no matter where you go, there you are

Friday, May 14, 2010

friends, romans, countrymen. lend me your ears.

Day 2 in Rome began quite nicely. Though pulled from my sleep by my lovely alarm clock, I felt rested and ready to roll. Breakfast began at 8 so I made sure to be there and got a lovely bowl of cereal and took a couple of packaged croissants. Then it was off to the Roman Forum thanks to a short ride on the Roman Metro. The sun was still finishing its ascent over the horizon so it was chilly with no jacket. It takes a few moments to get my bearings and I take my time observing the layout and detail in each of the artifacts strewn about the area. Was this really how they found each stone, or has there been some change in where the smaller pieces have been placed and laid out? The silence is incredible; besides a small school group I see in the distance, I think I'm the only one here. For being one of the top attractions in Rome, this is a unique experience indeed.

The first few stone pieces I pass are bottoms of columns which make it hard to visualize exactly what the buildings looked like in Ancient Rome, but glancing towards the Saturn Temple and the Arch of Septimus Severus smothers all doubts I may have about the enjoyment factor of the Roman Forum. It's going to be awesome. Even if I have no knowledge of the history behind it. The beauty lies in the architectural feat of these temples and arches. The ornate carvings, not only on the Arch of Septimus Severus, but on small pieces of chipped away rock are beautiful and being so close that you can touch is pretty awesome. You're immediately immersed in the size, vastness and beauty of the place. The gorgeous blue skies with wisps of pure white clouds make for an outstanding backdrop. There are so many picture opportunities and its hard to not snap one of everything.

By the time I've made my way to the Arch of Titus at the other end of the Forum, the chilly air has warmed and more and more people are filing through the gates. Though the Colosseum looks gorgeous from here and is beckoning me to discover its history, I must first make my way through Palantine Hill.

Upon following a path that may lead me towards the main attraction of Palantine Hill I come across a beautiful overlook of the Colosseum. It's so gorgeous and I stupidly walk away without a picture. However, I almost immediately regret that decision and turn back to snap a portrait of the famed arena. (It turns out this was a good decision since there's no way to get a full view picture of the Colosseum when you're actually there.)

After this overlook I then find myself at another, this time looking down upon the entire Roman Forum. It's wonderful and I love that I can see how the entire place was designed and laid out. With the Vittorio Emanuele II Monument standing tall in the background, the ancient ruins make for a gorgeous view.

Palantine Hill isn't as exciting and interesting to look at as the Forum was. Palantine Hill was the former residential palace of the Emperors of Rome and there are a lot less ruins left compared to how large the original structure was. The land is still there so imagining how large it was isn't difficult, but trying to picture the grandeur of it all is much harder. Though I appreciate what is there I don't feel as obligated to spend as much time seeing every little thing.

The Arch of Constantine standing next to the Colosseum is just as spectacular as those of Septimus Severus and Titus. The detail in the carving is outstanding and only adds to its beauty. Its size is also a wonder and I can't help but think about how it was made back in ancient times. And I wonder if our society today is smart enough that we could figure how to build something as beautiful if the crutches of modern technology were taken away.

I move onto the Colosseum and get to skip the entire line. *HINT* The Forum, Palantine Hill and Colosseum are all 1 ticket so see the Forum/Palantine first so that when you get to the Colosseum you don't need to stand in any ticket lines. *END HINT* The Colosseum is something else. Almost 2000 years old, it is the largest ampitheater built in the Roman Empire and was used for gladiator contests and other public spectacles. There is a lower level that you can see as there is no floor left in the center which had ramps and stuff built in so that they could release animals into the arena. One of the pieces I really enjoyed seeing, though far away was the small section they have uncovered that shows distinct rows of seats. Its scary how much they look as if a small renovation would make them fit for a modern day sports arena. In addition, seeing the multiple levels of seats is astounding and though ancient, seem so modern. One thing I find really interesting is that they have to rotate which stairwells are used by tourists to get to the second level because so many people visit that if only one were used, they would be so worn out they wouldn't be safe anymore.

The 2nd level is even better than the first because you can look into the center area easier and see the maze that was the lower level. I spend quite a bit of time reading up on the history of the place in the museum they have and almost all of it has an English translation which is really helpful! It then transitions into a special exhibit which changes periodically and I can't remember what this one was about. I know they talk about various Emperors but I got sleepy reading so I left to go back and admire the arena once again. Its really really gorgeous and the panorama below gives a good perspective as to how it looks from one end. And it doesn't look like there are TONS of tourists, which there were. The Colosseum was definitely one of the more crowded attractions I went to.

By this time, it was approaching midday and I knew there was still much to be seen and all of it had to be done on foot so off I went, wishing as I'd done with so many other places that I could stay a few minutes more.

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