A funny thing happened on the way to the Forum – a day in ruins
03.06.2011 - 03.06.2011 30 °C
Had a bit of a late start today, but eventually got on the road about 11:30am. Hot and sunny again, yesterday’s rain wasn’t enough to settle the dust today. It did threaten rain late in the afternoon, but none eventuated.
Took the metro to the station opposite the Colosseum, so you walk out the door and there it is right across the road. I wonder if the Romans that get off at that station every day even notice it. It’s a stunning building, and so familiar because we’ve all seen it so often.
I decided to wait till later to go inside, as nearby are also the Roman Forum and the Palatino – and the same ticket gets you into all three. I thought I’d try the Palatino first, as the entrance to that is closest to the Colosseum. You walk past the Arch of Constantine and along a busy road. Well, it’s usually busy, but today there were no cars coming down it. I saw a line of police & carabinieri vans and trucks and next thing a cloud of what turned out to be teargas appeared. No one seemed particularly worried so we all just kept heading for the entrance to queue for our tickets. Waited for a few minutes & the line wasn’t moving, then a man appeared and told us all to “go away” (something got lost in translation – manners!). So we all had to leave because of what turned out to be some sort of protest – still don’t know what for, but as I was walking away there was a loud bang, so felt that wasn't the time to ask.
So, headed up the road and round the corner to the entrance for the Roman Forum queue. It took about 40 mins in the blazing sun, but eventually got to the ticket window and headed inside. Good things really do take time. It’s the unearthed ruins of the original forum, where Julius Caesar was assassinated and Roman businessmen & politicians went about their daily grind. The remains of the temple where the Vestil Virgins were kept is still fairly intact (comparatively) and there are columns and temples everywhere.
I met up with a group of four UK oldies, who had lost their tour group in all the confusion, so decided to "keep calm and carry on", as it were. One of the men had been there about 40 years ago and reckoned the best view was from up the top of the hill, so I latched on with them and up we went. He was right of course, and it was a bit easier to work out what was where from that angle. I left them shortly after that to see part of an exhibition about Nero and Rome during his time, which included some great statues and lots of information.
I wandered all over the place there, and found that the Palatino (which was a flash suburb of ancient Rome) is on the same piece of ground, just over a bit further and there’s no barrier between them.
I spent a little time there but had run out of water and decided to see the Colosseum next. With the ticket I could just walk right past the ticket booth, which is a very nice feeling when you’ve already waited in line for ages.
The Colosseum is an amazing building and I was surprised at what good shape it’s in, considering the hordes of people that go through it every day. The different angles for photos are great, and of course I took heaps. Unfortunately, you can only go under the Colosseum on a guided tour, so I missed out there – maybe next time.
Piazza behind the Colosseum
I gave my feet a rest and chilled out for a while on one of the many fallen marble columns that are placed in the shade under the arches, for people to sit on. Although there were a lot of people there, it was easy to shut them out and ponder about where I was, and listen for the sound of steel on breastplate, and the roar of big cats and the Roman crowds. Well, you have to in a place like that, don't you?
View from the Colosseum
By 5:30 I"d cooled down a bit and wanted to see more of the Palatino, so headed back there since the protest was well and truly over. The setting is really lovely, with olive trees and huge cypresses in between the ruins. The Palatino is still an archeological dig, so a lot of it is fenced off – including a couple of houses which apparently still have frescoes on the walls. One of them, the House of Augustus, is open to the public, but only until 1pm each day so I was too late for that unfortunately. I just wandered through the other ruins, running my hands over the columns and walls and trying to imagine what it once looked like.
The walls were all plastered, and covered in frescoes and designs, the floors – now grass – would have been mosaics like the house in Spoleto. There would have been ornate pools and fountains, and marble statuary – inside and out, and complete columns of solid white marble lined up in rows. Now, of course, the columns are broken and fallen, their bases and capitals still ornate, but broken and worn, and grey with time and mould. Many are dotted around the place (including behind the Colosseum), for people to rest on under the trees.
Sorry, got a little poetic there – so sue me. I think you get the picture though.
View of the Colosseum from the Palatino
I left there at almost 7:00, and they were holding the gate open for us stragglers. I wasn’t quite ready to go back to the hotel so I had an early dinner at a cheap place right next to the metro entrance – my first pasta meal in Italy, believe it or not. So there I was, eating spaghetti carbonara, and drinking a Peroni beer (well deserved, I might add), looking at the Colosseum – with a big grin on my face. Awesome!
I was thinking I might wait to see the Colosseum lit up, but that doesn’t start until 9pm. I wasn’t keen on taking the metro that late – or hanging around that much longer, so I reluctantly left. Two short rides on the metro & I was back in the hotel.
Tomorrow I’m planning to check out Trastavere, one of the suburbs that is apparently a nice place to go. Not sure yet how I’ll get there as there’s no metro line there, but maybe I’ll try the buses.