Because it is 1:40 AM, and we are both leaving Rome very early tomorrow, this is going to be brief!
Today was our favorite day in Rome. We took a VIP restricted access tour of the Colosseum, Forum, and the Palatine Hill. We walked on original roads that are over two thousand years old. Boston roads can't uphold one winter without people falling in potholes! It's because their main roads were made of volcanic rock. Our tour guide was fun, educational, smart, and very witty. He made it seem like an adventure, bringing us through ancient ruins that have been preserved underground for generations.
We walked down into the Forum, through chunks of rock and marble, and learned about the political and judicial buildings that once stood on the foundation that we could see today. We stood in the same spot where Julius Caesar's funeral took place. Again, hard to imagine these stories that we have been told our whole lives actually took place on the very ground we were walking in.
Rome is incredible because so much of it is still underground. Throughout the centuries, the Romans built their modern city on top of the old one, using the buildings and marble as foundation. Jon, our guide, told us that they have been working for twenty years to build a third metro line through the city. Rome has 3 million residents and only two metro lines underground, creating major traffic above ground. However, as soon as they start to dig more tunnels, they run into ruins and must begin excavating. So much of the city will not be discovered just because the metropolitan city above ground must continue to function as a normal city.
The Colosseum, really named the Flavian Amphitheater, is a wonder of the world. We were brought onto the main stage floor, where lions, tigers, and other exotic animals were hunted for the people's entertainment. We walked through tunnels that gladiators came through before they fought to the death for an audience of 55,000 Romans. We were in the back stage area, where the slaves were wheeling conveyor belts of props out to the main arena to decorate for the different events and games. The first event was the hunting of the exotic animals. The second event were the public executions of Roman criminals, to show the people what happens when you break the law. The third event was the gladiator fight. They would start with 8 gladiators, working in pairs. They'd narrow it down to 4 men, and they would pair up. Those 4 men would die off down to 2. The two would fight, but not necessarily to the death. Once the winner is determined, the crowd cheers in one of two directions. For mercy, or no mercy. The emperor listens to the crowd and decides what the people want most. Usually, they want the losing gladiator dead. The winning gladiator would look towards the emperor, and he would give him a sign to either kill him or spare him. Then, the winner would be handed his cash reward, get patched up at the hospital, and wait for the next battle.
Romans were not charged to enter the Colosseum, ever. They were given terra cotta tablets with Roman numerals on them (1-80) directing them to one of the 80 entrances to the arena. Jon joked that for the actual games, there were 80 open and free entrances. Today, there is one entrance and it will cost you 13 Euro to get in. Progress!
Today was very educational and interesting. The history we were standing around was incredible and humbling. This was my favorite tour of the Ancient City, and I've been on three!
Tonight ended with one more dinner with Bob, Michele, and Hannah. We went to a life changing gelateria, and walked over to Fontana di Trevi to throw our three coins in.
Ciao, Roma! Off to Gamberale in the morning!