My first full day in Rome! I bounded out of bed (okay, my heart was bounding... my body was significantly slower) and headed downstairs for a beautiful continental breakfast made all the more beautiful by yet another young Italian godling asking me, “May I make for you espresso? Macchiato? Cappuccino?” He was taller and blonder than Giorgio, even more of a movie star, but it’s the accent that gets me. Ah, bello!
These reliefs are on the wall of the breakfast area… the hotel cut away the drywall to show them off. You can tell the bricks are old by how thin they are. Exactly how old, I have no idea, but I know the bricks of Herculaneum and Pompeii were thin like this.
Those reliefs just being IN the wall like that, all by themselves in this old building, exemplifies the way I felt while in Rome: that everywhere I looked, something cool unexpectedly popped up. I didn’t know where to put my eyes half the time! There was just so much to look at!
After breakfast, I packed up my things to drag them over to the Airbnb apartment that would be “home” for my final two nights in Rome (I hadn’t been able to extend my stay there when I decided to arrive a day early). I was truly sore from dragging my things around; I knew I wouldn’t last long, but it looked like a short walk. The apartment was near the Colosseum, so I asked for directions there. My walking instructions were, “Take a right outside the hotel, climb up the steps at the train station, turn right onto Via Cavour, then turn left a few blocks down. Just turn left when you see the Colosseo. It's not far.”
Wow. “Just turn left when you see the Colosseo?” Did someone just say that to me? Am I really here?
The directions proved useful—when I turned the corner off Via Cavour, there it was:
Eventually, I found my accommodations and dropped my luggage off. It was the top floor of a residential building—what Americans would call the fourth floor and Europeans would call the third floor. No elevator, of course--I almost didn't make it, LOL. A woman named Cristina lives there with her caregiver Elsie. Cristina’s daughter Francesca maintains the Airbnb listing. They all greeted me warmly, showed me the room and the beautiful terrace on the roof. I was eager to get back out and see some things before my scheduled tour of the Colosseum at 4pm, so I headed out before I collapsed.
View from the apartment where I stayed.
I walked to the Colosseo metro stop, picked up my handy Roma Pass (providing “go to the front of the line” entrance to different places [worth twice as much just for this feature!], as well as transportation on anything except taxis), and headed out.
I first found myself at Piazza del Popolo.
Porta del Popolo, the northern gate of the ancient city. This is actually the backside, taken from inside the piazza.
The center obelisk was brought to Rome from Egypt in 10 B.C.! Sadly, it was surrounded by fencing on this day, so the four fountains at its base aren't visible.
The "twin churches" opposite the gate.
This fountain, on the east side, features Dea Roma between the rivers Tiber and Aniene. Note the she-wolf nursing Romulus and Remus. The Pincio is behind it.
The Fountain of Neptune, at the west side of the piazza.
Near the Fountain of Neptune, I was approached by yet another man selling a bunch of stuff to tourists—selfie sticks being the most common. I tried to wave him off, but he advanced and thrust a bunch of red roses at me, saying, “For you. Free. Present for pretty lady.” It was either grab them or let them drop, and dropping flowers is a sin in my eyes, so I caught them… and so I was caught. I chatted with the man for a while; when he asked if I was married and I said no, he tied a rainbow-colored string around my wrist and tied it three times, making three wishes for me to find the right person. I told him I was looking for the Goethe museum, and he chattered, waving me toward a direction that I was pretty sure was wrong, so I thanked him (and gave him the coins he inevitably asked for), and went on my way.
I found Casa di Goethe (right where I thought it was) and spent a fair amount of time there. Having recently become acquainted with Goethe in the German Literature and Culture course I’d just taken, it was interesting to learn even more about the writer who not only spent a lot of time in Italy (like many of his contemporaries), but wrote a whole book about it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Italian_Journey
The iconic painting of Goethe... and I couldn't resist getting a shot of the shot of Andy Warhol next to the iconic painting of Goethe. (I had a fascination with Andy Warhol when I was young. ;D)
After hanging out with Goethe, I purchased my first gelato…
…and moseyed to the Pantheon, catching this amazing sight along the way.
The Pantheon was open now, and every bit as incredible as I’d expected. It’s been a Christian church for centuries, but it wasn’t hard to feel its ancient origins. This building has been in use for 2,000 years!
I finally tore myself away from the Pantheon because I needed to get to the Colosseo well before my scheduled tour time. I took a bus, which was interesting in and of itself. This gargantuan building, the Altare della Patria, or “Altar of the Fatherland,” is something that I didn’t get to explore up close. This view, shot from the bus I took to the Colosseo, was the closest I got. It’s a monument to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy, and completed in 1925. It’s HUGE.
Finally, the Colosseo. Visiting the Colosseo is a HUGE bucket list item for me; I’ve often dreamed of walked beneath its arches and imagining the festivals and events held there. I wouldn’t want to witness the actual events, but what an unbelievable atmosphere that must have been. (If you are as fascinated by the Colosseum as I am, and aren't put off by my poor photography skills, there are lots more photos on my Flickr site with the search tag "colosseo." https://www.flickr.com/gp/43163337@N02/F56114 )
I had a tour scheduled that would take me both “underground” and up to the highest tiers, but I had some time to explore the main "general admission" areas before the tour began.
Finally, it was time for the tour. Even booking way in advance, the English tours were full, so I’d booked one in Spanish. My Spanish is nearly nonexistent, but I was familiar enough with the Colosseum to follow the gist of what was being said… most of the time.
First, we were allowed onto the partially rebuilt wooden floor of the arena. Here's a gladiator's-eye view of the Flavian Amphitheatre.
A panorama, with the emperor's box (now marked with a large cross) at the north end, directly across from the Vestal Virgins' box.
Can you imagine walking through this tunnel to a crowded amphitheatre?
Close-up of the emperor's box. "Ave Cesare! We who are about to die salute you!" There is debate over how often this was actually said, but according to an overheard tour guide, it is in the historic record at least once.
Then we went below.
Under the seating area. Imagine hundreds of people running around down here, backstage.
This grate in the floor shows the source of water the ancients used to flood the arena for aquatic theatrics that often included actual ships.
This is shot from below the partially rebuilt floor.
I managed to ask, in Spanish, if this is the same elevator which recently raised a wolf (symbol of Rome) to the arena floor—the first animal to be so raised in the Colosseo since ancient times. The answer was “Sì.” http://www.history.com/news/1500-years-later-killer-animal-elevator-returns-to-colosseum
We then climbed up to the highest tier of the Colosseo, only part of which remains today. These nosebleed seats are where the poorest citizens, and even slaves, were allowed to sit—and women who weren’t of the noble class. Personally, I think it would have been better up here than down below: less smell, more shade (the Colosseo had a partial cover, so the upper parts were always shaded), and a beautiful view to look at should you happen to be sickened by the carnage below you.
View toward the arena, from the third tier.
View toward the outside, from the third tier. Arch of Constantine on the far left. The road to the Forum left of center, lined with columns. Palantine Hill in the distance.
After the tour, I wandered around the first tier, pausing occasionally to ponder random Roman refuse—a broken column, an empty statue base, a forgotten rock. I did this partly because I was exhausted (heat, stairs, smashed toes) but also because I wanted the chance to close my eyes and imagine the Colosseo in all its original glory, with the roar of the toga-clad crowd bouncing off of marble and countless works of art. I pictured all of the tourists around me wearing togas.
I stopped for a moment at the box for the Vestal Virgins.
These scary-looking army types are always outside. Those aren’t pistols they’re carrying. And oh, that's the Arch of Constantine behind them. The Colosseo is just out of frame of these photos, to the left.
After the Colosseum, I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day and I really needed a WC. I decided to take care of both of those needs at a small cafe at the tourist information area, then head to the Forum. But a funny thing happened on the way there (ba-dum-dum)… the cafe was closed, and there were no bathrooms!
I decided that my water bottle and hazelnuts would do, and there had to be a WC at the Forum, right? Thankfully, there is. I refilled my water bottle, and found an ancient curbside to sit on. I sat and munched my hazelnuts, contemplating the chariot marks in the road and finding myself amazed to look up to the sight of this building:
The Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. http://www.italyguides.it/en/lazio/rome/ancient-rome/roman-forum/temple-of-antoninus-and-faustina
I was just finishing up when another funny thing happened (AT the Forum)… I got kicked out! They were closing much sooner than I thought. Plus, I imagine that trying to round up tourists in that big place is pretty tricky, so they probably start early.
Honestly, I was pretty wiped out, and was very glad that I’d ended my day already close to “home.” I stopped at a deli just a block from the apartment and picked up a calzone, a Roman beer, and some canoli for tomorrow’s breakfast. I hauled everything up to the fourth floor and declined Cristina’s generous offer of coffee--wayyy too hot! With my last remaining energy, I brought my food up the winding iron staircase to the rooftop terrace to enjoy a quiet meal with Mongo, Cristina’s cat.
Mongo and I watched the sun go down behind the Colosseo (only 804 more years before the Colosseum has seen a million sunsets!) and shared the calzone. But not the beer.