Colosseo in 36-degree Heat

6 July 2013

We knew today was going to be pretty hot, and we also knew the walk to the Colosseum would probably take a while, so we set out at 7.30 — at which time the temperature was in the early 20s: pleasant. As was the walk down the now-familiar streets:

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Along and over the river again, but veering off in a different direction — toward the Centrale, the historic centre of Ancient Rome. Our route took us past the Piazza Bocca della Verita…

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… and past the Santa Anastasia church (not open to the public). It gave me a couple of creative opportunities:

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We continued down the Circo Massimo, past the Caracalla (ancient horse-racing pavilion) to the Colosseo. And it struck me that I haven’t taken a photo of the roads yet — and I should have, as they are notable. This is an ancient city in a modern era, and the old and the new co-exist in an unusual partnership. Late-model Smart Cars, Fiat 500s, the odd Alfa Romeo Giulietta and swarms of Vespas bounce and career over centuries-old, narrow cobblestoned streets. The cobblestones are laid in a kind of repeating-arch pattern, and the roads are, well, ‘undulating’ to put it politely.

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And then, there it was: the colossal Colosseum, or Colosseo in Italiano. We arrived about 8.30-ish, and already significant numbers of tourists were gathering.

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We didn’t have to wait long in the queue to buy tickets (that would also let us in to the Roman Forum) and get an audio tour guide. The audio guide was OK, but a bit disappointing. The trickiest part was finding the start point — up the very steep stairs to the upper level of the structure.

The size alone makes the Colosseo yet another awe-inspiring ancient Roman construction. But the tiny bit I learned about it today — how it was designed to get up to 70,000 spectators in and seated according to social class, and then out again efficiently; to house the wild beasts and be able to dispose of their remains after the ‘games’; to accommodate the gladiators — makes it even more incredible. We bought a book — actually two: one about the Colosseo, and another on Rome in general. But here are my Colosseum images.

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That last image is the Arch of Constantine, out the front of the Colosseum.

By this time, roughly 10.45, the mercury was rising rapidly, and shade was a very desirable place to be. However, when in Rome, do as the Romans do: continue, and look fresh and cool and never flustered. OK, so we continued, but I didn’t managed the latter: the temperature got to 36 degrees Celsius, and I felt every one of those degrees! Luckily, there are free water fountains all over the city. They are very, very old, and fresh, clean drinking water pours out of them continually, so filling up water bottles is easy and free. Great system!

From the Colosseo we crossed the road and ventured into the Roman Forum. This is a vast area of ruins open to the public (for a fee). Within its bounds are countless relics from a variety of eras. Below are some of those that we saw, and of which I made visual records.

Santi Giovanni and Paola bell tower (12th Century)

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What’s left of the Basilica of Maxentius (the three really, really big arches)

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Goldfish swimming in the Theatre of the Great Fountain. The water from this pond flowed down into a big, once-indoor fountain on the level underneath.

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Pigeons cooling off in the gardens, the name of which I can’t re-locate:

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Frescoes in the house of Augustus — or what’s left of the house of Augustus. These frescoes date from before Christ. Completely beyond my ability to comprehend something this old. Amazing.

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Then a 130m stroll through the Cryptoporticus, a tunnel that linked the different parts of the Imperial Palace in the Julio-Claudian Period. The decorations date from the first half of the first century AD.

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Without a guide, we didn’t get a proper feel for a large part of what was inside the forum — like the huge fountain / spa complex next to the even huger sports stadium.

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A slightly different view of summer in Rome. It’s called any excuse to find something to do in a shady spot.

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But then an opportunity for some real shade! The Tempio di Romolo.

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Past the Temple of Saturn…(at least that’s what Dave told me it was called)

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…up some really steep steps and past another neat-looking arch…

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…and you realise that in Rome, Romans have a rest, too. These gladiators were taking a load off just outside Chiesa dei Ss Luca e Martina.

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Chiesa dei Ss Luca e Martina was an imposing structure (and it looked shady inside), so we had a look. It dates from the seventh century.

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We came out of this church into the Piazza del Campidoglio…

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…walked not very far and decided to pop in to the Basilica di S Nicola in Carcere. This is really, really, really old. It’s a Christian edifice now, but it was built over three Roman pagan temples of the Republican times. In 1128 under Pope Honorius II it was dedicated to Saint Nicholas, Bishop of Myra. The original temple on this site was built in 260 BC by the consul Caius Duilius after the first Roman victory over the Carthaginians during the First Punic war. (Yes, that came from the information brochure.)

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For the small fee of three euros we were able to go down into the church’s ‘grotto’. This underground part of the church reveals part of the structure of the original temple. It’s very musty, dark and archaeological-feeling. There is even a small, neat heap of human leg bones (from people who have been buried under the building over the millennia) on display under a weak light bulb. Didn’t photograph them. Ick.

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And that was us for the day. After gelato on the way home (this is becoming a dangerous habit) we frumped back into our little appartamento at 3.30 completely spent.

Off to Lucca tomorrow. Three hours and a bit on a train — looking forward to the rest and the scenery. No free wi-fi there, so a hiatus on the photo-posting front.

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