First stop on our tour: The Colosseum!
Able to seat 50,000 fans, the Colosseum was built in A.D. 80 to host gladiator contests and public events.
Like I said in my previous post, Rome has literally built itself up around the ancient ruins scattered throughout the city and the Colosseum is no different.
One minute you’re walking down the street, cars & mopeds whizzing by, then all the sudden you see it. You’re like, “Oh. OH! That’s the Colosseum!”
You walk in under endless, cold, stone archways,
pass through shadowy, ominous hallways,
and finally enter the biggest open amphitheater you’ve ever seen. This. place. is. HUGE!
Originally there would have been a wooden floor stretching over the entire base (shown by the partial concrete section they’ve added.)
The wood would be covered with sand to mop up the blood, sweat and tears of the men and animals killed for sport here.
Said men and animals were kept in dungeon-esque rooms below the floor, until it was showtime.
Can you even imagine how terrifying that would be??
Men battled each other and animals at the Colosseum. Lions, tigers, bears, elephants, crocodiles and hippos, to name a few!
During it’s inauguration, lasting 100 days, fans lined the plaster bleachers and watched a total of 2,000 men and 9,000 animals killed. Workers would go around spraying perfume to quench the smell.
You can kind of feel the panic in the air as you wander around almost in a daze.
It’s hard to wrap your head around what you’re walking around in and how old it is. It was one of the most surreal, yet exciting, experiences of our trip!
Let’s wander a little west, shall we? Stop number two: The Trevi Fountain!
Built in 1762, the Trevi Fountain was requested by the Pope to celebrate the re-opening of Rome’s aqueducts, that still power the flow today, and is built on the backside of a palace.
You can hear the fountain before you see it, as water pours from 24 different spots.
Just like everything else in Rome, you literally cannot believe how BIG it is! At least 6 stories tall and 50 yards wide.
Easily one of the most popular sites in Rome, it was packed at all hours of the day.
We would know…we went back like 15 times…that place has a magnetic pull! It’s SO COOL!
The thing to do at the fountain, after you pick your jaw up, is to toss in a coin wishing for whatever it is your heart desires. Can’t tell you what mine was!
The coins are collected at some point every week or so to help feed the hungry in Rome. I heard a story about a homeless guy who used to sneak in during the middle of the night to snatch a few – reportedly getting close to $1,000 each time he went it. A constant police presence has since put the kabosh on that!
Finally we arrive at the final must see site in Rome – the Vatican Museum & St. Peter’s Basilica!
The Vatican museum is decorated by the likes of Raphael and Michelangelo, and is the gateway to perhaps the most famous ceiling in the world atop the Sistine Chapel.
Tip: DON’T go on a Monday, and DO make a reservation!!!! We did and didn’t – and waited in line for almost 2 hours!
Ben isn’t much of a touristy kind of guy – but this leg of the trip was what he was MOST looking forward to. Giddy!
The museum is filled with picturesque peeks into courtyards,
and views of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Something that surprised me, were the inclusion of exhibits on items like ancient Egypt!
I used to be obsessed with Egypt (and still am, to be honest) so I was especially pleased to wander through the mummies, artifacts and ancient tombs.
The Vatican museum has no shortage of jaw dropping statues, impossibly – impeccably – carved from the hardest of materials.
Oh I have to show you – most of the statues were carved, ahem, true to life, only to be censored by shy church officials later on. Come on!
Ok, the weren’t ALL censored – like this sculpture of Apollo - once considered to be the most perfect scuplture on earth.
Or this sculpture of Laocoon, the high preist of Troy.
Good ol’ Hercules was though! What a gorgeous statue!
Throughout the tour, Rick Steves guided the way. The thing about Rome is that there are no explanations or plaques interfering with the ruins or museums. You don’t really know what it is you’re looking at unless you have a guide!
Other can’t miss attractions at the museum included the elaborate ceilings,
and impossibly tall arched walkways.
The beautiful corridors,
and Raphael’s paintings that covered the walls in some parts of the museum.
Including the one where he painted in Michelangelo, who was just down the hall working on the Sistine Chapel!
The biggest draw to the museum, of course, IS the Sistine Chapel. Painted over four years by Michaelangelo, it is the personal chapel to the Pope and one of the most incredible, amazing, stunning, unforgettable things I’ve ever seen.
Unfortunately, you can’t take pictures or videos of it – so you’ll have to come to Rome to see it for yourself!!!
After gawking at the ceiling, and rubbing your sore neck, you spill out onto St. Peter’s square .
The centerpiece is St. Peter’s Basilica which is over 6 acres in size. No words needed. This place is too beautiful for words.
And that concludes our tour of the 3 must-see sites in Rome! What’dya think?!
If you’ve been to Rome before, what was your favorite part?
If you haven’t been, what would you be most excited to see?