Friday, April 10, 2015

{Vacation ReCap} Rome, Italy: Colosseum & Roman Forum

I can't believe it's been several months since we went on this amazing trip and I'm still working through photos and recaps!  It's so fun re-living it all because it definitely brings both Tom and myself back to this incredible experience!   Today's recap covers our final day in Rome before heading onto Positano (aka, our favorite place on earth).

We woke up packed and ready to get going.  Our host kindly let us leave our things in the apartment while we attended our last tour.  He needed us out by a certain time in order to get the place cleaned up for the next guests, and we needed to be out on time in order to make our train to Naples, so it worked well for everyone.

We met up with our guide, Roberta, outside of the Colosseum  who was a super nice lady with a PhD in Art History.  She was actually a little late, but made up for it and then some!   She cracked us up a bit because she totally geek-ed out while showing us around.  I loved how she incorporated a lot of pictures of what life was like in Ancient Rome on her iPad (you'll see in some of the pics below) as she explained what we were viewing.

Once again, we cannot say enough good things about going with a private tour (we used Best of Rome Tours as described here, but she has since broken off and created her own company: Stones of Rome) because there were no lines, and we learned so much in the 3+hours!

I won't take you through every detail, but what follows are some observations and random factoids along with just a "few" pictures :)

Can't go all the way to Rome, without the requisite Colosseum selfie, am I right?

We walked away from the experience floored by how much of our day to day life and traditions trace back to Ancient Rome.   I was also impressed by how "progressive" they were in terms of women's rights:  they could own property, divorce, etc.  Crazy to think that it took so long for more recent civilizations to give women similar rights (with some still dragging their feet).

Contrary to popular belief, tailgating was not invented to better enjoy American Football ;)  Look closely at the below pic and find the grills!  Looks like things got rowdy - just like today, ha.

Snapshot of the animals and the lower level (dungeons)

Beautiful mosaic tile which is still intact:

Ancient Graffiti:


Souvenirs handed out to attendees:

They were obviously engineering and architectural geniuses. Every stone was cut to a specific measurement and angle miles away from the build each piece was brought in, they knew exactly where it was to go. Every stone had a purpose.

These bricks and the arches distributed weight better and withstood earthquakes.  They were originally covered by cement/plaster/marble which made it much prettier to look at. What we see today is just the shell of the Colosseum

Original Herringbone floor:

With the way the Colosseum was designed, it could be quickly filled or evacuated in minutes.  Pretty amazing.

The exotic Animals for the games took months to arrive to the Colosseum.  They were kept underfed and the children attending to them would oftentimes mysteriously disappear.  Screams were not uncommon sounds to hear from below...gulp.  They used a complex pulley system to lift the animals to the Colosseum floor.

Sand covered the ground to absorb blood which oftentimes didn't do the job - in that case sponges were used (the word "arena" has Latin roots meaning "sand" believe it or not)  Below shots show the exposed lower floor with a partial sand-covered floor on top.

The sand on the wooden floor above would have extended over the length of the stadium covering the dungeons below.

The games and spectator sports were free to the people of Rome and sponsored by various politicians hoping to gain favor.  They were considered a necessity to civilization as it kept the masses occupied and therefore crime low.  The executions where obviously a gruesome reminder to them of what would happen if they stepped out of line. Yay for negative reinforcements!

I guess there is always someone who has to keep the party going.  Caesar was known to have his soldiers randomly grab people (from the poor section of course) out of the crowd, have their tongues cut-off so they couldn't protest, and then executed if they ran out of prisoners too soon. All in the name of peace.  What a guy.

I'm used to thinking of the Colosseum the way it looks below, but was reminded that the original outter shell of the Colosseum is now missing due to exposure and earthquakes.  Also, I like that this pic nicely shows the 3 layers of the building

Here's a glimpse of how it used to appear way back when (Source):
Images of the Colosseum showing the roof and the Colossus of Nero

Much like today's events, there was even shade provided when needed almost like a retractable roof (sailors worked together to open and close them).

Again, I loved how she used pictures to help us better imagine what life was like back then as you are literally looking at ruins. 

Here's a glimpse of Ancient Rome.  Do you see the large bronze statue towards the upper right of the second pic and in the pic above?  That's Nero's. He was an egomaniac and fancied himself the god of the sun.

We were so impressed by how they were able to figure out clever ways to produce things which I always considered to be "modern" amenities such as heated floors and walls. Check out the furnace used to heat the stone floor in the baths below.  It's funny to think about how long heated floors have been a "thing" and yet they are still considered a luxury and not a common feature in today's homes.

The Roman baths cost next to nothing to use and many of the middle and upper class people spent their days there. They'd workout, hand over their clothes to be laundered, get a massage and hang out at the spas.  At the end of the day, they were presented with fresh clothes and would proceed to get into debates and listen to the philosophers of the time well into the evenings.  Not a bad days work!   I don't want to think about what it was like for Roman slaves however...

Emperor's Grounds and Forum Pictures follow. Below, The Arch of Constantine leading to the Palatine Hills

We could have spent hours at the Roman Forum!

How the Forum used to look:

Caesar's Grave

2,000+ year old Brass Door - they don't make them like they used to, eh?

At one point, we were surprised to hear a cannon fire off across the Tiber. It apparently happens at noon every day!

I'm fairly certain our tour guide could have taken us around all day if we'd let her! We went a good 45 minutes over our allotted time before we had to beg off in order to make our train.  

We were blown away by the tour and agreed that we need to go back and do something similar - but give ourselves an entire day next time!

We absolutely adored Rome and I cannot wait to take another Roman Holiday in the future!

I will be back with our Positano Recap :)


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