Our second day in Rome was every bit as intense as the first. We started with an easy 20 minute walk from our guest house to the Colisseum, the largest amphitheatre built during the Roman Empire and definitely a highlight of any first time visit to Rome.
We purchased a two part tour that included first the Colosseum and then the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. In both cases, we had plenty of time to explore on our own after the formal tour was over and both were very informative.
The Colosseum has suffered a great deal of damage over it’s two thousand year history and yet it’s still hugely impressive. It’s sheer size is quite overwhelming! Coming from a part of the world that’s only been settled for a little over a century, it’s hard for us to wrap our heads around the fact that we are seeing and walking in structures that are so very ancient!
Our tour took us down to the arena floor level where gladiators once fought!
The Roman Forum and most of the ruins on Palatine Hill, the most central of Rome’s seven hills and the area where Romulus supposedly founded the city in 753 BC, have not survived as well as the Colosseum, but to those of us with an interest in history and archaeology, they are fascinating. Here, the likes of Julius Caesar lived and walked! These ruins were once palatial palaces, basilicas, banqueting halls, and places of government.
Once we left the Palatine Hill area, we continued to walk through and by other ruins including the Forum of Trajan, the last imperial forum built in Rome.
As we continued walking (yes, we’ve been walking miles every day!) we came upon the enormous white structure topped with bronze chariots that we’d previously been by on the bus and that is visible from practically every viewpoint in the city. Always curious, we decided to find out what it was and whether or not we could go inside. The Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, also known as the Altar of the Fatherland, is national monument or war memorial and we were welcome to enter.
A quick look around inside showed us room after room of Italian regimental flags in glass cases, all looking very much alike to us. I’m sure there was more than that to see, but it quickly became apparent to us that it wasn’t a place that held much interest for us, so we exited and continued to explore.
We ended our day on a fun note with a visit to the Mouth of Truth outside the entrance to the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church. Made famous by the 1953 movie, Roman Holiday, with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, legend has it that the massive stone figure will bite off the hands of liars. It isn’t known how or when this belief originated, but tourists like ourselves line up to pop our hands in the mouth and have our photos taken!
Thankfully, Richard and I both walked away with our hands!