So, I am detouring from my travel diary to focus on specific places in Rome. Why? Just because Rome demands and deserves it, Rome exudes beauty, vibe, power, history. Rome, well Rome is so diverse, so fantastic that it surely has forever a special place in me.
As I wrote previously I lacked planning on my first trip to Italy. I did plan for Florence and Venice, but no plans for Rome. I would be there alone, and I would see it at my pace. I did miss places (I did not see Coliseum inside, Sistine Chapel, Saint Peters basilica inside, Borghese gardens and gallery), but now I realize I subconsciously did it on purpose. Because I want to go there again, and again, and again. Each time seeing new places, new corners, and repeating others that by either its charm of the impact they had, are worth a revisit.
The power and magnificence of the Roman Empire is everywhere, every street, piazza, corner, building. It is a city with so much character, where you truly breath history, you are literally transported back in time, and if you have a prolific imagination like me, you can vividly see the ancient Rome and feel there.
I walked km each day in Italy. I broke every record in Rome. I never thought it would be possible to walk 27km in one day. Well it is. It was. It will again be, soon I promise. Rome is so walking friendly, that I did not even feel I was walking so much. Early autumn still with sunshine and hot days, but cooler nights, so good for a wine and a nice meal.
So today I will focus on a small area that deserves a special post due to the history it exhales: The area that comprises Fori Imperiali – the Forum Trajano, Circo Maximo and Colosseum.
The Roman Forum was built over a marshy area, that was drained in the 6th century B.C. using Cloaca Maxima, one of the first sewer systems known in the world.
The forum comprises a huge number temples (Venus, Vesta, Saturn, Romulus, among others as well as the Via Sacra (the main street in ancient Rome), the Arch of Titus (commemorates the victory of Rome over Jerusalem), Arch of Septimus Severus, Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, Temple of Maxentius and Constantine, the Curia: (where the Senate met) and the Column of Phocas (dating back from 608 A.D. is over 13 meters high, is one of the few that have remained standing).
Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus
The Palatine Hill is approximately 40 meters above the Roman Forum and one of the oldest parts of the city. It is considered as the place where the Italian capital city was born, dating back to 1 thousand years BC.
According to Roman mythology, the cave where Luperca (the she wolf that adopted Romulus and Remus lived) is in Palatine Hill. The brothers grew up and decided they would form a city on the banks of the Tevere River, but they could not agree on some particulars of that decision. Romulus then killed his own brother and founded Rome.
The Palatine Hill holds an impressive array of ruins of buildings that belonged to the members of the high society. Among them you can find:
- Domus Flavia: Dating back from 81 B.C. and built by order of Emperor Domitian. Some parts of it can still be seen.
- House of Augustus: a private residence of the Emperor Octavian Augustus, who served as the first Emperor of the Roman Empire, controlling Imperial Rome from 27 BC until his death in AD 14. The building had two levels and today still has part of the frescoes that decorated the walls.
- Farnese Gardens: dating back from the 16th century they were one of the first botanical gardens of Europe.
- Hippodrome of Domitian
Circus Maximus was the largest stadium in ancient Rome, where chariot races were held. It dates back from the 6th century BC and it began to be constructed by order of King Tarquinius Priscus. It is located between the Palatine and Aventine Hills (two of the seven Hills on which Rome stands). The stadium was reached its maximum size during Emperor Constantine reign, with a seating capacity 250,000 people, approximately 1/4 of the Rome’s population at the time.
The Colosseum and Arch of Constantine
The Colosseum was used by the Roman Emperors to entertain the public with games that were a symbol of power as well as prestige. The games comprised comical acts and displays of exotic animals as entrance acts, to open space for the deadly fights between animals and gladiators or between gladiators themselves.
Trajan is said to have celebrated his victories in Dacia in 107 with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days. During lunch intervals, executions ad bestias would be staged. Those condemned to death would be sent into the arena, naked and unarmed, to face the beasts of death which would literally tear them to pieces. Other performances would also take place by acrobats and magicians, typically during the intervals.
the great earthquake in 1349 severely damaged the Colosseum and collapsed the outer south side, that was over alluvial terrain. Much of the stone was reused to build palaces, churches, and other buildings in Rome.
It is a beautiful and impressive structure, carved with decorations. The frieze depicts Constantine’s army driving the troops of Maxentius into the Tiber.