with torrential rain, thunder, lightening and steaming heat with blue skies
11.09.2014 - 11.09.2014 26 °C
Our first full day in Rome...how exciting. We were up early and ready for our two tours for the day...one in the morning to the Colosseum and Roman Forum the other in the afternoon seeing the main sights in the city of Rome.
We headed off on foot down to the scheduled meeting spot just beside the Colosseum. Rain had been forecast for the day so we were prepared with our trusty umbrellas and attractive plastic ponchos in various colours. The tour started on time with a very informative and humorous guide. We were amazed when we entered the site to see the centre of the arena occupied by tall brick segments at a lower level. It was quite different to the one we had seen in Nimes (France) which had the arena at ground level, covered with sand. The brick segments in the Colosseum were the remains of the stalls for housing the animals and such like that “performed” in the arena. These stalls were actually underground from the arena. What was missing was the ceiling on top of these stalls which as actually the floor of the arena. The ceiling/floor was originally made of wood it has since rotted away over time. The restoration team have reconstructed some of the ceiling/floor so we can have some idea of what it was like originally.
The Colosseum was used for Gladiator Battles, mock sea battles, animal hunting and public executions of criminals.
The building of the Colosseum was started in 70AD and finished in 80AD. It is constructed of brick, stone and concrete and is the largest Roman amphitheatre in the world, it is thought to be the best examples of roman engineering and architecture. Our guide made a point of reinforcing this point by telling us on several occasions how ingenious the engineers were building the Colosseum using arches – there are roughly 40 arches in the Colosseum. It stands at about 48 metres high and is an oval shape 189 metres by 156 metres. It is thought to have seated approximately 50,000 to 80,000 people.
It is certainly an impressive building, amazing to think how they constructed it so long ago and it is still standing. Pieces of the Colosseum are missing though – not through earthquakes or poor workmanship but due to “recycling” and thieving of materials. A lot of the marble for example was removed over the years and used in new buildings such as churches. The iron was looted from the site and melted down for other uses.
Like so many other iconic buildings we have visited on our trip, the Colosseum is currently undergoing restoration and cleaning. Amazingly this is not being funded by the Italian Government but by a citizen, Diego Della Valle, the billionaire owner of a shoe and leather company Tod. The restoration work is estimated to be costing 30m Euro! Similarly, the Trevi Fountain is also undergoing restoration work which is being partly funded by another citizen who owns Fendi Fashion to the tune of 2.1 m Euro.
While we were looking around the Colosseum the weather was inclement, raining off and on occasionally. When the sun did come out it was really hot.
We finished at the Colosseum and walked over to the Roman Forum, Temple of Julius Caesar, and the Palatine Hill. At this time, the weather decided to pack it in with thunder, lightning, pouring rain and wind. It wouldn’t have been too bad but the cold wind made things a little bit tricky. Our guide advised us that because the area we were visiting was in ruins there was no shelter to speak of and he could understand if any of us wanted to leave the tour. Two couples did but the rest of us boxed on. We had our trusty ponchos and umbrellas so we were ok – sort of! Eventually the rain stopped and the sun came out which was great.
The sights were very interesting but unfortunately not that photogenic as a lot of the marble and stone has been removed and “recycled” like the Colosseum for other projects around Rome – St Peter’s for example.
Our guide had a historical book which he referred as his silly book. It had the current photos of each historical site and an overlay with what it looked like back in the day. We all found it very useful to help us visualise what each building would have looked like when it was first constructed.
Our last stop was the on top of the Palatine Hill which over looked the Circus Maximus. This was an ancient chariot racing stadium which is believed to seat about 150,000 spectators. With the help of the guides "silly book" we were able to see what it was like when in full use...amazing. Admittedly it is very hard to imagine it from the photos.
After the tour finished we walked towards town passed a monument known locally as the "wedding cake". It's formal name is The Altare della Patria (Altar of the Fatherland) it is a controversial monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy. (1870)
We stopped off at dry and warm restaurant where we shared pizzas for lunch, and continued our walk into the middle of the city.
The afternoon tour was of Historic Rome. This tour walked us around the city describing the times of Bernini, Raphael and Michelangelo.
We saw the Trevi Fountain...currently under restoration
the Pantheon, complete with it's amazing dome and marble floors
the Spanish Steps,
Bernini’s Fountain of Four Rivers
the Oblique’s that were used as markers for the pilgrims to the city, and various churches ( there are over 1000 churches in Rome!). Together with this the guide gave us all the history behind each monument...the creator of it, the style in which it was made and why it was built.
By the time of this tour the weather had truly cleared up and was now quite hot! To help break the tour and give us a rest the guide took us to a gelato shop for an ice cream each. They were well received by us all.
We finished the tour about 6.30pm, it would be fair to say by this stage we were all tired and ready for home. It was a very informative day with some challenging weather but well worth it.