…Do as the Romans Do.

After a successful day in Vatican City, I decided to dedicate my second full day in Rome to the Colosseum and Ancient Rome.

Up close and personal with the Colosseum
Up close and personal with the Colosseum

The Colosseum is something that absolutely lived up to its larger-than-life reputation. I walked from my hostel near Termini Station to the Colosseum in order to see a little more of Rome. Just as I was starting to wonder where it was – I looked down the street and was blown away by how big the Colosseum was. The Colosseum also won the award for the longest wait time of any attraction I visited in Italy, with an almost 30-minute wait.

The inside of the Colosseum is less impressive,  but it is very cool to walk around and take in the view from each side, trying to picture 55,000 or so screaming spectators watching a pair of gladiators fight to the death or a lion or elephant being hunted down below. While most of the stage is gone, one section has been restored. The part that is not covered shows the ancient aquaducts. It’s amazing that this building is nearly 2,000 years old.

After a tour around the Colosseum, I headed over to Ancient Rome. This site includes the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and several temples and churches. Palatine Hill is one of the seven hills of Rome. Located in the center of the seven, it is the middle hill and the most important in Roman mythology. It is here that the cave that sheltered Romulus and Remus and kept alive by the she-wolf. Of course,  Romulus and Remus later fought about where to put the new city and Romulus killed Remus (thus the name of “Rome”). Historical evidence does support that people have been living there since 1000 BC. The Palatine Hill overlooks the Roman Forum on one side and the the Circus Maximus (ancient chariot racing stadium).

The Palatine is home to the remains of several aristocratic homes, including the one that is believed to be the home of Rome’s first emperor, Augustus. Rome’s subsequent emperors including Tiberius and Domitian also had their palaces here, and eventually the hill was home to one giant palace, called the Palatium. The Latin word for Palatine, Palatium is actually the root of the word palace.

The remains of Ancient Rome
The remains of Ancient Rome

The Roman Forum is the remains of the main marketplace of Ancient Rome. Similar to the Agora in Greece, most large cities had a similar forum for conducting commerce, catching up on news, giving speeches, and other important events. Along with the commercial center of the city, near the forum were other important government and religious buildings, including several churches and temples.

Since this was my last night in Rome, Italy and Europe, I went all out for my last big meal. I started with an antipasto of bresaola,  rocket and parmesan; followed by a main dish of a typical Roman dish of Bombolotti al Tamatriciana con guanciale di amatrice e pecororino romano (short pasta tubes with a spicy tomato, guanciale (similar to bacon), and pecorino cheese). While the pasta was a little more al dente then I would have preferred, it was still delicious! For dessert, my waiter brought me a shot of limoncello, a strong, sweet lemon liqueur that is a traditional after-dinner drink. It was the perfect last supper in Italy.

Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore
Basilica Santa Maria Maggiore

Since my flight wasn’t until Sunday night, I still had most of the day to wander around Rome. I started the morning by attending mass at the Basilica Papele di Santa Maria Maggiore, the largest Catholic Marian church in Rome. It is a Papal Basilica, which means that the pope can (and does) use it. I actually ended up at the Latin mass, which was interesting even if I only understood half a dozen words. By my count there were at least 30 priests, counting the Archpriest and other assorted super-priests (not sure of their official titles), which is probably more than there are at church most Sundays in Corning.

After mass, I wandered around and checked out some of the other sights in Rome including Piazza Navona, my favorite piazza. Piazza Navona is home to the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers), which represents the major river from each of the four continents that were under the papal authority when the fountain was designed in 1651 by Bernini. The four rivers represented are the Nile (Africa), the Danube (Europe), the Ganges (Asia), and the Río de la Plata (America).

Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the Piazza Navona
Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi in the Piazza Navona

I also stopped by the Campo de’ Fiori, another square that hosts a huge open-air market with vegetables, clothes, and other food items. I also went to the Pantheon, which is one of the best preserved Ancient Roman buildings. This Roman temple was first commissioned by Marcus Agrippa and rebuilt in 126 AD by the emperor Hadrian. The reason for the preservation is that it has been in use since it was built, including for the last 14 centuries as a Catholic Church. I also stopped by the Spanish Steps.

As my time in Rome drew to a close, I reflected on the amazing opportunities I had in Italy and in Greece. It was an incredible adventure and I am very lucky that I was able to do it. My advice? If you have the means, motive and opportunity to travel – do it!

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