Tag Archives: Rome

A Life in Ruins – Rome, Emperors and Gladiators

Colosseum Rome

There are lots of things that I would like to see and I imagine the thrill of seeing the Pyramids, The Kremlin or the Great Wall of China for example would be heart stopping moments but when viewed for the first time the Colosseum ranks with these and others as a genuine draw dropping, knee buckling event.  I can remember that experience in 1976 but even now, on my fourth visit to Rome, it still produced a moment of wonderment and awe as we emerged from the narrow streets into the Piazza del Colosseo.

Two thousand years previously this had been the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire and was capable of seating sixty-thousand spectators (some estimates say eighty thousand but most agree that this is unlikely) at gladiatorial combat events.  I am always stunned by the size and magnificence of the place and even though there are substantial parts of it now missing I find the scale of the place simply breathtaking.  We were going to make this our first place to visit and we were disappointed to see a long slow moving queue but we were quickly picked out as potential easy pickings by a girl selling guided tours which promised a speedy entrance and the services of an expert guide so we agreed to this and paid up. Suckers!

We had to wait now to be assigned a tour leader and it was just our luck to get a head-case!  Silvio was a theatrical extrovert with a dramatic style and with arms flailing and occasionally getting over excited and spitting into his beard he gave us an extravagant introduction to the construction of the magnificent building and the gladiatorial combats and the shows that were staged inside.  This was all really helpful background information but it did seem to drag on longer than expected and all around people began to get fidgety as individual patience tanks one by one began to run dry.

Finally it was time to push through the lines of waiting people  and within just a few minutes we were inside the underground passages below the auditorium where we followed the designated route up a flight of steps where it was interesting to imagine that these had been used previously by thousands of Romans attending the games and we now were following in their footsteps.  We emerged into the interior of the amphitheatre where once there were seats, now long since pillaged and removed for recycling in medieval building projects, and into the bright sunshine where we circumnavigated the arena stopping frequently to admire the views and to imagine what it might have been like to be at this very place two-thousand years ago or so in a noisy and unruly crowd being entertained by bloodthirsty and barbaric games.

Inside the Colosseum it is huge but there isn’t really a lot to see, no statues, no paintings, no exhibits, just an elliptical arena surrounded by ancient brick and concrete, so once a full circuit has been completed, although it feels as though you should stay longer, there is not a lot to hang around for.  This doesn’t mean that the visit experience is in any way disappointing or less wonderful just that it seems to me that there are two types of sightseeing, the first is where we go to admire the statues, the paintings and the exhibits and the second where the experience is simply about being there, in a place that has played such a pivotal role in world history and the development of civilisation and for me the Colosseum is one of the latter.

The day was getting hotter now and it was easy to understand why inside the arena the Roman crowds were protected by giant shades made of Egyptian cotton or why even today the most expensive seats at a bullfight are those in the shade and protected from the sun. We left the amphitheatre and bought some expensive food from a street stall and competed with everyone else to find some shade while we waited for Silvio to return at two o’clock to take us on the second part of the tour up to the Palatine Hill and into the Roman Forum.

Colosseum Rome

____________________________________

Related Articles:

Spartacus the Gladiator

Rome

The Roman City of Pompeii

The Roman City of Herculaneum

The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

The Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman Buildings at Mérida

The Roman Ruins at Segóbriga

Diocletian’s Palace at Split

The Roman Buildings at Arles

____________________________________

A Life in Ruins – Roman Amphitheatre at Pula, Croatia

Pula Croatia

The flights to Pula were an irresistible bargain at only £16 return, which effectively meant that they were being subsidised by Ryanair because we didn’t even have to pay the full Government flight taxes.  Sitting next to us was a couple from Kenilworth who had an impressive capacity for drinks from the sky-bar.  They loaded up with beers and whiskey on its first pass down the aisle and they restocked when it returned back the other way.  I like a gin and tonic to help pass the flight but I couldn’t possibly compete with these two heavyweight boozers.

Read the full story…

Weekly Photo Challenge: Urban

Shopping Arcade – Trajan’s Market, Rome

Because there were so many things to see so was the pace of our sightseeing and after the Colosseum we passed by the Constantine Arch and through the south entrance and into the old Roman Forum and walked on old Roman roads past the spot of Julius Ceaser’s murder and the sites of the Senate and other civic buildings.  To the west was the Palace of Augustus and over the Via Dei Fori Imperialli to the east was Trajan’s Market a soaring column in his memory and after an hour or so we left the Forum by the north entrance after passing through the Arch of Septimus Severus.

Read the full story…

Rome 2003, Two Thousand Years of History in Two Days

In July 2003 taking advantage of some of the earliest Ryanair 1p flights I visited Rome with my son Jonathan.  Rome Campino airport is quite a way out of the city so we took a coach to the main train station and then an unnecessary metro train to the station Colosseo.  Unnecessary because we could easily have walked there instead and saved the fare and not suffered the oppressive underground heat.

The exit to the station is close to the site of the ancient city and as we emerged blinking into the sunlight I was immediately overawed by my first sight of the Colosseum which has to rate as one of the world’s genuine knee buckling experiences!  Although this was my second visit to Rome (the first was in 1976) the sight of the amphitheatre felt just as exciting and dramatic as the first time.

It had been hot in the tunnels of the Metro and I had had a severe perspiration problem so the first thing to do was to have a cold drink and a change of shirt at an adjacent bar on the Piazza del Colosseo before walking the short distance to our hotel, The Romano, on Largo Corrado Ricci, which was conveniently close to the Forum.

Our first stop in Rome was the Colosseum itself which, two thousand years before, had been the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire* and was capable of seating sixty-thousand spectators at gladiatorial combat events.  I was stunned by the size and magnificence of the place and even though there are substantial parts of it now missing I found the scale of the place simply breathtaking.

And because there were so many things to see so was the pace of our sightseeing and after the Colosseum we passed by the Constantine Arch and through the south entrance and into the old Roman Forum and walked on old Roman roads past the spot of Julius Ceasar’s murder and the sites of the Senate and other civic buildings.  To the west was the Palace of Augustus and over the Via Dei Fori Imperialli to the east was Trajan’s Market a soaring column in his memory and after an hour or so we left the Forum by the north entrance after passing through the Arch of Septimus Severus.

In just a little over ninety minutes we had covered about a thousand years of history and as we passed by the Victor Emmanuel National Monument erected to commemorate the nineteenth century unification of Italy we walked along Via Del Corso and into the areas that are predominantly Renaissance and Baroque in architectural character.

At the Spanish Steps and saw the house where John Keats lived and died and then the famous Trevi Fountain where thirty years ago, on my first visit,  people were still allowed to sit on the monument and cool their feet off in the water but that has been stopped now.

There is a tradition of throwing three coins in the fountain guarantees that you will return one day to Rome.  These days’ tourists with a desire to return to the Eternal City deposit an average of €3,000 a day in the fountain and this is collected up every night and is used to fund social projects for the poor of the city.  That’s probably why people aren’t allowed to paddle in it anymore and there are lots of police on duty to make sure they don’t.

Next, we visited the Pantheon, which is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings, originally built as a pagan temple but later converted into a Christian Church and is the burial place of the ex kings of Italy and other important Italians including the artist Raphael and after that it was the Baroque Piazza Navona.

I liked all of these sights but I was intrigued by something much more mundane.  All of the manhole covers displayed the Roman symbol SPQR which, I learned later, is the motto of the city and appears in the city’s coat of arms, as well as on many of the civic buildings.  SPQR comes from the Latin phrase, Senātus Populusque Rōmānus (The Senate and the People of Rome), referring to the government of the ancient Republic. It appeared on coins, at the end of public documents, in dedications of monuments and public works, and was the symbol on the standards of the Roman legions.

By mid afternoon when we crossed the River Tiber over the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II we had completed the ancient, the medieval, and the modern and now it was time to do the religious.  Rome is the most important holy city in Christendom and St Peter’s Basilica at the heart of the Vatican City is the headquarters of the Catholic Church.  A Basilica by the way is a sort of double Cathedral because it has two naves.

We walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo and into the busy square outside the Basilica where a long queue of people snaked forever around the perimeter waiting for their turn to go inside.  We joined the back of it and were pleased to find that it moved quite quickly towards the main doors and soon we were inside the biggest and the tallest church in the World that has room for sixty-thousand worshippers at one sitting.  It was busy inside but not uncomfortable and we soaked up the information from the guide’s commentary as we passed by chapels with precious holy relics, the tombs of dead Popes and rooms with glass cases full of religious artefacts.

 After the tour was finished we paid for an optional extra and took the stairs to the top of the dome which involved an awful lot of steps and a tight squeeze at the very top but we were rewarded with panoramic views across the city all the way back to the Colosseum.

After a final look around the outside of the Basilica we concluded that we were unlikely to see Pope John Paul II today, most likely because at eighty-four years old he probably liked a lie down in the afternoon, so we left St Peter’s to return to the hotel.

* Although I came across an information board at Arles in France that claimed that the Flavian Amphitheatre at Pouzzouli  near Naples was ever so slightly larger in dimensions but not in seating capacity.

__________________________________________________

Related Articles:

Spartacus the Gladiator

The Roman City of Pompeii

The Roman City of Herculaneum

The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

The Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman Buildings at Mérida

The Roman Ruins at Segóbriga

Diocletian’s Palace at Split

The Roman Buildings at Arles

____________________________________

A First Visit to Rome, 1976

It was about a two hundred and fifty kilometre drive to Rome which took just over three hours and with a full day to pack in the coach picked us up before breakfast so we collected food parcels and set off for the Italian capital, which is the third most visited European city after London and Paris.  The coach took the road towards Naples and then swung around the base of Vesuvius and picked up the A1 Autostrada that runs all the way from Naples to Rome and then on to Milan.

It was still early morning as we carved through the flat agricultural landscape of Campania, past the vineyards, the olive groves and the citrus orchards and on towards the region of Lazio in central Italy.  Somewhere north of Naples the motorway picked up the route of the Roman road, the Appian Way and as we might have expected the road simply rolled out in a long strait Roman line.  We passed the city of Capua that once had the second largest Roman amphitheatre before it was demolished by invading armies and it was where Spartacus fought as a gladiator and where he was eventually crucified nearby after leading his insurrection of the slaves.  The road continued over the Pontine Marshes that by all accounts were once a dreadful place until they were drained and reclaimed by Mussolini and then the route became less monotonous as we reached the Alban Hills and then began our final approach into Rome where we arrived in the mid morning as the sun was shining and the city was beginning to heat up.

The coach dropped us off near the site of the ancient city and I was immediately overawed by my first sight of the Colosseum.  I had studied history for the last six years but this was the first time that I had visited any of the exciting places that I had delighted in reading about.  Our first stop in Rome was the Colosseum itself which, two thousand years before, had been the largest amphitheatre ever built in the Roman Empire and was capable of seating sixty-thousand spectators at gladiatorial combat events.  I was stunned by the size and magnificence of the place and even though there are substantial parts of it now missing I found the scale of the place simply breathtaking.

And because there were so many things to see so was the pace of our sightseeing and after the Colosseum we passed by the Arch of Constantine and joined an official city guide who took us through the south entrance and into the old Roman Forum and walked on old Roman roads past the spot of Julius Ceaser’s murder and the sites of the Senate and other civic buildings.  To the west was the Palace of Augustus and over the Via Dei Fori Imperialli to the east was Trajan’s Market and his personal column in his memory and after an hour or so we left the Forum by the north entrance after passing through the Arch of Septimius Severus.

In just a little over ninety minutes we had covered about a thousand years of history and as we passed by the Victor Emmanuel National Monument erected to commemorate the nineteenth century unification of Italy we walked along Via Del Corso and into the areas that were predominantly Renaissance and Baroque in architectural character.  Rome was of the few major European cities that escaped World-War-Two relatively unscathed and so most of the buildings and monuments are completely original.  We visited the Spanish Steps and saw the house where John Keats died and then the famous Trevi Fountain where thirty years ago people were still allowed to sit on the monument and cool their feet off in the water but that has been stopped now.

We visited the Pantheon, which is one of the best preserved ancient Roman buildings, originally built as a pagan temple but later converted into a Christian Church and is the burial place of the ex kings of Italy and other important Italians like the artist Raphael.  Next it was the Baroque Piazza Navona and it was all becoming a bit overwhelming.

By mid afternoon when we crossed the River Tiber over the Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II we had completed the ancient, the medieval, and the modern and now it was time to do the religious.

Rome is the most important holy city in Christendom and St Peter’s Basilica at the heart of the Vatican City is the headquarters of the Catholic Church.   We walked past the Castel Sant’Angelo and into the busy square outside the Basilica where a long queue of people snaked forever around the perimeter waiting for their turn to go inside.  Joining the back of it we were pleased to find that it moved quite quickly towards the main doors and soon we were inside the biggest and the tallest church in the World that has room for sixty-thousand worshippers at one sitting.  It was busy inside but not uncomfortable and we soaked up the information from the guide’s commentary as we passed by chapels with precious holy relics, the tombs of dead Popes and rooms with glass cases full of religious artifacts.

After a final look around the outside of the Basilica we concluded that we were unlikely to see Pope Paul VI today, most likely because at seventy-nine years old he probably liked a lie down in the afternoon, so we left St Peter’s to return to the coach.  Before leaving the city the driver did a whistle stop drive around some of the sights that we had missed earlier in the day including the window from where the dictator Mussolini used to deliver his animated speeches.

We had been in the city for about eight hours which was a long day but simply not long enough to see everything that we wanted to and I knew that one day I would come back and spend more time there but I had to wait nearly thirty years before I achieved that ambition.  On the way back, shortly out of the city, we stopped at a pasta restaurant for early evening meal of authentic pizza and jugs of cheap Italian wine.

____________________________________

Related Articles:

Spartacus the Gladiator

Rome

The Roman City of Pompeii

The Roman City of Herculaneum

The Roman Amphitheatre at Pula

The Aqueduct of Segovia

The Roman Buildings at Mérida

The Roman Ruins at Segóbriga

Diocletian’s Palace at Split

The Roman Buildings at Arles

____________________________________

Roman Holiday

Click to preview book

Covering 2,000 years of history in two days in sun drenched Rome the holiday club visit the Eternal City during the 150 year celebrations of the unification of Italy.

In the grip of an unexpected heat wave while the Romans seek out shade Andrew, Kim, Micky, Sue and Christine do what the English do best and go out in the midday sun to see ancient, medieval and modern Rome.

Italy 2011, Frascati and Marino

Marino Italy

Frascati, another of the Castelli Romani, is a busy dormitory town for nearby Rome and being the location of several international scientific laboratories is closely associated with science and technology.  In 1943 it was heavily bombed and approximately half of its buildings, including many monuments, villas and houses, were destroyed.  Many people died in an air raid on 22nd January 1944, the day of the battle of Anzio. Towards the end of the war the city was finally liberated from the Nazi German occupation on 4th June 1944 by the advancing American infantry.

Read the full story…

Italy 2011, Rome, The Roman Forum and Italian Unification

Rome The Forum

The tour began from outside the Colosseum and went first past the Arch of Constantine where Silvio explained that this was the only Roman monument that still had its marble reliefs intact because successive Christian regimes in Rome after the fall of the Empire were reluctant to destroy a monument commemorating the first Christian Emperor.  And then we made our way into the Forum and began to climb towards the top of the Palatine Hill stopping frequently to listen to and absorb more information from Silvio.

Read the full story…

 

Italy 2011, Rome, Emperors and Gladiators

Colosseum Rome

Inside the Colosseum it is huge but there isn’t really a lot to see – no statues, no paintings, no exhibits, just an elliptical arena surrounded by ancient brick and concrete, so once a full circuit has been completed, although it feels as though you should stay longer, there is not a lot to hang around for.

This doesn’t mean that the visit experience is in any way disappointing or less wonderful just that it seems to me that there are two types of sightseeing, the first is where we go to admire the statues, the paintings and the exhibits and the second where the experience is simply about being there, in a place that has played such a pivotal role in world history and the development of civilisation and for me the Colosseum is one of the latter.

Read the full story…

 

Italy 2011, Rome, The Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica

“From the dome of St. Peter’s one can see every notable object in Rome… He can see a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe.”                                                          Mark Twain – The Innocents Abroad

By mid afternoon when we crossed the River Tiber over the Ponte Sant’ Angelo like time travellers we had completed the ancient, the medieval, and the modern and now it was time for the religious.

Rome is the most important holy city in Christendom and St Peter’s Basilica at the heart of the Vatican City is the headquarters of the Catholic Church and is a place where some of the most important decisions in the history of Europe and the World have been made over the centuries.  (A Basilica by the way is a sort of double Cathedral because it has two naves).

Read the full story…