Two weeks ago, the family and I embarked on our first trip to Europe in at least a couple of years. Having been to France a few times, the boys decided that they would rather go to Italy this time around, specifically Rome. Since neither my wife nor I had been to the Eternal City (despite many trips to Italy), we readily agreed.
After a couple of days on our own in the 100°+ temperatures, we hired a guide to help us circumvent the line and have a private tour of the Colosseum, Palatine Hill (the ruins of the Flavian Palace), and the Roman Forum (the ruins of the ancient capital of the Roman Empire).
Here are a few pictures from the tour:
We were to meet our guide between the Colosseum and Constatine’s Arch, the largest of Roman triumphal arches, which was dedicated in 315 A.D.
We were not the only people meeting their guides there, as there were several hundred other folk in the 100°+ temperatures doing the same. Spots in the shade were at a premium.
From the moment we entered the Colosseum (which, according to the guide, is actually an amphitheater–it was given the term “Colosseo” due to the enormous statue of Nero, the Colossus, that was installed adjacent to the amphitheater), spots in the shade were immensely popular.
Let me get this out of the way: our guide was horrible. Her English was at best passable, but she was not all that informative, a bit out of touch (more on that later), and really not engaging at all. But she did enable us to skirt the rather lengthy line and get inside the Colosseum fairly quickly.
Sh did point out a couple of interesting spots, though. Here, the white marble at the bottom of the picture, is what all of the seating looked like before it was pillaged over the years following the fall of the empire. The benches that have been restored are where the senators would have been seated (this area is also visible in the above picture).
The views from under the arches seemed more desirable (and considerably cooler).
One of the more useful tidbits (or should I say one of the few tidbits) that our guide provided was pointing out the gladiators’ “locker room. They would “relax” just adjacent to the Colosseum until it was their time to fight at which point there was an underground passage to take them to the arena.
We then headed to Palatine Hill and the ruins of the Flavian Palace, where the Roman Emperors resided.
It is an enormous area, impossible to describe in words or pictures.
Virtually all of the extant walls of the palace contain square holes, which housed metal pegs that held marble paneling, if you will, to make it appear as if the building were made of marble.
The Stadium of Domitian, which was within the palace, must have been enormous.
The views of the Roman Forum from Palatine Hill are breathtaking.
As I mentioned, our guide was at best odd, and at worst, well, horrible. For some reason, she was trying to connect with the boys all afternoon, despite their obvious desire to just be done with the entire escapade.
As we entered the Roman Forum, she made the following attempt to connect with Sebastian:
Guide: “So what do you want to be when you grow up?”
A fairly innocuous question, but when addressing a ten-year-old who has spent vastly more time contemplating what he wants to be for Halloween than his ultimate career prospects, the response was predictable…
Seba: “I dunno.”
Guide: “Perhaps a playboy? With many fiancées?”
At this point, I jumped in and ushered the young lad away from the instantly creepier tour guide.
Our guide took us into the Roman Forum, but only pointed out one ruin, the Temple of Antonius Pius, built in 141 A.D. since she wanted to point out the water levels of the various floods. She then promptly left.
Utterly disappointed with the tour of the Roman Forum, we returned on our own, several days later. These are the remnants of the Temple of Saturn.
We paid our way in again and rented the audio tour for another 7€. While in a desperate need of an update and better signage, it was vastly superior to our guide (an admittedly low bar). This is the Temple of Castor and Pollux.
Statues at the House of the Vestal Virgins. In retrospect, I am glad the guide did not point this out to Sebastian.
The Arch of Septimus Severus.
I do not recall what this is, but I like the shot.
By far, at least for me, the most amazing Basillica in the Forum was that of Maxentus and Constantine. Just the sheer size of it was incredible. Nathan, in the lower right corner, is about 50 meters away from the base.
After three hours in the Forum, we left content. We were all so glad we returned. We contemplated returning to the Colosseum, but it was far too hot, and we were exhausted.