Ring, ring. Ring, ring. “Who’s calling me this early,” I thought to myself as I reached for the phone, half-awake and disoriented. “This is your wake up call,” a voice said in English with a distinct accent. Slowly I began to realize I was not at home any more but at a hotel in the suburbs of Rome, Italy. Today was the second day of my tour across Italy and today we were visiting the Coliseum, Roman Forum and Spanish Steps.
I hurried down for breakfast, surprised that it was an American breakfast buffet, and then hopped on the tour bus. Within a short while we were driving through the ancient city gates and into the heart of Rome. Along the way the tour guide pointed out various landmarks: the Spanish Steps, Roman palaces, St. Angel Castle among others.
We finally arrived at our destination: the Coliseum. As I would soon learn from the new tour guide who would take us on our tour of ancient Rome, the Coliseum is only a nickname. The official name of this structure is the Flavian Amphitheater.
It was constructed over a period of ten years starting in 70 AD and completed in 80 AD (although many additions were added throughout the years.) It was the host of gladiatorial games, animal hunts, theater, and even flooded for naval battle recreations. The last public event in the Coliseum was around 550 AD. The building then went on to be used for housing, workshops, a fort, and a church. Today it still serves as a Catholic shrine where the Pope performs the stations of the Cross every Good Friday.
We started our tour outside near the Arch of Constantine where we learned that this structure was constructed purposefuly by Constantine as a symbol of the new religion of Rome, Christianity, right next to the symbol of old pagan Rome, the Coliseum. From this location we could also see how the Coliseum was built of concentric elliptical walls.
Next we put on a radio headset that would allow us to hear commentary by our tour guide and we entered the Coliseum to begin our tour. Watch the video to travel along with us as we tour this magnificent structure.
After finishing our tour of the Coliseum we headed next for the Roman Forum. The Forum, as it was called by Romans, is the central administrative district of ancient Rome and from where the city actually developed. It was here that commerce and the administration of justice took place. It is here where the Roman Senate was located. Watch the video below to join us on our tour of the Forum.
The Forum was already falling apart by the 8th century AD and was simply referred to as the “cattle field” during the Middle Ages since most of the structures were buried by dirt and debris. It was excavated by Pope Urban V in 1367 but full excavations weren’t completed until the 20th century.
We completed our day at the Spanish Steps. The monumental stairway of 138 steps was built in the 1700s AD. As I watched the group of middle school students whom I was with running down these steps, I prayed that they wouldn’t take a tumble because although our day was over, our night included their first concert performance in Rome.