Rome, Italy (Part I) — Travel Blog #7

ROME…

One of the most famous cities on the planet. A world epicenter for art, culture, food, history…and a list that could go on and on. Today we have one day here. Like Pompeii, a day just doesn’t do this city any justice. You would need a week at least. Yet getting any opportunity, even a small one, to visit this rich and vibrant city is worth it.

Off the ship, we again are whisked off in our private van to experience Rome as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Our first stop is the towering Roman Coliseum which was completed in 80 AD. The size of it is massive. Taking in the view, I’m instantly hit with a total Gladiator movie moment as I look across this massive structure which was built to hold 50,000 people. The floor is exposed, revealing hundreds of stone build rooms and corridors where proud or terrified gladiators waited for their time in the arena. Also pens for tigers, lions, and other wild, exotic beasts which were brought from the far reaches of the Empire to “entertain” the massive Roman audience. Well to do Romans sat on the first level, close to the action. Normal Roman citizens occupied the second level and paid nothing for the privilege. Subjects of the Empire were given nosebleed on the third level.

I marvel at how such a massive thing could be built all those thousands of years ago. The feat in itself is amazing. The fact that many parts are still standing is a testament to how well this structure was designed and built.

Right next door from the Coliseum is the famous Aventine Hills area of ancient Rome.

Roman history is literally everywhere you look.

Next we visit the real Circus Maximus. Only some of the outer wall still remains of the once proud ancient racing facility. The giant racing oval was once featured in the movie Ben Hur. Now, it’s basically a flat city park with dirt trails and not a lot of grass. Yet the space itself gives us an idea of how large the Circus Maximus was. When Italy won the world cup in 2006, thousands of Italians filled this park to celebrate, proving that this ground still holds a place in many Roman hearts.

Next our van sweeps us away from the Circus Maximus to a spot overlooking the Massive Forum, the heart of ancient Rome. The old archways which guarded both entrances to the forum are still standing. Much of these ruins were excavated during the reign of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini. Much of  modern-day Rome is built upon the ruins of the ancient city.

Unfortunately we only had time to see a view of the Forum. Exploring it would take at least most of a day since the size is triple that of Pompeii’s.  So many wonderful statues. So many ruins. Wish we had more time to see them all.

We hop into our black Mercedes van and weave through some of the narrow streets as we head for the famous Trevi fountain, which is so choked with people, our driver must drop us off a few blocks away. So we walk.

As we amble through the narrow street leading to the fountain, I notice a manhole cover labeled with the famous letters SPQR. The ancient symbol of Rome. It means…Senatus Populus Romanus. The Senate and the People of Rome. It amuses me that such a famous symbol is on a Roman city manhole cover. Shows you how proud these people are of their history. Kinda cool.

Soon we turn a corner and arrive in a closed square that is elbow to elbow with people. The Trevi fountain has been in many movies. My favorite, Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Compared to the fountain you see on the screen, the actual Trevi fountain is gigantic. Wow! I didn’t realize it was this big…

Many people around me are tossing coins over their right shoulders. The custom says that if you do this, your wish to come back to Rome will come true. I thought about tossing a coin in too, but the crush of people is so bad, I decide against it. In fact, it’s hard to enjoy the fountain with this many people around. Oh well, at least we got to see it.

This glorious day will be continued…in another blog entry.  🙂

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In travel blog #8, we have lunch in Rome, see Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and discover the joys of Spagoli. By the way, a link to all our pictures from Rome will be posted after the next blog entry. Trust me, there’s a lot of them!

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