My Birthday in Rome

We got a pretty late start today because:

A) It’s my Birthday!!

B) My wonderful husband went out and got me coffee, Kahlua and a croissant for breakfast

C) It’s my birthday

D) I did some laundry

E) Did I mention that it was my Birthday!?!?!?

Finally on our way, we headed in the direction of the Pantheon, a 2000 year old temple that is now the Basilica di Santa Maria ad Martyres. However, the walk in Rome is never one dimensional and before we were even ten minutes in we had already stopped to take a number of pictures of ruins, churches, statues and buildings. Again, it is hard to describe everything that we see because block after block is picture worthy.

We arrived at the Pantheon and were amazed to see a fountain and an obelisk in the piazza. These were pretty cool but the main attraction was well worth the walk. Originally built in 126 AD by the emperor Hadrian, it is one of the best-preserved of all ancient Roman buildings, in large part because it has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a church. Evidence now shows that this building was constructed on the site of an earlier temple commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD). Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest    un-reinforced concrete dome. The dome is actually open on top in order to support the concrete (not sure how that works exactly) so rain does come in. This is drained through 22 small holes in the floor.  The interior in completely circular with the altar directly across from the door. Another amazing feat of architecture and unlike anything that we have seen to date.

A short walk down another narrow street and we reached the Piazza Navona. This open concept square is on the site of the Stadium of Domitian, built in the 1st century AD where ancient Romans went to watch the “agones” – games. (predating the Colosseum). Erected in the centre of the plaza is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). At each end there are smaller fountains – the Fontana del Moro and the Fountain of Neptune. Though less majestic than their centre counterpart, they are beautiful nonetheless.

Another short jaunt and we reached the Tiber River. We walked across the Ponte Umberto towards the Supreme Court Building. This building was absolutely spectacular!! We walked along the river towards the Castel Sant Angelo and then crossed back over on the Sant Angelo Bridge. This is the bridge that you will see in many iconic pictures of Rome. Before we walked across, we looked to our right and saw St. Peter’s Basilica. We have a tour there tomorrow so I won’t say much about that at the moment.

We decided to call it a day and started the journey home. We stopped for a Gelato and a glass of wine because (in case you have forgotten) it is my birthday!! So, more statues, buildings, ruins and churches on the way back. It just never ceases to amaze. You need to experience this for yourself. Rome should be on everyone’s bucket list!!

The Forum of Augustus.


Hail Caesar.  Julius, Augustus and Trajan….  Poor Julius, the seagulls are really doing a number on him.



The Forum of Trajan…

The Pantheon.



The picture below states how the rain is drained away by holes in the floor and the next picture shows the large hole in the ceiling where the rain comes through.


Piazza Navona

DCIM111GOPROGOPR1953.JPGimg_1844img_1847img_1850The Castle and Bridge of San Angelo


You cannot walk more than a block in Rome without discovering or seeing something that is amazing.  Here a few random pics of things we have seen on our journey today.






A Full Day – The Colosseum and the Roman Forum

We had a tour booked for 9:25 at the Colosseum so we arrived at 8:30 (just to be on the safe side). The security guard told us to come back at 9:35 which was when they would open the security gates. We had an hour to wander around so did the loop around the outside of the Colosseum and then Constantine’s Arch which is close by. It is amazing to think that we are standing here, in the place where so much history has taken place, and will soon be going inside the largest amphitheatre ever built!!! WOW!!

The original structure was originally known as the Flavian Amphitheatre. After the Great Fire of 64 AD, Nero built an artificial lake surrounded by pavilions, gardens and porticoes. At the time of his death in 72 AD, the lake was drained and used as the base for the Amphitheatre. The funding came from the Jews that were defeated at Masada in Israel about this time. (See, you need to pay attention to previous blogs!!) Ok, enough of the boring stuff – let’s get to the actual tour!!

9:30 finally rolled around and we were back at the security gate waiting with all the other excited folks to be let inside. A young girl from Stuttgart, Germany and a couple from Calgary, Alberta were just a few of us that couldn’t wait for the gates to open. Our guide was a young Italian woman whose English was great – she just needed to think about a word every now and then. That didn’t matter because we were all gobsmacked as we went from floor to floor of this magnificent structure. We entered on the arena floor which has been partially reconstructed over a network of subterranean passageways once used to transport wild animals and gladiators to the arena. The underground structure has been very well preserved due to the fact that around the 5th century, after the excitement of gladiator and wild beast battles had deteriorated, the church decided that it should be filled in with soil. The church eventually took over this structure and it is still used to this day for Stations of the Cross on Good Friday.

From the first floor we descended to the lower level. It is estimated that there were about 80 openings in the floor from the lower level to the arena level and a lift operated with pulleys and winches would transport the entertainers, the wild animals and of course the gladiators to the grand stage. I think that the movie Gladiator starring Russell Crowe shows this quite accurately. Another interesting note is that the arena floor was covered with sand in order to soak up the blood from all the killings. The Latin word for sand is haranae – pronounced arena. Hmmmm….

So from the basement we went all the way to the fifth floor – the very top. Though we were not exclusive, the only people that could get up there was with a tour so we still felt pretty important. The views were amazing and again, to think that 2000 years ago, the general public (well, actually just the women, children and the very poor) sat up here watching some good, old fashioned slaughtering – be it animals or humans. Check out Wikipedia to see the number of animals and people killed in a single day at the Colosseum. You won’t believe it!! Anyways, that effectively ended our tour but we were still able to walk around on the first and second floor for as long as we wanted. We did the loop on both of those floors, took a few more pictures and after a few more “I can’t believe this”, we headed to the Roman Forum.

The Roman Forum, just west of the  Colosseum, has been in existence since the 7th century BC. The Forum’s beginnings are connected with the alliance between Romulus, the first king of Rome controlling the Palatine Hill, and his rival, Titus Tatius, who occupied the Capitoline Hill. The Forum was established in the valley between the two hills and became the hub of government, trade and other public affairs. The Forum evolved over time and became a mish mash of architectures, including basilicas, temples, crypts, podiums, streets, archways and plazas. Many of the ruins that we see today give us a very good look at what life would have been like during this time period.

After the Forum we were overwhelmed by all that we had seen. What better way to relax and absorb than to find a cute little outdoor cafe and have a drink before heading back to our BNB. We picked up the makings for a pasta dinner at home and returned with visions of gladiators (well, really Russell Crowe) dancing in our heads. Tomorrow is a slower day to catch up on a few things that we still need to see and then perhaps some night life. (As long as night life happens before 9 PM, we should be ready to party!!)

Party On Dudes!! Party On….

The Colosseum.





The image below is the lower level that would have been below the arena floor.


The following two pictures are from below.  This is where the animals and Gladiators would have been kept.  Notice the keystone in the first picture below.


The picture below is a reconstruction of one of the lifts Col was talking about that was used to bring animals or people from the lower depths to the Arena floor.


Notice the white on the right hand of the stairs.  That is the original section while the rest has been reconstructed.  This was on the fourth floor leading up to 5th and highest level.


Below is what the seats would have looked like.  They were made of marble so over the ages they have been taken, ground up and used as the base for concrete.


From below you see the concourse that went around the Colosseum.  The reason you can see it is because as stated earlier all the seats were removed to provide new building material.



The Arch of Constantine just outside the Colosseum


The Roman Forum


Temple of Romulus.


Done for the day….