The Colosseum and Roman Forum
My first full day in Rome was uneventful but pleasant. I discovered that the Colosseum is within walking distance from my bed and breakfast, and not in the way Hugo's house was "walking distance" from my hostel in Paris--at most, it's a 15 minute stroll through a park filled with cool trees and ruins. The lively area surrounding the Colosseum was packed with tourists and people selling souvenirs. I walked around for a few minutes before realizing that I had a headache and ought to go in another day. After getting pizza at a nearby cafe, I spent the rest of the day drawing and people watching in the park. It was filled with Italian families and people playing soccer on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
Yesterday morning I decided to return to the Colosseum and visit the Roman Forum. Following Rick Steves' advice, I managed to avoid the worst of the lines when purchasing my ticket. After doing this, I headed to the upper levels of the Colosseum where the visit starts. There are many artifacts on display including dice for gambling, bone hairpins, and ancient graffiti.
I made my way through the tunnels to the lower levels. Most of the seats are now gone, but from where the lower seats used to be you can get a good view of the tunnels in the center of the Colosseum. Originally covered by a wood floor, this is where gladiators and animals were kept before fights.
Despite the state of ruin, with a little imagination it's easy to picture 50,000 roaring Romans seated around the ring. It must've been pretty intimidating to be the person in the middle.
After the Colosseum, I took a lunch break and had spaghetti and an adorable espresso at a cafe a couple blocks away. Energy replenished, I walked to the Roman Forum. This is where many of ancient Rome's governmental buildings were located. The path to the forum goes through grassy meadows and buildings that are crumbling into the earth.
The path opened up to the forum and I started at the Arch of Titus. Rick Steves' Rome guidebook suggested a route and I think it was a nice alternative to a tour; I could go at my own place and read about the buildings I was interested in. I strolled down the same street where emperors once walked past the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Temple of Romulus with its still-working door and lock, and a massive basilica.
The street led to a square and I headed to the Temple of Caesar. Like many of the other monuments here, very little remains of the original structure. This is the place where Julius Caesar was cremated. There is a wall behind the altar, a well-worn wall facing the square, and a wooden roof overhead. A path leads into a room no larger than my bedroom. Plants are springing out of the floor and crawling down the walls. A mound in the center is all that remains of an altar where people have left flowers, coins, and other small offerings. The setting sun was at just the right angle between the roof and the walls and a light was shining right on the mound. I was in there alone and was one of the most beautiful things I've ever seen.
I went back into the square and somehow taking a picture of the temple didn't feel adequate. I'm pretty terrible at drawing buildings but I did my best to sketch the temple in my journal. Realizing that it was getting close to closing time, I rushed through the rest of the forum, checking out the well-preserved building where the Senate met, Temple of Saturn, Arch of Septimius Severus, and Temple of Vesta. I walked through the Palatine Hill with its beautiful garden and views of Rome.
I easily could've spent an entire day in the forum. It was overwhelming in the best way to see so much classics history in person and this was definitely one of my favorite things I've done so far.
Today I am heading to Piazza del Popolo and checking out many sights along the way. It promises to be a busy day!