The Forum

This morning we went shopping and I ran across a great little shop where they hand-make leather purses & shoes, all of them beautiful and interesting, with a choice of handles, colors, etc.  It’s called Sirni, and it’s at 33 Via Della Stelletta.  I bought a gray purse with 3 different straps and use it constantly (and went back in October for 2 pairs of ballet flats!)  Purchased a colorful maxie dress at Loveshine, Via del Corso, 265 which seems to specialize in bright, somewhat unusual, colorful dresses and accessories.  Jack found some great jeans at Cosimo Colonna, Via Uffici del Vicario, 53 (ask for Bruno).

Then, the big event (for me, anyway), a tour of the Palatine Hill, Forum and Colosseum.  I had read about the villas on Palatine Hill in the series by Colleen McCullough and was anxious to actually be there, where the wealthy Romans had lived.  We took the ContextRome tour and our docent was an expert in archeology.  Honestly, it was a little disappointing.  There really isn’t much left on the Palatine Hill to see, and what there is generally is from the time after Caesar Augustus.  There are ruins of some of the villas, mostly from the early ADs.  From one side you can look down over the Circus Maximum, where they used to have stands for thousands of spectators to watch the chariot races — its on the far right — oval shaped — in the photo below:

Here is a typical villa you’ll see if you visit …

And here is a view into what I believe was an inner courtyard of one of the emporer’s homes …

it really didn’t “come alive” for me as I had thought that it would.  There are remains from an aquaduct, and fountains from ancient times that still work, where you can refill your water bottle (a necessity on June/July — it was hot!)

to drink where they drink 2000 years ago, using the same water system, is pretty amazing.  After about 1-1/2 hours on “the Hill,” including a visit to the museum which houses some of the artifacts found there, it was time to descend into the heart of ancient Rome, where political, commerce and religion came together, the Forum.  We made our way down the hill, and it thunderstorms were in the distance and threatening to create a downpour at any minute. In some ways the dark sky made it more dramatic (if that was possible).  Really, the forum would take days to really explore, and you could devote years to studying what remains.  They have dug down to the depths of Julius Caesar’s time (they could have chosen many different ground levels), and you pass by the arches of later emperors, the home of the Vestal Virgins, the site where Julius Caesar had lived, and the area that housed his funeral pyre.  And, of course, the Senate House.  But we didn’t get to go inside the Senate house — not enough time (I went back in october and will recount that visit later).  In fact, there wasn’t time enough for me to see have the things I wanted to, and what I really missed was just having the luxury of being able to stand and absorb the feeling, the history, the immensity of it all.  But, the rest of my group, less enthralled with Caesar, were pushing on to the Colosseum.  As we began to leave the area of Caesar’s funeral pyre (where people still leave flowers in his honor), the sky got extremely dark and the birds started cawing, and it sent chills down my back.  I felt like Caesar was speaking to us, acknowledging us, and acknowledging that even today he is remembered.  At least by me!  Seriously, I am so enthralled by what his abilities, at least as recounted in the books I’ve read (I’m sure some history professor could dismiss most of the things I believe about him, since my reading has been superficial, but I don’t have the luxury of sufficient time to conduct detailed research… maybe one day!)  From what I can tell, he was politically savvy, incredibly brave, very self-confident (but for good reason), smart, eloquent, charming, witty, a great soldier, a wonderful writer and editor, efficient, effective, perceptive, attractive … and someone who truly loved Rome.  I have to admire his adopted “son,” his nephew Augustus, as well.  For someone so young, with minimal training and preparation for the post, to outwit Cicero & the other senators, Mark Antony and the other soldiers (of course, with Marcus Agrippa by his side) and manage to take Rome from where it was with Caesar’s assassination to what it became during his reign was nothing short of amazing.  While physically weak he was certainly astute, savvy, courageous & nimble.

In any event, here are some of my Forum pics —

Then, passing cleopatra along the way (apparently, forced to rely on the kindness of strangers to keep her in gold)

we made our way to the colosseum — largest amphitheater in the Roman Empire and home to too many gladiator battles to count.  Killing as entertainment seems so foreign to us (hopefully and thankfully), but I’m sure it would be much different to be in their shoes, living in those times, than it is to try to imagine it today, from our perspective.  The colosseum was interesting, of course, since I had heard about it forever and it’s such a symbol for Rome.  I actually enjoyed my visit to the smaller colosseum in Capua in October, however.  In Capua it was just my husband and I, and one other couple, the entire hour we spent there, and we were able to wander around the entire amphitheater, including going underneath where the animals and men waited for the battle to being, and then walking up as they must have, onto the colosseum floor, imagining what it must have been like for your life to have been at stake, and to have that be nothing more than entertaining to the thousands watching you die.  At the Roman colosseum you’re limited to the outer rim, but it’s still fascinating to think of how advanced the innovations of the amphitheater were — where 50,000 could be seated in an organized manner, quickly, due to the design of the structure.

There weren’t any of the fake gladiators around — the rain had run them off, and not too many people were there, even in late June, so we were able to get a good sense of what it would have been like to be sitting in those seats, watching the great sea battles held early in the Colosseum’s history, where the entire floor was floated and real boats battled for show, as well as the animal fights and, of course, the gladiators.  After 4 hours, our tour was done, and we set off in a taxi to I Butteri, which supposedly has pizza but definitely has steaks, and that I highly recommend.  It’s located at Piazza Regina Margherita, 15, and got crowded pretty quickly so reservations are recommended (06-85.48.130).  We didn’t have any but we generally ate dinner WAY before any Italian even thought about dinner, so didn’t have any problem getting in.  All of us ordered different cuts of meat and all were amazing.  And a nice change of pace from pasta and seafood.  Then a walk around the piazzas and back home to rest and prepare for the Vatican early the next day.  More to come!



  1. freaking awesome post….makes me wanna go!

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