Sunday, 5 June 2016

Rome Holiday:: Day 4

Smiley faced cappuccinos. Now that is the way to start a day- except I've decided that I'm not a massive fan of cappuccinos. It's what Italians like to drink in the mornings though so I thought I would try it- milky coffee isn't my thing. We were up very early (7am alarm!!) so we could be ready and waiting outside The Colosseum and not have to queue for ages- top tip if you are going to Rome, get to the Colosseum early! And don't pack anything sharp in your handbag as you have to pass through a security scanner.

It's brilliant when you walk out of the metro station as The Colosseum is right there in front of you! You definitely don't need to consult a map or request directions here. I know that 'Colosseum' sounds like the word, 'colossal' so you are expecting it to be big, but you don't get a feel for how vast the place is until you are standing outside it feeling minuscule by comparison.

It's a shame there isn't more of it left really. There is lots there but it would have been so fantastic to see the seats and the tiers more clearly. A lot of the stone and the high majority of the marble and travertine was robbed away to build new buildings- one of those The Vatican- and so really you are left with the bare bones, impressive though they are.

Historians don't actually know how many people this great stadium could hold, although there are many speculations. Most people are interested in the gory tales of prisoners being forced to fight vicious animals in the arena, the animals having been taught to seek out human flesh and made all the more dangerous; or the mighty Gladiators, who trained every day to perform spectacular battles and either die in a glorious fight or emerge the victor amid the cheers of the crowd!! Hurrah!

The top of the oval shape in the centre would have once have been covered with a floor and sand (to mop up the gory bits), and the grey posts built into the walls were part of trap door lifts that would enable 'stage hands' to move around props or for Gladiators to appear like magicians. They would also sometimes flood the arena to stage sea battles, all for the benefit of the thousands of spectators spread over multiple tiers.

Looking through one of the many arches you can see into the Roman Forum next door, or what is left of it and the Arch of Constantine, erected to commemorate Constantine's victory of Maxentius.

Down here in the centre, underneath the floor is a maze of little rooms where prisoners would have been kept as well as the animals and stage props. The Gladiators would possibly have had little rooms to prepare themselves for the fights ahead.

Interestingly, the Senators had their own designated seats, and their names were carved into the marble where they were to sit. If a Senator died or was replaced, the old name had to be chiseled away and the new name carved on. So the names on the marble around the arena today are the last Senators to hold seats in The Colosseum, cool huh?

Next on the list was the Roman Forum, which has definitely seen better days. It sort of has a wistful air with parts of columns and bits of roof and carvings littering the floor.

What is there is still beautiful though. In the above montage, the top right is the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, and the bottom left is what's left of the Temple of Castor and Pollux.

The pretty little courtyard above is the House of Vestals, where the Vestal Virgins lived. Apparently these girls were chosen aged between 6 and 10 and had to work in the House of Vestals for 30 years. If they didn't stay pure they would be put to death.

We climbed upwards to the Domus Tiberiana which was the first imperial palace on the Palatine hill and was built by the Emperor Tiberius. Above it is the Farnese Gardens. They are still finding parts of buildings inside this hill even now. It was a fantastic view over the Roman Forum, which was absolutely enormous- we didn't have time to wander around it all although gave it a good go!

In the Palatine Museum are all manner of interesting things. My favourite were these sculpted wings which are so finely carved they look real! Apparently 3 were found and were thought to be part of two sculptures of the same Angel.

Standing on a ledge by the Barberini Vineyard (sadly no longer a vineyard much to our disappointment) right at the top of the hill next to the Farnese Gardens we had a brilliant view over The Colosseum. The Arch of Titus in front of The Colosseum was the inspiration for the Arch d'Triumph in Paris.

It was such a beautiful place, one of those places where you really wish you had a time machine so you could go back and see it when it was at the peak of its time and all those temple arches had walls around them. It would have been superbly colourful too, with different types of marble covering the walls and painted frescos. There is evidence that the statues were painted too, so they would be wearing cloaks of deep red or azure blue.

It was hard work on the feet traipsing in the footsteps of the Romans so we were quite pleased to be going back to the hotel, our heads spinning with historical facts and memory photographs. Later, our restaurant of choice lured us in with offers of free champagne "for the ladies" and mouthwatering scents of delicious pizza. I had Calzone stuffed with bacon, mushrooms, riccotta and mozzerrella. Bellisimo!

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