After a couple days in Rome, I was finally standing face to face with the Colosseum. So far I have seen it in the distance and yearned for it from the rainy window of my hop-on-hop-off bus. Today the sun was shining and I was ready to take on Ancient Rome. Veering away from the Colosseum, we first went to the Forum entrance to buy our tickets. Buying our tickets at the Forum was a huge time savor, we were able to bypass the long line to buy tickets at the Colosseum. Alas, there was still a short security check line until we could finally step inside the Colosseum.
When we finally made it through security we took the stairs up to the second level and walked the parameter of the Colosseum. I couldn’t believe that I was actually here! I have read about the gladiator fights and the architecture. I have seen this imagine in history books and in movies. And now I am seeing the Colosseum with my own eyes. I allowed the gravity of where I was standing to engulf me as I looked on at the crumbling arena below.
Once we walked the entire parameter of the upper level, we headed down to the ground level. At first we couldn’t find how to access the ground level of the arena. Mind you, it is very easy to navigate the Colosseum. Yet the sheer volume of tourists made navigating a bit more confusing. Once we looked at the map, we realized the entrance was on the complete opposite side of the Colosseum from where we were. How I missed this giant entrance is beyond me. I liked the view from above but I was able to appreciate the Colosseum better from the ground level. There were far less people on the ground level so I was able to literally sit back and enjoy the view. We found a shaded spot to sit and eat our croissants that we packed in our bags. Our lunch might have been pretty sad but the view made up for it.
There is only so much time you can spend walking around the Colosseum as it’s the same layout all around. After about an hour, we headed out to the Roman Forum. The Forum gave us access to not only the Forum but also Palatine Hill. The signage indicated that the Palestine walk was harder so we opted to take the easier Forum walk first.
I was blown away by the Forum. The Forum includes several important ancient government buildings in Rome. I knew the Forum was important, I just didn’t realize how grand it was. I could spend hours getting lost in this ancient city center. There were so many amazing structures to see and they looked beautiful from every angle. We walked the entire Forum, stopping to take everything in. It’s mind blowing that these structures are still standing, they were built with such high quality and no one bulldozed them.
After seeing the Forum we cut over to Palatine Hill, first stopping at Santa Maria Antiqua. Santa Maria Antiqua is a restored 5th century Roman Catholic church with lavish Byzantine art. Stepping inside the cool church, I was drawn in by the ancient mosaic replicas. As we continued through the church, we found ourselves starring at the brick walls in awe. It was not the brick work that captured our attention. It was lights projections depicting Byzantine murals that we were starring at.
Exiting the church, we began the Palatine Hill walk. Under the blazing mid-day sun the stairs felt never ending. In hindsight, the walk wasn’t difficult in itself. It was the 98 degree heat wave that was slowing us down. We were welcomed to Palatine Hill by an overgrown fountain that looked like it was within a palace. It was such a strangely enchanting spot amid the ruins.
Walking further up Palatine Hill, we saw what seemed to be ruins of a city. We walked through the ruined city, more exhausted with each step. I didn’t realize how long we had been exploring Ancient Rome until parts of the Palatine begun getting closed off for the night. It seems we had overstayed our welcome in this Ancient Roman town.
Leaving the Forum, we headed in search for dinner. After walking all day in the hot sun, we decided that we deserved a big pasta dish. We stumbled on a quiet restaurant near the Colosseum. I never even looked at the name of the restaurant. All I could think about was the food I was about to consume. I ordered the carbonara and at first we ate in almost silence in the cobblestone courtyard of the nameless restaurant. My hearty meal helped to replenish some of my energy. We regained enough energy to get a last glance at the Roman Forum as the sun was setting. The Colosseum became a golden arena and the Forum a jewel toned city. The golden sunset gave a new life to these ancient landmarks. I now understood why Rome is called the Eternal City.