In the last several blogs I told you all about our time in Vatican City and now it is time to explore Rome itself. We chose to see the Ancient Rome part on the first day (think Roman Empire and earlier) and the medieval part the next day. Of course, this entire area is a World Heritage Site and I was so excited to see it all.
The Ancient Rome area is relatively small in area, but packed with stuff to see and it all revolves around the Colosseum, which just so happens to be my 3rd “New World Wonder” in three years. The Colosseum is huge, full of tourist, and has long lines…..but it is so worth it! It is actually called Flavian Amphitheatre, but is known at the Colosseum because of a colossal statue of Emperor Nero that once stood here. It was built around 80AD as a gladiator arena and could seat up to 50,000 people in four levels. Think about that for a minute……it is the size of football stadiums and is 2000 years old!!!! Originally the arena floor was solid ground, but a renovation built a whole network of stalls, cages, and rooms under the floor. This way they could change the arena to the event and even send up people or animals when needed with trap doors. Over time it has been used as a church, family fortress, marketplace, animal stall, and who knows what else.
A ticket cost you $12, but it includes access to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. Many people who did not get an online ticket wait for hours at the Colosseum in line when all they have to do is walk half a mile down the road to the entrance of Palatine Hill. Here the line for a ticket was 5-10 minutes. Score!!!! Palatine Hill was one of the seven hills Rome was built upon and contained the ruins of several large villas of wealthy Romans including a huge palace complex. As you wander through the grounds it seems like the building get older and older until you are at the top of the hill and on the site of Romulus’s village, who founded the city in the 7th century BC.
From the hill top you can look out over the Roman Forum which was the political, legal, economic, and religious center for the whole Roman Empire. For us going to Palatine Hill and then the Forum was the best way to do it, because you have a short line and you are impressed with Palatine Hill. Then you get to the Forum overlook and your jaw practically drops to the floor (check out yesterday’s photo of the day). This area is basically two streets wide and less than a mile long, but it is full of ruins of temples, houses, meeting places, baths, shops, warehouses, etc. Nothing I can write will prepare you for the visual enjoyment you will get walking through the capital of one of the wealthiest and most powerful empires in history!
In the ancient Rome area these three sites are the big highlights and will take most of your time, but there are many others things to see and visit. You just have to choose where to head. I lead Melek to the following:
Arch of Constantine – was built around 315AD to commemorate Emperor Constantine, the first Christian emperor in Rome. It is right next to the Colosseum and you can get a good view as you wait to enter.
Maximus Circus – Today there is not much more than a half long field in a depression between the road and Palatine Hill, but at one time this was THE place to go to see chariot races. It was built around the 6th century BC.
Mouth of Truth – Kind of off the tourist path (although there still was a line to get in) is Santa Maria in the Cosmedin church. The church was built in the 8th century and is under renovations, but the reason people come here is to see a round slab of stone that has a face carved into it. This monument was probably carved in the 2nd century BC and is featured in the movie Roman Holiday with Audrey Hepburn. Legend has it that if you stick your hand inside the mouth and tell a lie, it will be cut off. Maybe taking Melek to this one was not so smart. Lucky for me she was tired and did not have me stick my hand in while she asked me questions. Haha.
Come back for the next blog where we will be exploring Old Rome (but not as old as Ancient Rome ???? ). It will include more impressive churches than you knew existed along with fountains, plazas, forts, and so much more!!!!!