Our apartment is in a residential neighborhood on the OTHER side of the Tiber River from many of the sites and is very peaceful. There are little markets and cute neighborhood restaurants filled with locals where the menu is only in Italian. So it was a little bit of a culture shock to go to the touristy side and see the mobs of people everywhere. But we were on a mission – to see the sites of Ancient Rome.
The most visited site in Rome is the Coliseum. People line up for hours just to get in. Fortunately, we had booked a tour so could by-pass the line (with The Roman Guy – we highly recommend!). Not only were we to see the Coliseum, but we were going to the one of the places where most tourists aren’t allowed – the actual floor.
We met up with our group, strode past all those waiting in line to a locked gate. Soon, a lady with a key emerged and opened it for the 8 of us. Before we knew it, we were walking through the same tunnel where the gladiators walked – to the floor of the Coliseum. Wow! Most of the public just gets to see the second and third levels – which are impressive in themselves. So was really amazing to experience the place from the floor – and with only 8 of us.
Then we went through another locked gate to the lower level that housed cages for the exotic beasts that were forced to fight in the arena – giraffes, elephants, lions, bears. Again, it was just the 8 of us, so you could take time to really think about what it was like “in the day.”
Next, we boarded an elevator that whisked us to the top tier – also not open to the public. We could take pictures and look down on the “regular” tourists and where we had just been. It was quite an experience.
Palantine Hill & Roman Forum
After the Coliseum, our little band of 8 headed over to Palantine Hill and walked all over the ruins of the Imperial Palace. This is the palace overlooking Circus Maximums that we had seen a few days earlier. We wondered who those people were up there – not it was us!
And then the Roman Forum. This is an area that dates back to Julius Caesar that has been excavated. There are temples, homes, and even Caesar’s gravesite.
After all that history, we were ready for dinner. So we walked back to our side of the river to a cool neighborhood called Trastevere – a working man’s area that now has trendy trattorias and shops.
We had an excellent meal and walked back to our neck of the woods – closer to St. Peter’s. We stopped in for gelato and found ourselves in the company of four “padres” (priests), who had probably walked over from the Vatican and were also out for a little after-dinner sweet.
What a fun and unique city this is – we are loving it!