Today we got to see the Colosseum! And the Forum! And stumbled into a lovely little enclave in Rome that reminded me of the Latin Quarter in Paris. And enjoyed stuffed zucchini blossoms! And walked what felt like a hundred miles. But Rome has enchanted me! We even ended up on the wrong Appian way – who knew there was more than one? Oh right – I should have been looking for the Via Appia Antica… Anyway, here’s how our day unfolded. First it was off to the Colosseum. We arrived in good time and decided to take advantage of the fact that we could get cappuccinos at a little cafe right next to one of the world’s most famous ruins. How could we pass up an opportunity like this?
With trusty Roma Passes in hand, we made our way to the front of a very long line and were inside within two minutes! For those of you who are thinking about purchasing a Roma Pass – the line jumping benefits definitely make it worthwhile.
It is pretty amazing to be able to walk around this fabled and somewhat infamous monument. One of the people that Scotty has been studying for the past several years is Ignatius of Antioch, an early Church father who was one of the relatively few Christians actually martyred in the Colosseum. Here’s what he wrote while he was being taken to Rome where death awaited him:
“Allow me to become food for the wild beasts, through whose instrumentality it will be granted me to attain to God. I am the wheat of God, and let me be ground by the teeth of the wild beasts, that I may be found the pure bread of Christ. Rather entice the wild beasts, that they may become my tomb, and may leave nothing of my body; so that when I have fallen asleep [in death], I may be no trouble to any one. Then shall I truly be a disciple of Christ, when the world shall not see so much as my body.” – Epistle to the Romans (4)
While walking around the huge stadium the gravity of his words becomes very real – it’s easy to imagine Ignatius approaching the packed Colosseum, the roars of the crowds reaching his ears before he can even sees the great structure, knowing that sure death awaited him. And this is the very reason I love to travel – when you’re standing in the places where history takes place it takes on a whole new element of reality. It suddenly becomes easier to think about people being fed to lions, or crowds lustily cheering on their favorite gladiator. It’s easy to imagine the emperor taking his seat and determining life or death with a careless gesture. It’s also strange to think that two thousand years later we still build stadiums modeled after this ancient one. And we still gather together to be entertained – thankfully there is now less blood involved. It made me wonder if there were vendors walking around the Colosseum with trays of olives and fruit – hawking their wares. Were people prohibited from bringing their own drinks into the Colosseum, did they grumble about paying exorbitant prices for stadium wine? Seeing history up close and personal reminds us that the people we read about in those dreadful textbooks were not so very different. They had feelings, desires, dreams, and loves just like us. The stage sets are a bit different but the humanity is the same – and that gets lost in the jumble of dates, facts, names. Walking through history reminds us that all of this is a part of our story, and we’re all connected by this shared epic – the great narrative of history. How cool is that?
Next we wandered a bit around the edges of the Forum on our way to the Circus Maximus.
Well, I’d failed to do adequate research when it came to the Circus – there is pretty much nothing there. But we did wander past this:
And then, completely on accident, we ended up in Trastevere! What a charming little area. My brother Solomon had told me about it but I’d completely forgotten and then suddenly we were walking through this quiet maze of winding roads, beautiful buildings, and I felt like I was in the Latin Quarter of Paris.
This section of town is overflowing with cafes, interesting shops, galleries. As we were walking through it on a Saturday afternoon, it was really quiet. We had a delicious lunch at a sidewalk cafe and discovered the deliciousness of fried courgette flowers. They’re amazing! And then we just walked around – this is definitely a part of Rome I want to get to know better.
The last thing on our agenda for the day was the Appian Way. I really wanted to see the most famous street in history – so we consulted the map that Scotty had downloaded to his iPod and caught a metro and then a train to the Appiano stop. Fail. This was not it at all. We were in a part of the city that no tourist ever visits. Oops. While we sat on some steps and consulted our real (ie. not electronic) maps, we were greeted by these two elderly ladies. In good but broken English they told us that they were twin sisters who had been born during WW2! They were adorable – two of the cutest people I’ve ever seen. They looked alike, were obviously the best of friends, and just chatted with us for a little while. It made our long diversion worthwhile – we heard about the six months they’d spent in the States when they were younger. I wanted to adopt them as great aunts!
Since it was still early evening we decided to check out another section of Rome and got back on the train. When we emerged from the subway 45 minutes later, surprise, surprise, we were at the old Appian entry to Rome! Completely by accident we’d found our original destination. It was dark at this point so I didn’t get to see everything I wanted but that just means we’ll have to go back.
It was another exhausting but exciting day of sightseeing! Tomorrow is our last full day in Rome and rain is forecast so we’re hoping to get in some sights but have reconciled with the fact that we’re going to have to come back for another visit.