We spent the first day of our stay in Rome going on organized tours through the whole day. We only had a morning tour scheduled for the second day. Our destinations were the Colosseum and the Forum, both places that were close to the hotel.
This is what I noticed across the road that morning when we left the hotel we were staying at. These steps lead up to the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli (the Basilica of St. Peter in Chains).The church houses Michelangelo’s statue of Moses. This place was not part of the tour and some folks were hoping to climb to the top of the steps later in the day, but we ended up not having time to do that.
Marisa led us on this tour once again.There were a lot of people already at the Colosseum early in the morning (but is was not as packed as when we left the place later!). Marisa took us up to a corner on the second level of the Colosseum to tell us about its history.The Colosseum was constructed in the first century AD. It was essentially a place for free entertainment to keep the population occupied. Marisa mentioned that the primary thing notable about the structure of the Colosseum was its size, but its architecture itself was not unique. It was similar to other amphitheaters in design. She also noted that many bits and pieces from the structure are missing because the Romans were good at recycling their building materials even in ancient times. (You will notice such missing pieces in many other ruins in Italy.) Another point she noted that stuck with me was that the kinds of fights between the gladiators that we are used to seeing in movies, fights that often ended in the death of one person or another, were not that common. This is because gladiators were expensive to train and maintain, and in the end replace. Also, the animals used in the fights had to be brought from other places, which could be an expensive proposition. The Romans took care of their property. They were quite practical in these matters.
After Marisa’s talk we had some free time to ourselves. I had to make my way to the other end of the Colosseum to take pictures with decent lighting. (The panoramic pictures below are clickable!)Here is a picture from the side.Here is a picture of the hypogeum, the space beneath the surface of the arena.We did see the remains of what might have been the biggest temple in Rome, the Temple of Venus and Rome, from one of the openings in the second level of the Colosseum.Here is a picture of the Colosseum as we were departing.We then walked through the Arch of Titus into the area of the Forum. This is a rectangular plaza at the center of the city of Rome surrounded by the ruins of several ancient government buildings. This space was originally a marketplace. Across the Forum we could see the City Hall on the Campidoglio (Capitol Hill), one of the seven hills of Rome.You can see the Arch of Severus towards the right and in front of the City Hall in the picture above. The Altare della Patria is to the right in the background next to City Hall. We saw ruins such as the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina,a temple that was converted to a church later in its existence (something that happened to a lot of temples, including the Pantheon), and the remains of the House of the Vestal Virgins, among other historical artifacts. The Forum was the last stop on our organized tours in Rome.
Marisa then guided us back to our hotel after giving us a couple of suggestions for things to do later in the day. Some of us decided to take a walk to the Jewish area of the city (also called the Ghetto) for lunch. The food there was highly recommended. We walked from the hotel down the Via dei Fori Imperiali which was crowded by this time,and went around the Altare della Patria to the steps that went up the Campidoglio to City Hall.In the picture above you can see the much steeper steps to The Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven behind the steps that we took. The steps to the basilica are called the “Stairway to Heaven”!
There are two statues at the top of the steps that we took to the Piazza del Campidoglio in front of City Hall.There is a statue of Marcus Aurelius on a horse in the piazza in front of City Hall. We walked to the side of City Hall from where one could get a good “grandstand” view of the the Forum below us with the Colosseum in the distance.The remains of the Temple of Saturn and the Arch of Severus are to the left in the picture below.The Jewish Ghetto where we were headed for lunch was not too far away. It was quite busy by the time we got there.Lunch was excellent. We ordered the fried artichokes that are a specialty of the place. After lunch we started walking towards the Tiber river. We passed the Great Synagogue of Rome.We walked across the Fabricious bridgeto Isola Tiberina (Tiber Island) on the Tiber River. There is, as you might expect, a church here, the Basilica of St. Bartholomew on the Island. We crossed to the other side of river from the island over the Cestius Bridge.We walked along the river for a short distance to the Garibaldi bridge, and then crossed back to the side we had originally started on. We got a good view of the island as we crossed the river.We then decided to walk back to the Pantheon and the Piazza Novona to see if I could get more pictures, since Marisa had rushed us through the previous day. We managed to find the Pantheon.I took a picture of the obelisk in the Piazza della Rotunda in front of the Pantheon. (There are 13 obelisks all around Rome, all of which came from Egypt!)But we then got lost looking for the Piazza Novona even though we had maps in our hands. We gave up the attempt and decided to try to find our way back to the hotel. We found ourselves on the Piazza Colonna once again with its column with a statue of Marcus Aureleus on top.We finally managed to get on to the Via del Corso and the route back to the hotel. We passed the Altare della Patria once again on the way back.That evening the tour group was taken to the Le Terme del Collosseo restaurant near the Colosseum for dinner. (We were told that this was the location of Nero’s residence in times past, but who really knows!) Dinner was accompanied by musical entertainment – classical and operatic music for the most part.We had a nice time although this might have been only the second occasion in Italy during which the food was not completely up to snuff. But there was enough wine and entertainment to save the day!
After dinner we were picked up by Aldo in the area of the Colosseumfor a night-time drive through the city to see the sights at night. It was a beautiful experience, but conditions were not very good for taking pictures. Here is a picture of the Tiber with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica in the distance.Aldo dropped us back at the hotel after the ride. We were all tired and ready for bed.
There were some in the group who were leaving the tour for home and other destinations after this stop. The rest of us had a morning departure scheduled for Pompeii and Sorrento.
Read the next entry in this series of blogs on our trip to Italy here.