Our first day in Rome was dedicated to ancient Rome. We used Rick Steves, of course, to help us map out our day and used his audio guides. We started at the Colosseum.
To get to the Colosseum, we took the subway. We bought Roma Passes early this morning. Rick Steves suggests to buy these if you are going to stay in Rome for three days or more. You get unlimited rides on public transportation, two admissions tickets to your first two sites, and discounted rates on sites after your first two. Roma Passes costs us 30 euros a piece and they can be found at any IT center or train station.
Very dark, kind of creepy subway!
In our guide books that
we I read, it goes into great detail about all the pickpockets. They are very bad in touristy areas, especially public transportation areas. So we were a little apprehensive using the subway at first. There were times when people would eye us and follow us around. But no one actually bothered us. I carried a pacsafe purse, which is awesome for travel. I don’t see how a pickpocket could take anything from this purse. It is like Fort Knox with all its security features! But I am sure that there are some people out there that can pickpocket this purse. I just didn’t encounter them. You just need to be smart when you are traveling in these areas and be mindful of your surroundings.
Moving on! The Colosseum! This is the one place I was so excited to see. It really is spectacular!
The construction of the Colosseum began under the emperor Vespasian in 70 AD, and was completed in 80 AD under his successor, Titus.
It is amazing how large this structure is, especially considering when it was built. It is 615 ft long, and 510 ft wide, with a base area of 6 acres. The height of the outer wall is 157 ft. It could hold 50,000 spectators which could be filled and emptied in 15 minutes. That is better than our modern day arenas!
The arena itself was 272 ft by 157 ft. It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand covering an elaborate underground structure of tunnels and cages. Little now remains of the original arena floor, but the tunnels are still clearly visible.
Walking around the Colosseum, I couldn’t help but think about a book that I adore called, “A Voice in the Wind“, by Francine Rivers. She is a Christian-fiction author who can write like no other. Now historians say that Christians were not martyred in this particular Colosseum, but there was a time when Christians were fed to the lions and killed for entertainment. This book takes place in a time like that. The story follows a young woman who is sold into slavery and sold to a wealthy Roman family. She never once mentions she is a Christian, but they figured it out because of the way she lives. It is a very inspiring story, one that changed my life. And it does have a happy ending and of course, a love story! It is a wonderful book that I highly suggest.
But I kept thinking about this story the entire time I was there. I always loved that book but it felt more real there, in that Colosseum.
Archaeologists and historians have estimated that the human death count within the Colosseum reached 500,000. Can you imagine? That is so many!
After the fall of ancient Rome, the Colosseum was pretty much forgotten. It was many things over the years, a market place, a sanctuary for the homeless and a fort in times of distress. It has been pillaged and plundered and parts of it used for St. Peter’s cathedral. Earthquakes and fires have damaged it, but this structure still stands.
In 16 AD the Roman Catholic Church took pity on this ancient artifact and decided to save it. They erected a cross in remembrance of those who died for their faith.
On the second story, is a wonderful view of the Colosseum and of the ancient ruins of Rome.
Here is the Temple of Venus and Roma. Many Romans from ancient times and today have gotten married here.
The Arch of Constantine… I guess during the so-called slow season, they maintain all the sites. We saw scaffolding everywhere! 🙁
As we left the Colosseum, we took a look back and got some of the best views.
This one is my favorite.
It is said, that as long as the Colosseum stands, so shall Rome.
After the Colosseum we tried to go see the Forum, but the lines were long and it was so hot. So we went to eat lunch instead! 🙂
We stopped by a restaurant suggested by Rick Steves called Cavour 313. It was a wine bar type restaurant with an enormous wine list and a menu of just raw meats. Randy was in heaven! He order raw filet mignon this day (eww)!
The ceiling was lined with wood beams with wine bottles across the beams.
Our appetizer was some kind of boar meat stuffed with goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic and olive oil.
Randy’s raw filet mignon! It had shaved cheese, arugula and balsamic vinegar.
I had a spring salad with tuscan toast with slices of goat cheese and drizzled with olive oil. I was so excited to see a salad on the menu! It was the first time I had seen a salad on a menu since I had been in Italy!
And for dessert we ordered a chocolate mousse. Please excuse how I look in this photo. I was exhausted from all the walking, fighting the crowds and from the heat. And I had helped Randy with a bottle of wine! 😉
And we almost licked this cup cleaned!
After our wonderful, long lunch we felt rejuvenated. We really didn’t want to go back to the Forum in the heat of the day. So we did a Rick Steves audio walking tour called the “Heart of Rome Walk”. It started at the Campo di Fiori and ended at the Spanish Steps.
Campo de Fiori translates to “field of flowers”, in ancient times this square was an open meadow. It is now a bohemian piazza that hosts a flower and vegetable market.
The colors in this piazza were beautiful.
Next stop was Piazza Navona. This square has retain its shape of the original racetrack that was built around 80 AD by emperor Domitian. This piazza was my favorite of all the piazzas in Rome. The people watching, the painters, the live music – it was just so lively and colorful.
In the center of the piazza is the Four Rivers Fountain, built by Bernini. Bernini was a genius when it came to stone! His sculptures are so life like; they all just take my breath away.
The four river gods, of this fountain, represent the 4 known continents that were known in 1650.
In the center of the fountain stands an Egyptian obelisk. Rome has 13 obelisks, more than any other city in the world. Romans brought the obelisks to Rome and set them up in key public places as evidence of their occupation of Egypt.
Behind the fountain is the Church of St. Agnes, built by Bernini’s rivalry, Borromini.
After the Piazza Navona, we walked to the Pantheon. The Pantheon is one of the best preserved buildings in Rome. It was built by emperor Hadrian around 120 AD. And it is one of the only ancient buildings of Rome that is still used today, as a place of worship.
The 40 ft single-piece granite columns of the entrance, shows the scale on which the ancient Romans built on .
The greatest wonder of this building is the dome which inspired later domes, including Michelangelo’s St. Peter’s and Brunelleschi’s dome. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height and the diameter of the dome are the same, 142 ft.
The burial site of Raphael Sanzio, famous Renaissance painter.
From the Pantheon, we made our way to the Trevi Fountain. Interesting fact about the Trevi Fountain is that no streets directly approach it. One minute you are walking along the streets and then the next minute, bam! you are there!
The fountain was built by Nicola Salvi in 1762. Salvi used the palace behind the fountain as a theatrical background. I think he got what he wanted, it is very dramatic!
The fountain represents “Ocean” who represents water in all its forms. There are 24 water spouts and over 30 different kinds of plants. The amazing part is that this fountain is still powered by Rome’s ancient aqueducts! Man, they really made things to last forever!
They say if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain that it will assure you a return trip to Rome. Randy and I definitely went through this ritual! Couldn’t hurt, right?
It was so very crowded, no matter when you came by! It is a little less crowded on the sides though.
And then, last but not least, the Spanish Steps at Piazza di Spagna. It is named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican, which has been here for 300 years!
There were so many people here at the steps. And the guys trying to sell roses were annoying as all get out. One of those guys almost got punched by me when he wouldn’t leave me alone. But I refrained myself! 😉
Another couple was kind enough to take our picture, after yelling at one of those guys trying to sell us a rose. (He is the guy to the right of this picture in the white and red shirt.)
See the pink building to the left in this photo? This is where John Keats died of tuberculosis at age 25 and fellow romantic Lord Byron lived across the square at #66. Pretty neat, uh?
The street ahead is the street for shopping – Gucci, Prada, Versache – you name it, its there.
After this tour, needless to say, we were exhausted.
Stay tuned for day two in Rome!