Published: September 23rd 2012September 15th 2012 Disclaimer: SERIOUSLY travelblog - this is getting ridiculous! I spent so much time writing a great post and have to do it ALL OVER AGAIN! Rant done.
to the Colosseum from our hotel
Saturday morning, we (well, actually ME) got up fairly early to catch our 10 am Colosseum tour, which is fortunately right near our hotel. We got a free breakfast with our stay which was not too bad. Ham croissant with orange juice.
Today's guide was great, a little more animated and engaging. Nicola had some great stories to tell. Josh's favorite was that the Colosseum was not actually called that in its day; instead, it was called this because there used to be a statue, Colossus, located in front and when people were building things, they recommended to get rocks and marble near the Colossus - the Colosseum. Instead, it was called the Flavian Amphitheater. People were issued tickets to enter; by people, we mean free men. The tickets were on some kind of animal skin and had a section printed on it, which you can see with the numbers printed above the arches on the lower level. The columns are all different - the bottom has Corinthian columns which represent strength,
the second level has Iconic columns which show elegance, and the third has Tuscan columns and I forget what they are supposed to represent.
My favorite story was that Nero, who was not around when the Flavian Amphitheater was, was such a hated emperor that when he died, the Romans attempted to wipe out all traces of his existence. They scratched his face off likenesses, they covered his entire palace with dirt and built on top of it, and they filled in his giant lake which soon became the site of the future Colosseum. I found it fascinating that a nearby hill is where his house once stood and basically still does. At one point, the painter Raphael descended into the house to look at the art that was still on the walls inside and got the idea for his work the Grotesque.
We walked around the Colosseum and hear more about the inner workings - how there were trap doors beneath the sand floor and exotic animals such as lions or ostriches would be released at the same time so everyone in attendence could have a good view. We saw where the emperor sat. Aside from the
Vestal Virgins who were accorded a front row seat due to their elevated stature, the women who came to view were stuck in the nosebleed section because they may "tempt" the gladiators and promote infidelity (this I kind of question - I imagine the reason is more that less women watched and the kind of show that was put on encouraged violence so it was for their protection). We learned that "fornication" means doing whatever beneath the arches. That "architecture" comes from the Roman style of building, which as an engineer really is impressive.
There were again so many dang tourists- everywhere - that I was happy to finally leave and head to the Roman Forum, where our tour continued.
The Roman Forum was near the Tiber river, which meant that it was prone to floods and therefore many of the buildings were covered by 15m of sediment. (Ugh, I cannot believe I have to write all this again - hope I remember everything)
. The forum was known as the "belly button of Rome" - alluding to the phrase "All Roads Lead to Rome". The current city hall, located on the hill above, is an interesting building consisting
to help the ticket holders find their seats
of the bottom portion which is two thousand years old, followed by a medieval war tower, and finally the rest of the building created by Michaelangelo. Speaking of him, this guy was super busy. Not only did you already hear about all the work he did for the Vatican, but he also created other buildings, including this gianormous basilica within the ruins, only 25% of which still remains - not to mention what you will later hear about when we get to Florence.
Seriously, our guide was such a great wealth of information. He next led us to the arch of Tiberius and explained about their design. The arches all have writing at the top speaking of the victories. Beneath the writing are various depictions telling the same story for those that could not read. The top of Tiberius's arch says "Senatus Populus Que Romans" which basically means People of Rome and is shortened to SPQR and can be found on almost all municipal structures, including manhole covers. This particular arch was the one victorious armies would walk through on their return to Rome. You can see on the left the taking of Jeruselem, depicted with the Menorah, which
is representative of Jeruselem, and on the right shows Tiberius in chariot with Athena behind him, demonstrating his victory.
Finally, we worked our way up to the top where you got a great view of Rome and the seven hills. Even though I remember the stories from my Latin classes and general classical interests, our tour guide explained about the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, brothers who were raised by a she-wolf. Romulus won the argument of where to found the city, hence its name "ROMe". He pointed out the famous seven hills and thus our tour was ended.
We walked around a little more looking for a spot to view the Colosseum from the other side. The famous photos show the one side that everyone is familiar with, but the other side collapsed in a major earth quake and so the whole outer ring is no longer there. We saw a lot more ruins along the way.
We made our way back to the hotel and stopped for lunch. Nothing like a few cold beers after a long hot day. My mushroom pasta was only ok, but Josh liked his giant proscuitto and Gwen loved
Inside the Colosseum
Note the many holes in the columns; this is where there used to be metal which was taken for use in other areas
We later went to the Trevi fountain and took pictures, throwing our coins in. The coins are collected each day and donated to charity, which I think is awesome. But again, SO MANY TOURISTS! We then walked around this area, shopping, and slowly making our way to the Spanish steps. We tried some more gelato, I think I got limone (lemon) this time. We got accosted by one of the many beggars in Rome, though this guy had a decent scam. He forced me to take a rose and shoved one into Gwen's hands. Then he hounded Josh for payment. I gave mine back and Gwen unloaded hers onto another poor woman so he would chase her instead.
That night we had a much better dinner near our hotel. Gwosh only liked it (really liked it in comparison to the pub), but I loved my sea bass with grilled zucchini. Our waiter/owner was attentive and our wine was good. We then hung out on our terrace with some of our leftover wine from the previous night. We heard some guy getting lucky - he was pretty vocal and happy. Then I went to bed and Gwosh
made their way for a drink in what turned out to be a neonazi bar.
We had decided to leave early the next day as we figured we'd seen the best (and worst of Rome) and were looking forward to the next leg: Pompei!
There are more photos below