After Venice, I was initially a little disappointed by the city of Rome. In Venice right after we got off the train station it was a beautiful canal and beautiful structures right in front of us and all around us. But with Rome, when we got off the train station, it looked like we were just in another old city. But Rome did not disappoint.
The first day we went to the Colosseum. No matter how much grandeur we were expecting, we could not have expected a more amazing structure. It was very crowded and chaotic but it was large enough to hold everyone without getting in the way of us enjoying the stadium.
Fortunately AB looked it up beforehand and found that it was important for us to get tickets for a specific tour to see the underground portion and the upper ring. However even when we booked on the first day when it was available, all the English tours were booked, so we had to book an Italian one. It turned out okay, although we didn't understand the tour guide, neither did about 15 the other people on the tour (American and Chinese). We just listen to the American tour guy giving a tour to the other five people who were American, and looked up things on Wikipedia.
The history of the Colosseum was very interesting. Apparently it was used not just for Gladiator fighting, but also for regular performances like theatricals. Also because it was dedicated as a Christian structure, it was relatively spared of destruction. Seeing the underground portion was very interesting, because that's where they stored the animals and the slaves. They also showed us a rebuilt of the trapdoor that lifted animals and slaves up onto the main stage. Going up to the upper ring was very interesting too, because we got to see an overall view of the Colosseum from above. The size of the stadium was amazing, and it was also sad to see how much of it was destroyed.
Since the Palatine Hills were right next to the Colosseum, we thought we would just visit the Palatine Hills and Roman Forum the same day as the Colosseum, but I think it was a bit of history overload for us.
The Palatine Hills were where the wealthy lived in the past. This included royalty and politicians. However much of the structures from the past have become ruins. We could imagine how grand it was in the past, and it was sad to see that not much of it was left. Some of the buildings would have been bigger than Disney World. We could imagine the old living rooms, bedrooms, or Hordeleum (race horse track), and rooms where they entertain their wealthy guests. There was marble and art from all over the world. Despite all the ware and tear the buildings have withstood, we could still see certain intricacies such as the detailed patterns in the ceilings and mosaic floors.
From the Palatine Hills there was a gorgeous view of the Roman Forum: from the Colosseum to the Senate House. This was where ancient government buildings and temples were located. It was also known as the marketplace where all the hustle and bustle was. Triumphal processions, public speeches, criminal trials, and commercial exchanges took place there. We wish we had listened to Rick Steve's guide, but the lonely planet guide also gave a good picture of what the Forum used to look like. At the southern end was the Arch of Titus that the Arch Du Tromphe was modeled after. There were also ruins of the Temple of Vestal Virgins, the Regia (ancient royal residence), and the Shrine of Vulcan that became the Comitium, where Senate had formal gatherings. The judiciary and Senate later moved to the Basilica Julia built by Julius Caesar.
In the North, stands the 8 remaining columns of the Temple of Saturn which also functioned as a bank. Near it also stood a few remaining columns and pedestals of the Temple of Concord, Vesta, and Castor and Pollux. People performed animal sacrifices before them.
Because the area used to be a marsh and sediments from the flooded Tiber would settle there, the level of the Forum had been rising with people paving over the sediments.
It was a super hot day, so we took refuge in a tiny super expensive cafe inside and ate some yummy ice cream popsicles. We also waited forever for the bathroom because there was only ONE bathroom open for the entire place! We didn't get to walk through the whole thing...We were historied out.
We slowly strolled to the Trevi Fountain, featured in the film La Dolce Vita. It was beyond crowded. There were so many people we couldn't even reach the fountain to touch it. It was tradition to throw a coin using your right hand over your left shoulder backwards into the fountain, meaning that you'll come back to Rome someday. Alan warned me multiple times not to do it because I might hit somebody since we were standing several feet away and on the steps. I insisted on doing it the proper way. Sure enough, when I threw it, it hit some guy's leg. The guy was so nice, he gave me back my coin and Alan threw into the fountain facing forward. All the coins from the Trevi Fountain are collected daily and given to donation. After they made a law forbidding people from taking coins from the Trevi Fountain their profit increased significantly.
We continued our Excursion to the Baroque Piazza Navona. This is what one-way imagined to be the quintessential Roman Piazza. There were street artists, musicians, people sitting outside of restaurants getting a drink and enjoying the view. In the very center is Bernini's Fountain of the Four rivers. The four figures represent gods of the four major rivers: the Nile (Africa), the Danube (Europe), the Rio de la Plata (America's), and the Ganges (Asia). On top is an obelisk with a dove holding an olive branch representing the emblem of Pope Innocent X's family, whom, this fountain was dedicated to. The Pope's palace faces the fountain as well as the Church Sant'Agnese in Agone.
The Ganges long oar represents it's navigability. The Niles head has a cloth draped upon it meaning no one knew where the source of the Nile was. The Danube touches the Pope's coat of arms because it was the closest to Rome. Rio de la Plata is sitting on a pile of coins represents riches from the New World. He is also scared by a snake meaning rich men's fear that their money could be stolen. A myth has it that the Rio de la Plata is cowering from the church of Sant'Agnese, fearing this structure built by his rival Bromini will crumble on him.
We continued on to the Pantheon, but it was closed that day because of a Holiday. We decided to enjoy a nice meal in a small restaurant featured in the Lonely Planet, and we took the bus back. But we had to walk quite a ways to find a bus ticket as it seems all the bus ticket stations close around dinner time. For those visiting, note that there is an app to download for easy access to bus tickets!