My Summer’ish European Experience
Go, See, Write: Rome
Rome, a millenium-long centre of power, culture and religion, having been the focal point of one of the globe’s greatest civilizations ever, has exerted a huge influence over the world in its 2700 years of existence.
With wonderful palaces, millenium-old churches and basilicas, grand romantic ruins, opulent monuments, ornate statues and graceful fountains, Rome has an immensely rich historical heritage and cosmopolitan atmosphere, making it one of Europe’s and the world’s most visited, famous, influential and beautiful capitals.
After spending a good half of the morning marvelling at the wonder that is The Vatican City, (home to the Pope), it was off for some free time in Rome before meeting at the Colosseum for another guided tour. My friend and I used this quality free time to visit land marks, eat Pizza in the shape of ice cream cones and knock back shots of espresso like tequila like real Romans do!
We started at the world famous Pantheon which during the reign of Augustus was a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome. The building is circular with a central opening to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome. It is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. After plenty of pictures of a building with a hole in its roof- that is supposed to be there!, we were off to the infamous Trevi Fountain to dutifully throw in our coins.
The Trevi Fountain standing 26.3 metres high and 49.15 metres wide is the largest fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world. Tradition holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain they are ensured a return to Rome. Coins are supposed to be thrown using the right hand over the left shoulder. An estimated 3 000 Euros are thrown into the fountain daily. I threw 3 coins in just to be sure! After trying our luck at the fountain it was on to the widest staircase in Europe, The Spanish steps.
This monumental stairway of 135 steps is a steep slope between two squares dominated by the Trinitadei Monti church at the top. The stairway was built by a Frenchman linking the Spanish embassy and the church, hence the name. As one begins the seemingly never ending climb you will see to the right the house where famous English poet John Kleats lived and subsequently died in 1821.
After our monumental climb which took an undisclosed amount of time with an undisclosed amount of breaks, it was time for our tour of the late great Colosseum, one of the most recognisable monuments in the world, even if you didn’t watch Gladiator!
Built of concrete and stone it was the largest amphitheatre of the Roman Empire and is considered one of the greatest works of Roman architecture and engineering. It is also the largest amphitheatre in the world.
It is estimated that the Colosseum could hold between 50 000 – 80 000 spectators and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles, such as animal hunts and executions. Seating arrangements were in a tier reflecting the hierarchy that was the Roman society.
Special boxes were provided at the north and south ends for the Emperor providing the best views of the arena. At the same level was a broad platform for the senatorial class who were allowed to bring their own chairs.
The tier above the senators was occupied by the knights. The next level up was reserved for ordinary roman citizens and was divided into 2 sections. The lower part was for wealthy citizens while the upper part was for poor citizens. The level at the very top was reserved for the common poor, slaves and women.
The actual arena where the fights would take place is 83 metres by 48 metres. Little remains of the original arena floor but the underground which consisted of tunnels and cages beneath the arena where the gladiators and animals were held before the contests began is largely intact and visible.
Construction of the Colosseum started in 70 AD under the Emperor Vespasian and was only completed in 80 AD under his successor Titus. Today it stands partially in ruins because of damage caused by earthquakes and stone robbers,but still remains the iconic symbol of imperial Rome.