One of the coolest things about Italy was how history is transparent there. It’s not just the fact that modern Rome is sitting right on top of ancient Rome; it’s also how the art in the museums was at one point housed in churches right down the street, and how the churches house the bodies of the famous people who lived in Italy–popes, artists, philosophers, etc. Everything is right there, and you can figure it all out with little effort and without even speaking Italian.

One of my favorite things about Italy was the Roman Forum. This mile or so of ancient land was the cradle of the Roman empire. It has the Colosseum, the spot where Julius Caesar’s body was burned, the place where Peter and Paul were imprisoned, and even a cabin that Romulus supposedly lived in.

The Colosseum is huge. It could hold 50,000 people. It was, of course, where the Romans had all of their “games”– chariot races, people being chased by wild animals, etc. Inside, there are several levels you can walk around. There used to be a floor in the center, but it has since been excavated, so you can see the pens where all the animals were kept.

Inside the Colosseum

The most amazing part was simply how big the place was. It was every bit as impressive as one of our super-stadiums, plus it was covered in marble. You don’t really understand how advanced that civilization was until you see something like that.

Also interesting was all the ancient graffiti, most of it crosses and other Christian signs. Supposedly, early Christians were martyred in the Colosseum. Right outside is the Arch of Constantine, the emperor who brought Christianity to Italy. It stuck. Apparently Italy is still 85% Catholic.

I also saw several cats wandering around the Roman Forum. This one was friendly.

roman kitty

Right outside the Colosseum is the remains of downtown ancient Rome, called the Roman Forum. Here is one of many pictures I took of part of it:

Roman Forum

The three white columns in the center is the remains of the Temple of the Vestal Virgins. Six virgins tended the fire of Vesta, the goddess of the hearth and home. Letting the fire go out was punishable by death. So was having sex — if a virgins was discovered to have been deflowered, she was buried alive about a quarter of a mile away. The virgins lived in houses behind the temple, which you can see in the picture. To the left (not pictured) is where Julius Caesar was burned.

The forum was an oddly pretty place, with olive and palm trees in among huge arches so old, the marble has worn away from time.


After seeing all this, you understand why Rome only has two metro lines. I guess when you have priceless ruins under your soil, it’s hard to dig tunnels for trains.

Part I: Ancient Rome

Part II: Italian Culture

Part III: Art and God

Part IV: Florence and Siena

5 thoughts on “Italy Part I — Ancient Rome

  1. leona

    Awesome. I can’t wait for the next installment.

  2. Jordan

    Your pictures are lovely but they make me ache to take such a vacation myself. When I see you next I demand you act out your vacation as a one-woman play.


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  4. Stephanie

    Oh man, you’re making me travel all over again to Rome!!! It’s awesome…I have almost the same pics of the forum and the colosseum. I remember having shivers when I saw all that. And aslo finding Rome very warm, maybe somewhere I might want to live one day…We’ll see. I can’t wait to read more about your adventures!

  5. […] Next (and last): Florence and Siena Part II: Italian Culture Part I: Ancient Rome Explore posts in the same categories: Travel […]

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