Since studying Ancient Rome at University, one of Keith’s biggest dreams was to see the ruins in Rome. The Colosseum was our first stop. Again, like the Vatican, nothing can prepare you for the size of the thing. It’s huge. And old. In fact, it’s almost unbelievable that people could build something so massive so long ago. We took millions of photos and just loved being amongst the ruins.
The outside and the main areas of the Colosseum were, of course, amazing, but what we didn’t expect was the museum. There were examples of Ancient Roman graffiti, artefacts and plans of the original Colosseum and how it worked – the sliding wooden deck was amazing!
From outside the Colosseum, it’s a short walk to Palatine Hill, the sight of many ancient ruins like the Roman Forum. The Forum was a meeting place and massive area where the aristocracy met. Now it’s a series of broken columns, but the scale is still impressive.
After leaving the Roman Forum, we saw that there were many other similar ruins across the road. We stopped to buy some fruit from a local vendor near a statue of Julius Caesar and then walked through history – the Forum of Augustus, the Trajan Forum and the Trajan Forum Piazza. This amazing trail led us to a set of stairs where we had lunch, overlooking the Piazza Venezia and an enormous white marble building, Altare della Patria, built in honour of Italy’s first king and First World War soldiers.
The next stop on our list was a church called Santa Maria sopra Minerva. It is famous for being the only existing original Gothic church building in Rome. In the 19th Century, a neo-Gothic restoration saw the ceiling painted blue with gilded stars. It also holds a Michelangelo statue and beautiful architecture not often seen in smaller churches.
Construction of the Pantheon (our next stop) was started in about 13 BC. It was torn down, rebuilt, burned to the ground and rebuilt again and again. The actual writing on the facade shows who built it and when. But, the age is not what blows you away – it’s the size. In the photo below, you can get an understanding of how big the entryway is because of the people standing below. Inside is a domed roof with a single circular skylight (oculus). While inside we were told that we had to be quiet due to a church service going on, but we were the only ones. The multitudes of people still created a noise that blocked out the service.
Our final stop before heading back to the apartment was the Piazza Navona. This giant plaza holds a fountain in the middle designed by Bernini and a fountain at either end, both just as impressive. This was a great place to stop and just people watch. The plaza is always really busy.
In the last two days we had walked approximately 14 hours. So feeling tired but satisfied that we had seen as much as we were going to see of this amazing city in the short time we had available, we headed back to our accommodation trying to take in all the wonderful sights we had been to. Rome has definitely been a highlight.