, and at least we weren’t hungry anymore.

We continued to walk towards the Colosseum. Rick Steves suggested you buy your tickets for the Colosseum at the Roman Forum, where there would be much less of a line, and since I definitely remembered waiting in line at the Colosseum for a long time in the past, we followed those instructions.

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We passed by Trajan’s Forum on our route. As Rome grew into an empire, it outgrew the Roman Forum. Some later emperors built their own forums, and this was built by Emperor Trajan (who ruled from A.D. 98-117).

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I was a little close for this picture, but that’s Trajan’s Column. It is, according to Rick Steves, the “world’s grandest column from antiquity.” Originally the top was a polished bronze statue of Trajan, but now it is ST. Peter instead. The column is hollow with a staircase inside, and there are 2,500 figures telling all about the emperor’s triumphs. It unfolds like a scroll and if you unwound the scroll, it would stretch over two football fields!

We waited in a short line to enter the Colosseum and then a longer line for the bathrooms (probably much like it was back in the day too, you always have to wait in line for the bathroom…if you’re a woman at least.)

And then!

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I took a bunch of pictures, but they are all similiar…I love the Colosseum, and I tried to imagine it in its glory, as everybody does. The other thing I found really fascinating to ponder was that when the building was no longer used as a stadium, people started carting stones away, and then eventually the whole thing was just overgrown with weeds and nobody cared about it. (Edit: after writing this because that was my impression, I read the Wikipedia entry and this isn’t correct! And we know Wikipedia is correct because anybody can edit it.) We started watching the Ken Burns National Parks show last night, and he made the point that America’s National Parks are untouched, pristine wilderness, where nobody has really ever lived. Rome is the opposite. Somebody has always lived here, and whoever lived there after them just built on top of what was there, or used it to make a new building. Thousands and thousands of years have gone by and people have continued to live there!

Then we headed over the Roman Forum, stopping by the Arch of Constantine.

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Interesting fact: your ticket for the Colosseum covers the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. We all thought the Forum would be free, and quick internet research tells me that in 2008 they started charging for the combo ticket, so that explains everybody’s memory of free admission!

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I should look these up and tell you exactly what they are, but I don’t think it matters THAT much. I also kept getting really confused by the Forum map in my guidebook, and found that I kept having what my friend Jen refers to as “swiss cheese brain.” I’d read some interesting historical background in the book, and then promptly forget. It’s impossible to learn everything at once! Luckily Louie’s stepdad Elliot WAS really good at knowing almost everything and he gave us some great information all week long.

After the Forum we split up and Louie and I went up to Palatine Hill.

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It was wonderful to see it all from above!

We walked back by Trajan’s Forum and all of that again, and also by where Rome is putting in a new Metro line so there’s a ton of construction happening (it’s right around the Colosseum, actually).

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They had a lot of intense looking scaffolding that looked like it was bracing old buildings. I’d imagine if you are trying to dig underneath them you really don’t want to destroy them!

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I loved this little street. So cute!

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We went by the Trevi Fountain which unfortunately for us was undergoing renovations.

We got back the hotel and had time for a brief rest before going to dinner. We went to a really nice place called Al Moro for dinner. After dinner Louie and I decided to try to visit this place he remembered which was a kind of home for feral cats. He’d mentioned it before but it took some research to find what he meant—it was at the Largo Argentina Ruins which are near the Pantheon. His last visit (some time ago) he recalled dozens upon dozens of cats…this time we saw about 5 or 6…so I don’t know if that means since the cats were neutered the colony was just dying out or what. There are definitely less cats around Rome now than I recall on my last visit—I remember there being possibly hundreds just around the Colosseum and we didn’t see a single one!

I suppose really that’s a good thing though, as long as they aren’t killing the feral cats and are simply relocating and neutering them. After all, there are plenty of cats in the world still, aren’t there?

So there you have it. A full day of touring the ancient ruins in Rome, followed by a wonderful meal of pasta and wine, followed by cats. That is pretty much my ideal day!

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