Rome is like a 2,000 year old lasagna
After an exhausting but incredible sightseeing day on Saturday, all that was “left” to see in la Città Eterna was probably the single most famous work of architecture and tourist destination in the city: il Colosseo. We packed up early in the morning, left our apartment, and made our way to the east of the city to meet our tour group.
On this trip I really discovered what an amazing resource Airbnb Experiences is. Our Musei Vaticani tour (exact link in the article) and Colosseum tour were through Airbnb. It was so easy to look at the offered options all in once place; everything from cooking classes, to photography sessions, to tours can all be found there! We chose this experience for our guided tour of the Colosseum, Palatino, and the Forum, and it was so worth every penny and every minute! All in all, the tour was just over three hours, and I would recommend anyone who is of able body to go on this tour!
We met our group around 9 am for a timed entrance at 9:30; a perk of this tour was that it was skip-the-queue, so we didn’t have to wait in the already super long line for non-reserved guests. After a quick pass through security, we started up the first set of stairs and paused for a quick lecture where we heard about the building of the structure. Its Latin name was called Amphitheatrum Flavium, a nod to the emperors of the Flavian Dynasty, whose rule started and completed the building project from 70-80 CE. Its nickname was il Colosseo from the bronze Colossus of Nero that used to be outside of the amphitheater. Construction was funded by the spoils taken from the Temple of Jerusalem after the First Jewish Revolt in 70 CE, that led to the Siege of Jerusalem. Along with the stolen riches, Emperor Vespasian brought tens of thousands of Jewish slaves to Rome which were put to work on building the Colosseum.
Il Colosseo was used as an entertainment arena for almost 400 years, and is estimated that more than 400,000 people and more than 1,000,000 animals died in fight. There were 80 entrance points into the arena that were marked by Roman numerals from I-LXXX. Entrance was free for Roman citizens, but seating was designated by social class and political ranking, with space for more than 50,000 spectators! The Colosseum is still the largest amphitheater in the world. Its oval shape measures 620 feet long, 511 feet wide and 164 feet high, which is equivalent of a 12 storey building. All of our modern stadiums structures have been based on this 2,000 year old structure!
As we proceeded up to the second floor, we learned more about the workings of il Colosseo, as well as the cultural and social significances of the arena during the Empire. The inaugural games were held in 80 CE under Emperor Titus (son of Vespasian), and ran for 100 days straight. Along with the free admission, the audience was also provided with free food, an enormous incentive to gather if you were of a lower class. This was a brilliant tactic employed by the emperors as a way to gain popularity and support from the public.
Beneath the fighting stage, gladiators and animals would wait their turn to take center stage between dozens of underground passages. Thirty-six trap doors and special elevators led gladiators and animals to the stage floor to surprise the spectators, and the ones fighting. The events hosted included gladiatorial combats, animal hunts, and simulated sea battles. The venationes, or animal hunts, utilized a variety of exotic animals imported from Africa and the Middle East and included rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, elephants, giraffes, lions, panthers, leopards, bears, tigers, crocodiles and ostriches. The naumachia, or mock-ship battles would happen when the stage of the arena was flooded with water, but these events happened less often than the two previously mentioned. Loads of wealth and fame would come to the victorious gladiator.
We spent about an hour and a half inside the Colosseum before we exited and made our way to the next stop, and passed by il Arco di Constantino on the way. The Arch on Constantine was erected to commemorate Constantine I‘s victory over Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312. Dedicated in 315, it is the largest triumphal arch in Rome! Most major cities have triumphal arches – Paris, London, New York, Barcelona, Laos, Brussels, Saint Petersburg, New Delhi, Berlin – the list goes on. All of those arches can trace their inspirations from ancient Rome as a marker of power and triumph.
Continuing on, we walked about 10 minutes from the Colosseum to go to il Palatino. The Palatine Hill is called “the first nucleus of the Roman Empire”, because it is where the city of Rome was founded, and had been the location of the imperial palaces of the Roman Emperors from the reign of the first emperor, Augustus. All that is left are the ruins, but seeing and learning about what remains, its history, and functions was fascinating.
Just below the Palatine Hill is the Foro Romano, the ancient Roman Forum which, for centuries the was the center of day-to-day life in Rome. Events such as triumphal processions, elections, public speeches, and criminal trials were held at the Forum, but is most well known to have been the center of commercial affairs.
As the tour concluded, and after several hours of walking we were absolutely knackered, our feet were killing us, and we were starving!! We found an adorable restaurant with outdoor seating right by the exit of the Forum. We indulged in our final Roman meal of lasagna and ravioli, before making our way to the train station to head back to beautiful Firenze. Upon returning home, I immediately went down for a nap 😂. We walked literally tens of thousands of steps over the course of the three days, but I wouldn’t change any of it. The entire weekend was perfect, from the tours, the food, the sights, and the city itself. Rome is such a special city for all of these, and soooo many more reasons. I can’t wait to go back! (I threw a coin into the Trevi Fountain, so that means I’ll definitely be back … right?!)
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