Ancient Rome

Trip Start May 01, 2007
Trip End Dec 11, 2008

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

After a superb day the day before in Rome, we were up early to see all that we didn't see the day before. This mainly meant ancient Rome. We made a thing the day before (Monday) about not setting our eyes on the Colosseum at all. We wanted to leave it for Tuesday. So we were up early, and at the same time everyone else seemed to be heading to work, we were heading to one the sights I had been waiting a long time to see. The Colosseum!

We walked over from out central hostel to the Colosseum and arrived just as it opened. We had some good views of it as we approached it down the road. I was stunned by it's size. It is very large - larger than I expected. We spent some time here, looking around the inside of the ancient arena, trying to imagine all those scenes from 'Gladiator' taking place! I was amazed to see how large it was considering how old it is. The Romans did a fine job engineering it. It seems like it would have had a primitive version of everything the MCG has back home, only the Flavian Amphitheatre (the original name of the Colosseum) was built around 1950 years ago. It was a magnificent first taste of ancient Rome, and I was thrilled to be there, and looking forward to things to come for that day. I had now a massive tick next to my European to-do-list. We had some nice views of the west entrance to the Roman Forum, which is immediately adjacent to the Colosseum. Having spent enough time at the Colosseum, we decided to pay a visit to the less crowded Palatine Hill before heading to the Roman Forum.

Palatine Hill is the hill to the south of the Roman Forum, the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome and is one of the most ancient parts of the city. It stands 40 metres above the Roman Forum, looking down upon it on one side, and upon the Maximus on the other. Surprisingly it is a lot less touristy than other parts of ancient Rome. Rome was supposedly founded on Palatine hill by Romulus in 457BC. It contains the ruins of the palaces Augustus, Tiberius, and Domitian. It was also the location for the residences of several Emporers. So it's a special spot. The ruins are amazing, and again very large. The view over Circus Maximus is unreal, with a little bit of imagination. These days it is just a long green oval field, but in ancient times it was a chariot race track, just like in Ben Hur. The other more spectacular view was from the north side of palatine Hill looking over the entire Roman Forum. This was seriously one of the best views I have had in Europe. It is breath-taking. I was really glad we did Palatine Hill first to get this view before heading into the Roman Forum itself.

So around midday we finally made our entrance into the Roman Forum to take in some rich Roman history. I had my book that I purchased which had some great pictures of what certain parts of the Forum looked like in ancient times. It is probably the best ruins I have seen on my travels so far. I was surprised out how much of it is still intact, given it's 1800 year age. Although a lot of it looks like rubble, it is extremely old. The Arch of Septimus Severus is particularly impressive. Stace and I sat down in the middle of the forum and had a look through our guide book, trying to decipher what all the buildings around us once were. It was a great history lesson and a great way to experience the ancient part of Rome without spending a lot money on guided tours. We also took our time as the weather was glorious. Perfect weather really, high-teens temperature and plenty of blue sky. After this extremely satisfying yet very exhausting day and a half, we needed something to eat. After all it was mid-afternoon already.

We grabbed a bite at a nearby restaurant and had a rest for a while on some steps near the impressive Trajan's Column. Afterwards we took a look around the Imperial Forum and the up to the Capitilone Hill, giving nice views of the Forum again. We also headed to the top of the National Monument of Victor Emmanuel II. Although not that old (built in 1911 I think), it is still an impressive building and offered good views over Rome. We noted the building that was Mussolini's residence in the same area too, for a bit of more modern history. We had a bit more of wander around this area, and after some discussion, decided to head back to the same ice-cream shop we went to the day before!

It didn't matter that the ice-cream shop was on the other side of Rome, at least 40 minutes walk away! It was a worthy walk though. We bought shit loads of the stuff and had a relax in the nearby Piazza Navona whilst we dined on what we agreed was the best ice-cream in Europe (that we had tasted!)! By then it was dark, and we headed back to the hostel for some free pasta and a chat with fellow travellers. But we were exhausted! It had been a fantastic day again, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Rome. I was expecting it to be like Paris or London, but found it's sights dwarfed that of any other city I had been too in Europe, and I also found it less cosmopolitan  that I expected. I found the cities age and history really apparent, making one of my favorites in Europe. I was sad to be leaving only after a few days, but knew there was much more good stuff to come. Like the Cinque Tera...
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