The Colliseum and Ancient Rome

Trip Start Feb 07, 2009
Trip End Feb 14, 2009

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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Monday, February 9, 2009

After finally sleeping through the jet-lag we woke late in the morning, had breakfast and relocated to the third floor of the Casa d' Fiori (work on the second floor sent drifts of ancient beam particles into our sink, we figured the third floor was a better plan). After a brief introduction to Cousin Jennifer (Matt's first cousin who runs the UofW Rome campus) we set our course for the Colliseum.

Rome is segmented into districts with much of ancient Rome in one area towards the south part of the city, outside of what is now the city "central" (e.g. high rent district) where we are staying. We walked along the Via Emmanuel to the Piazza Venizzia, and the majestic Monumento a Vittoria which celebrates the unification of Italy in the late 1800s. We continued down Fori Imperial and saw Colosseo -- the largest man-made structure in the world still standing next to the Pyramid at Giza.

The Colliseum, which housed for centuries mostly beast hunts (of course our pop culture likes to believe it was all gladiator fighting -- and there was indeed a lot of that -- but mostly beasts like bears and lions raised in the Emperor's private beast farms), has been partially restored and restructured to prevent further erosion from the elements. Much of the structure was looted and repurposed for use in the Vatican and other religious structures, very little of the original opulent marble still exists in its original location.

Seating in the Colliseum was by social class with the Senatus Populus que Roma (SPQR -- which still stands for the local abbreviation for Rome) getting the prime seats along with the Emperor, and lesser class seats moving upwards until the "common people" in the third uppermost row. (Our audioguide made a big point of the "common people" in its description.) The views of Palantine hill and the Forum from the Colliseum were very good, and we set our course along the Via Sacra (Sacred Way) and continued into the ancient ruins.

Coming from North America where everything is measured in centuries or decades, you develop a sense of humility on the ancient walkways of Rome where stones and pillars are littered about dating back centuries or millenia. Each 20 feet is an ancient component of Rome older than all of the United States - including the early Spanish and French settlements. It's a bit mind-boggling. After getting back on course we made our way back up to the Via Campidoglio where we apparently missed His Holiness the Dalai Lama by minutes at a huge political reception and free Tibet rally. (Bill felt like he was back at UCLA anyway, particularly when the tamborines and the chanting began). We continued back along Via Emmanuel and cut some streets with our new confidence back to Campo d' Fiori. Dinner in the Campo d' Fiori was pizza with amazingly hot red peppers (think jalapeno hot but flavor of uber red peppers -- whoa!) The Chianti is very reasonably priced (good chianti for under E20 in the restaraunt and E10 in the stores) and we have enjoyed sampling regions and labels we have not tried before.

Tomorrow may be a day trip or may be the Vatican. We don't know, we are on vacation... !!
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