During February of 2018, I had an opportunity to travel to Rome to help train forty US teachers who are getting ready for their own trips abroad during the coming spring and summer. Teachers will be taking students throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia and our staff had four days to show them what to expect on tour. I have traveled to Rome during February in the past; but, like I have said before in previous posts, Rome's history, food and culture never cease to amaze me. From ancient sites like the Colosseum, to more modern architecture like the monument to Victor Emmanuel (the building's nickname is "The Wedding Cake"), Rome is such a wondrous place. Famous artists such as Michelangelo, Bernini and Caravaggio masterpieces populate the city with their great masterpieces; it is an Art History student's dream. The presence of the Catholic Church is emphasized with the Vatican City and St Peter's Basilica (the inside is pictured above). I have highlighted Rome during previous posts, in 2015 and 2017, so I will highlight a couple of different sights than those I did in my previous write-ups.
The Colosseum/Roman Forum
Even though I have shared small snippets on the Colosseum in previous posts, I have never taken the time to give it the proper attention it deserves, so here we go:
The Colosseum, actually known in its time as the Flavian Amphitheater (pictured on the left) was constructed by Emperor Vespasian starting 70 AD. The name Colosseum is based on a large statue of Nero (colossal statue of Nero) that was located near the amphitheater. Amazingly it only took 10 years to complete; it is estimated that 60,000 slaves were used to build the mighty arena. Projections by historians estimate the arena could hold 50,000 people, which rivals today's average Major League Baseball stadiums (Dodger Stadium hold 53,000). I think one of the most interesting parts of the Roman architecture is the complex underground setup they engineered. With over 35 trap doors, Roman emperors aimed to astonish as the amphitheater was to used to curry favor with their subjects. The arena ground (reconstructed in the picture top left) shows what the entertainers would walk on, while the underground (level view pictured on the bottom left) shows where gladiators or animals would emerge. The underground was even flooded to recreate naval battles. I never get tired of seeing the Colosseum or seeing people's reactions the first time they see it.
After seeing the Colosseum, you will continue on to the Roman Forum (located next to the Colosseum) . EF Tours pairs these two so make sure you keep your ticket. At the Roman Forum, their is a fair amount of walking on uneven ground so just prepare your students with good footwear (Summer is also very hot so be ready with sunscreen and hydration). The forum, although known about centuries among historians, was not re-discovered until 1803 by archeologist Carlo Fea (excavations took over 100 years). It blends together centuries of Roman life as Romans often built atop their predecessors. Walking through the forum is like walking back in history as you see buildings dedicated to both the Roman gods and to Roman leaders. If you are going by yourself or not with a guided tour, buying your ticket at the Forum line is often easier than waiting in line at the Colosseum and you ticket covers both. You also have the option of buying it online that can save some of your time.
On the left is a picture of the Spanish Square from the top of the Spanish Steps. In the 1720's architect Francesco de Sanctis was commissioned by French Diplomat Étienne Gueffier’s to build stairs that linked Trinità dei Monti church to the square below. It is called the Spanish Steps because at the time it was the Bourbon (French) Spanish Embassy. So an Italian architect created the Spanish Steps in Rome commissioned by a French Diplomat (that totally makes sense...) On the right is a picture of the Pantheon. The Pantheon is one of the best kept ancient monuments dating back to around 120 CE. It was created by Emperor Hadrian and served as a Temple to the Gods and in the 600's it was converted into a church. The Roman architecture of the Pantheon was (and still is) unbelievable. It remains today as the largest unsupported dome in the world!
The Trevi Fountain at night is a beautiful sight!