I had my sights set on the Colosseum this morning. (Commissioned by Emperor Vespasian in AD 72, it was intended to be built on the exact spot where Emperor Nero’s palace had stood. This was done in order to remove any connection between himself and that most evil of emperors.) Previously, I had walked about the iconic exterior of Il Colosseo but had never ventured inside. I was curious about the arena where the actual gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights occurred and I especially wanted to see where the mock sea battles were waged. (I’m fascinated by Roman waterways and plumbing – it is just incredible to me how they brought and used water in this city so long ago! Those aqueducts: wow.) After my cappuccino, I walked a little too far down Via Merulana and had to cut back over to the west to head toward the Colosseum. Getting lost like this is typical for me. But, taking a circuitous route to Il Colosseo is actually quite apt, don’t you think? A circuitous route to arguably the grandest “Circle” in the world?
This time I found a small road – the Viale della Domus Aurea – that led to an open gate which led to a park area that, through the trees and past the joggers and walkers and more dogs,
led to the Colosseum, which was wonderful to just come upon like that. (I didn’t have a map with me this morning having forgotten it at my convent so I was wandering in what I thought was the general vicinity of the Colosseum. I like to do that sometimes. It make me feel like an explorer/adventurer!
The Colosseum is so massive (capacity: 55,000 people) and impressive with its Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian columns. But my hopes of entering this time were quickly dashed again, as many – MANY – a soul (probably 55,000 or so) had the same idea.
There were droves of people. (It’s best for me to avoid droves, I’ve found. They make me itch. Plus, I didn’t want to spend a large chunk of my limited time standing in line. That makes me itch, too.)
So, confident of returning someday and having a more in-depth look, I hit the perimeter again. I snapped photos of the Colosseum and blue sky, discovered red poppies ironically blooming between the steep walls of the Colosseum and the busy thoroughfare,
and wished for my forgotten hat (the one my brothers always tease me about and call “goofy”) because the sun was bright and was surely intensifying what I think are already pretty intense freckles and deepening the fine lines I’m beginning to notice around my mouth and at the corners of my eyes. But without a hat, I could only acquiesce and decided just this once, to lift my face to the sun and bask in its warmth and brightness, freckles and wrinkles be-damned. And I did get “frecklier.” And it was glorious.
After an international break sitting in the shade of the Arco di Constantino (Arch of Constantine – AD 312 – built to commemorate Emperor Constantine’s victory over his co-emperor Maxentius at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge) where the voices of many different tongues resounded through the sunny Roman air,
I headed to the entrance of the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, that auspicious former residence of emperors and aristocrats. Alas, the itching started up again as I saw the line of people stretching for meters along the sidewalk. I deferred yet again and walked along the perimeter which actually provided an excellent view of many of the ruins within.
Un giorno – one day – I will explore inside the grounds and ponder the weight of history in this most auspicious of ancient government seats, where Cicero and Augustus were born and where it is thought that the twins Romulus and Remus were brought up by a wolf and where Romulus killed his brother and founded the village that would one day be Rome. (If Remus had killed his brother instead, would the city now be called Remo?)
Yes, un giorno.
But not oggi (oh-gee) – today.
Still, a walk along the perimeters of things can be a marvelous adventure.
(To be continued…)