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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Roman Holiday, Part II - A Colossal Experience

Need I tell you where?

Tuesday the 13th was a beautifully sunny day, ideal for spending time outdoors. And spend time outdoors the three of us did, as we walked from our hotel in the morning to that most iconic of Roman sights, the Flavian Amphitheater, aka the Colosseum. Having booked our tickets online before we left Vilnius, we were able to bypass the queue and proceed inside the 50,000-seat stadium, which opened for gladiator battles and the spectacle of condemned prisoners being devoured by wild animals in the year CE 80. Once inside, there was nothing to do but walk around the incredible sight and imagine what it must've been like to have been one of the thousands of spectators baying for blood:

Looking out toward the Arco di Costantino and the Via Sacra:

The hypogeum - the underground complex where the animals were kept in cages and stage sets were prepared for the next spectacle:

The aforementioned Arco di Costantino (Arch of Constantine), put up in 312 to commemorate Constantine's victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Ponte Milvio:

Looking back at the Colosseum as we walk the Via Sacra:

Nothing funny happened on our way to the Forum, but we did explore the Palatino (Palatine Hill) archaeological site. It was here that Romulus supposedly founded Rome in 753 BCE, and where Roman emperors lived the good life. The Orni Farnesiani is the setting for great views overlooking the Forum:

Palatine Hill also provides different perspectives on the Colosseum...: well as glimpses of Vatican City in the distance:

Ruins of the stadium and the Domus Flavia (imperial palace):

As awesome a sight the Colosseum is, it was the sprawling ruins of the Roman Forum that for me really reinforced just how architecturally advanced the Romans were. First developed in the 7th-century BCE as a burial ground by the Etruscans, the Foro Romano became (as my guidebook describes it) "ancient Rome's showpiece center, a grandiose district of marble-clad temples, basilicas and vibrant public spaces." The site could do with better labeling (as well as more depictions of what the ruins looked like in all their original glory) - the Forum is a place where a little imagination can take the visitor a long way:

Tempio di Antonino e Faustina (Temple of Antoninus and Faustina):

Tempio di Castore e Polluce (Temple of Castor and Pollux), dating back to 489 BCE:

All that remains of the 50-room Casa delle Vestali (House of the Vestal Virgins) are these white statues lining what was the atrium:

The Colonna di Foca (Column of Phocas; CE 608) and the impressive Arco di Settimio Severo (Arch of Septimius), 23 meters (75 feet) high and erected in CE 203 to celebrate Roman victories over the Parthians:

The remains of the Tempio di Saturno (Temple of Saturn):

Wandering around ruins can work up an appetite, so the three of us left the Roman Forum to seek out lunch at a nearby ristorante. Bruschetta topped with salmon and a calzone, washed down with a Peroni, took care of my hunger:

In Rome you're never far from an archeological site. Just around the corner from the restaurant are the ruins of the Foro di Augusto (Forum of Augustus) and the Foro di Nerva (Forum of Nerva). Kind of makes one wonder what still lies undiscovered beneath the streets of modern-day Rome:

From the glories of the Roman Empire to the glories of the 20th century - behind the Forum stands the massive edifice that is the Il Vittoriano, aka Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland), completed in 1925. This mountain of white marble towers over the Piazza Venezia, and remains controversial:

The monument is home to the Italian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the body of the unfortunate young man lies beneath a statue of the goddess Roma. To the right burns an eternal flame:

According to my guidebook there are 360-degree views of Rome from the top of the monument, reached after paying to use an elevator. However, there are decent views to be had from the (free) lower balconies:

Mercati di Traiano (Trajan's Market):

Equestrian statue of King Victor Emmanuel II:

My bambina got a nice shot of one of Rome's ubiquitous seagulls:

Amber and I returned to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just in time to miss the changing of the guard ceremony. Shu-E (who had remained downstairs) was able to catch it on her cell phone:

From the 20th-century it was a short walk into the 16th-century. The Piazza del Campidoglio was designed by none other than Michelangelo in 1538. We reached the piazza by ascending the Cordonata staircase from Piazza d'Ara Coeli:

In the center of the piazza is an equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius:

One more look at the Roman Forum from behind the Piazza del Campidoglio (panorama pic courtesy of my daughter):

Amber was perplexed by this statue of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a she-wolf. Soccer fans might recognize this from the crest used by A.S. Roma:

We returned on foot to the Augusta Lucilla Palace late in the afternoon. That evening we had dinner at the Ristorante Arirang a couple of blocks away. After only two days in Rome, my wife already needed a break from Italian cuisine!:

To be continued...

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