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Rome - Chapter 1

This is just a little strange, being in Aruba in September and working on the travelogue for our Rome trip in August. These trips are coming just a little too close together this year. Ah well, you do what you've got to do. I will try not to bore you too much.


The flight was a grueling one. From Buenos Aires to London's Heathrow airport it was 13 hrs 30 min, with a 2½ hour layover, then a 2½ hour flight to Rome. We left home at 10:00 AM on the 26th and arrived at our Bed & Breakfast near the Termini Train Station at 3:00 PM on the 27th. British Airways was fairly comfortable and the meals were pretty good, but still it was difficult to get a decent sleep on board, so when we arrived at our B&B we showered and then slept for 3 hours. We tried to find an ATM in the airport, because we needed €260 to pay for our room upon arrival. I could not get my card to work in the ATM we found, so I had to go to a Currency Exchange counter to exchange $800 cash and paid the 11.5% commission fee they charge. Ouch! At their posted exchange rate I should have received €509.13, but after their commission was deducted, I walked away with €445.65 which is a fee of $99.75 on $800.00. My advice would be to avoid the Currency Exchange counters in the airports at all cost. This was my first (and LAST) experience with them.

I found the Bed and Breakfast through the Internet, and chose it because it had a private bath. A lot of places you have to share a bathroom with one or two other rooms. It wasn't the Ritz, but it was affordable, and we were only going to be sleeping there. The rest of the time we planned to be touring all over the city.

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Not large, but certainly adequate. Our neighbors were party goers, as we would hear them come in around 3 AM.

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The bathroom was functional, clean and most importantly, private.

A very nice Asian woman managed the place, and there were 3 units, plus hers. Every day when we were out, she would put fresh fruit on the tray next to the refrigerator. She also provided us with coffee and some cheap Wonder Bread type croissants. I only had one to know that I couldn't eat another. There were also some Twinky style sweet things, which were actually edible to me, but not to Pete.

The window was double paned glass, so it kept the street noise out very efficiently. The bed was a little hard, but much better than an airline seat. After our nap we felt fairly refreshed, so we scouted around our neighborhood, in search of a restaurant.

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As you can see, our B&B (yellow dot) was quite close to the Termini train station. To me, this was important, because in 5 days we would be taking the train to get to the port. It was pretty convenient, and the Metro was only a block away.

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We started our walk, and you can see the sky is becoming a little threatening. We thought that we probably
should have taken our umbrellas with us. You learn these lessons slowly, but you do learn them. LOL

Well, it started to rain, and the more we walked, the more intense the rain became. We happened to find a very nice looking restaurant, but Pete would not go in the way we were dressed (shorts and sandals).

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I thought we looked just fine, but we agreed to go back to our room and get our umbrellas, as we were starting to get pretty wet, and we changed into long pants and street shoes. I'm actually glad we did, because the restaurant was very nice, and we had an excellent first meal in Rome. I got a veal dish and Pete got a pasta dish.

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We started off our meal outside, under an awning, but the rain became so intense that we were forced inside. There was
a space above Pete where the rain came pelting down, and had we stayed outside, Pete would have been drenched. In
the top two photos we are outside, and our waiter moved us inside to a booth in the bottom right photo.

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I had ordered a veal dish and Pete ordered a pasta dish. Both were very good. For dessert I got the tiramisu.
They put a little crowned face on it with chocolate syrup. Pete got a Sambuca. We were both very satisfied.

I liked the name of the restaurant, "Rom Antica", as it was a pretty romantic place, with great ambiance.

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Our waiter was very nice, and he had a great sense of humor.

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The menu had some cool art on the cover, and I thought it was worthy of a photo.

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We had finished the meal, and were relaxing. We were having a good time. The waiter took our photo.

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After dinner the rain had let up, so we decided to walk around a bit before returning to our abode. Note the cobble
stones. These got pretty tiring very fast. My feet were ready for a good soaking every night when we returned home.

It seamed that all over the city you could find these drinking fountains. There was a small hole in the top, so if you
plugged the end of the pipe with your thumb, the water shot up so you could take a drink. Pretty cleaver.

Pete spent the rest of the evening figuring out what we would do the next day. The first thing we did was to purchase two Roma Passes, which gave us 3 days use of all the public transportation options, plus free entry into 2 major tourist attractions. The next day we walked to the Colosseum. Having the Roma Passes was a huge win there. The line to get in was extremely long as you can see from this next photo, and it wasn't moving very fast at all.

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On a hill across from the Colosseum as we approached, we could see the hoards of tourists waiting to get in.

We thought we had to wait in that long line (something Pete read about having to pass through security first), so we went down and queued up, and during our first 10 minutes we kept getting approached by young people who wanted to sell us a guided tour. One of these, an nice young girl, asked us if we had the Roma Passes, and when we showed them to her, she told us that we did not have to wait in this line, but could go to the far left and just walk directly in. FANTASTIC! We could see that we might spend a couple of hours just in that line. We walked past everyone in the line and entered a side door that put us in the lower portico, and once there, it was obvious that the line outside was just the tip of the iceberg. Inside the portico their line continued, but we just walked past everyone and went directly through a gate which put us inside the Colosseum where we could walk up the stairs to any level, or peruse the museum. It was amazing, and it had obviously changed a lot from when Pete and I visited here in September of 1997. Back then we were actually able to explore the area beneath the arena, where the animals and the Christians were actually caged.

You could easily spend 2 or 3 hours walking all around the inside of the Colosseum at different levels. There was art and artifacts, and interesting historical information all along the way.

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An artist's perception of what the Colosseum must have been like in its glory.

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The series of stepped seating areas of the amphitheatre, the cavea, highlighting the distinctions between the classes of
Roman society, in a progression -from low to high- of five sections, starting with the privileged seats on the podium next

to the arena, up to the wooden steps inside the colonnaded portico occupied by the plebs.

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A few of the many ornately carved marble capitals of the pillars which supported the amphitheatre.
With the exception of the last one. That I believe was actually from one of Nero's residences.

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They have rebuilt a portion of the arena floor. You used to be able to walk among the cells and cages below the level of
the arena floor, but that area is now off limits. It was interesting back then to be able to walk into a cell where Christians
were held, and across from that were the cages for the lions that would soon be eating them on the floor of the arena, to
the delight of the Roman populous. Observing todays world, we apparently have not evolved very much past this stage.
Here I refer to a boxing match, to roller derby or kick boxing where anything goes. It was called sport in the Colosseum
and it is still called sport today, but it is much the same as it was then.

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The massive size of the Colosseum is truly astounding. How I wish I could travel back in time and see it when Caesar
sat in his box and gave life or took it, depending upon the direction his thumb pointed, up for life or down for death.

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I have never tried to sculpt a figure from a piece of marble, so I am in awe at seeing what beauty can be drawn from the stone.

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We have pretty much covered the Colosseum, so now we will head for the Roman Forum by way of the Palatine Hill.

But first, a little bit of the history of the Colosseum. The original Latin name was Amphitheatrum Flavium, often anglicized as Flavian Amphitheater. The building was constructed by emperors of the Flavian dynasty, hence its original name, after the reign of Emperor Nero. This name is still used in modern English, but generally the structure is better known as the Colosseum. The name Colosseum has long been believed to be derived from the colossal statue of Nero nearby, which was named after the Colossus of Rhodes.

In the 8th century, a famous epigram attributed to the Venerable Bede celebrated the symbolic significance of the statue in a prophecy that is variously quoted: Quamdiu stat Colisĉus, stat et Roma; quando cadet colisĉus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus ("as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world").

Construction of the Colosseum began under the rule of the Emperor Vespasian in around 70-72 AD. The site chosen was a flat area on the floor of a low valley between Caelian, Esquiline and Palatine Hills, through which a canalised stream ran. By the 2nd century BC the area was densely inhabited. It was devastated by the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, following which Nero seized much of the area to add to his personal domain. He built the grandiose Domus Aurea on the site, in front of which he created an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes.

Although the Colossus was preserved, much of the Domus Aurea was torn down. The lake was filled in and the land reused as the location for the new Flavian Amphitheatre. Gladiatorial schools and other support buildings were constructed nearby within the former grounds of the Domus Aurea. According to a reconstructed inscription found on the site, "the emperor Vespasian ordered this new amphitheatre to be erected from his general's share of the booty." This is thought to refer to the vast quantity of treasure seized by the Romans following their victory in the Great Jewish Revolt in 70 AD. The Colosseum can be thus interpreted as a great triumphal monument built in the Roman tradition of celebrating great victories, placating the Roman people instead of returning soldiers. Vespasian's decision to build the Colosseum on the site of Nero's lake can also be seen as a populist gesture of returning to the people an area of the city which Nero had appropriated for his own use.

The Colosseum had been completed up to the third story by the time of Vespasian's death in 79. The top level was finished and the building inaugurated by his son, Titus, in 80. Dio Cassius recounts that over 9,000 wild animals were killed during the inaugural games of the amphitheatre.

In 217, the Colosseum was badly damaged by a major fire (caused by lightning, according to Dio Cassius) which destroyed the wooden upper levels of the amphitheatre's interior. It was not fully repaired until about 240 and underwent further repairs in 250 or 252 and again in 320.

The Colosseum underwent several radical changes of use during the medieval period. By the late 6th century a small church had been built into the structure of the amphitheatre, though this apparently did not confer any particular religious significance on the building as a whole. The arena was converted into a cemetery. The numerous vaulted spaces in the arcades under the seating were converted into housing and workshops, and are recorded as still being rented out as late as the 12th century. Around 1200 the Frangipani family took over the Colosseum and fortified it, apparently using it as a castle.

Severe damage was inflicted on the Colosseum by the great earthquake in 1349, causing the outer south side, lying on the least stable alluvial terrain, to collapse. Much of the tumbled stone was reused to build palaces, churches, hospitals and other buildings elsewhere in Rome. A religious order moved into the northern third of the Colosseum in the mid-14th century and continued to inhabit it until as late as the early 19th century. The interior of the amphitheatre was extensively stripped of stone, which was reused elsewhere, or (in the case of the marble façade) was burned to make quicklime. The bronze clamps which held the stonework together were pried or hacked out of the walls, leaving numerous pockmarks which still scar the building today.

During the 16th and 17th century, Church officials sought a productive role for the Colosseum. Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) planned to turn the building into a wool factory to provide employment for Rome's prostitutes, though this proposal fell through with his premature death. In 1671 Cardinal Altieri authorized its use for bullfights; a public outcry caused the idea to be hastily abandoned.

In 1749 Pope Benedict XIV endorsed as official Church policy the view that the Colosseum was a sacred site where early Christians had been martyred. He forbade the use of the Colosseum as a quarry and consecrated the building to the Passion of Christ and installed the Stations of the Cross, declaring it sanctified by the blood of the Christian martyrs who perished there. However there is no historical evidence to support Benedict's claim, nor is there even any evidence that anyone prior to the 16th century suggested this might be the case; the Catholic Encyclopedia concludes that there are no historical grounds for the supposition. Later popes initiated various stabilization and restoration projects, removing the extensive vegetation which had overgrown the structure and threatened to damage it further. The façade was reinforced with triangular brick wedges in 1807 and 1827, the interior was repaired in 1831, 1846 and in the 1930s. The arena substructure was partly excavated in 1810-1814 and 1874 and was fully exposed under Benito Mussolini in the 1930s.

The Colosseum is today one of Rome's most popular tourist attractions, receiving millions of visitors annually. The effects of pollution and general deterioration over time prompted a major restoration programme carried out between 1993 and 2000, at a cost of 40 billion italian lire ($19.3m / €20.6 at 2000 prices). In recent years it has become a symbol of the international campaign against capital punishment, which was abolished in Italy in 1948. Several anti-death penalty demonstrations took place in front of the Colosseum in 2000. Since that time, as a gesture against the death penalty, the local authorities of Rome change the color of the colosseum's night time illumination from white to gold whenever a person condemned to the death penalty anywhere in the world gets their sentence commuted or is released, or if a jurisdiction abolishes the death penalty. Most recently the Colosseum was illuminated in gold when capital punishment was abolished in the American state of New Mexico in April 2009.

According to the Codex-Calendar of 354, the Colosseum could accommodate 87,000 people. The arena itself was 83 meters by 48 meters (272 ft by 157 ft). It comprised a wooden floor covered by sand (the Latin word for sand is harena or arena), covering the elaborate underground structure called the hypogeum (literally meaning "underground").

In 2011, Diego Della Valle founder of Tod's shoe firm, entered into an agreement with local officials to sponsor a €25 million restoration of the Colosseum. Work is planned to begin at the end of 2011 and take up to two and a half years. If this actually does happen, it might be a good idea to plan a trip to Rome near the end of 2014 to visit the restored Colosseum.

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I'm not sure how far €25 million will go in restoring such a huge structure, but I will be curious enough to find out in 2½ years, assuming the economy will turn itself around, and Italy does not go the way Greece is heading.

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From the top tier if the Colosseum we look out towards Palatine Hill where we will be heading next, and we see the Arch of Constantine, a triumphal arch commemorating Constantine I's victory over Maxentius at the
Battle of Milvian Bridge on October 28, 312.

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We take one last look as we reach ground level, and shudder to think of all the work that lies ahead in an effort to restore the Colosseum to its former self, if that is indeed the intent. The saying goes, Rome
was not built in a day, and the thought of restoration gives that saying new meaning in my mind.

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The Arch of Constantine. After years of civil war, the victory of Constantine's army over the numerically superior army of Maxentius at the Battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD brought some peace to the Roman empire. To commemorate this victory, the Senate of Rome awarded Constantine a Triumphal arch. It was dedicated just a few years later, in 315 AD.

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During construction, many parts from older structures were reused, which was common practice at the time. The statues at the top were taken from the Forum of Trajan. They depict Dacian captured soldiers, defeated by the Trajan army. The reliefs between the statueswere created for Marcus Aurelius while the roundels (and possibly even the arch itself) are from emperor Hadrian's time.

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Isn't it amazing what you can learn with just a little help from the Internet? Well, now it's on to Chapter two, and the Palatine Hill