One of the most striking and unique aspects of Rome is just how very, very, very OLD many parts of the city are (but seriously SO OLD! I can’t say it enough).
There are well-kept structures from the very first century, incorporated into the living and modern city.
And Rome is a city very much alive with history. It isn’t hard to imagine gladiators in the Colosseum, and senators and aristocrats walking the paths of the Roman Forum.
Maybe this oldness especially struck me as an American, where “really old” means one or two or WHOA three hundred years. I was so impressed and mesmerized by literally every block of Rome. Not to be confined to the limits of the main tourist sites, the wonders of ancient Rome are everywhere. Every time I turned a corner, I witnessed a different, well preserved, ancient, and gorgeous monument, fountain, statue, or building.
In addition to the main tourist hotspots of the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, and Pantheon, there were so many random beautiful buildings (including in the Jewish Quarter).
The whole city seemed to breathe with history.
My Favorites of Ancient Rome
The Colosseum once held more than 50,000 spectators, and was built in AD80!
I have never, ever seen anything so old. In addition to the amazing Colosseum itself, there are museum-style exhibits in the old halls, showing recovered artifacts and further information on the history of the Colosseum.
The different battles within the Colosseum included man versus man (some were gladiators by choice, and some were men condemned to die and thus forced to “battle” without weapons or even clothes!), and also man versus animal. Sometimes, exotic animals were brought in for the specific purpose to be slaughtered by the emperor (such as happened with ostriches) or for a mock “hunting” show, where the habitat of the animal was recreated onstage.
The line to the Colosseum is very long during peak tourist holidays, and I recommend purchasing a skip-the-line pass, or the Rome Card, which allows you to go through a faster line. We did, and saved hours of waiting. At the very least – buy your ticket in advance (as that is another line!)
The Colosseum was the second of the 7 Modern World Wonders that I have visited, the first being Christo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) in Rio.
Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum was the legal, social, and business center of ancient Rome, and was conveniently located next to the residences of the city’s movers and shakers. Palatine Hill was the abode of emperors and aristocrats from the very first century.
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill entrance are combined into one ticket – two attractions, one price. The line to these was MUCH shorter than for the Colosseum. For me, the Roman Forum was the more interesting of the two. There is a museum at both, but I found the Palatine Hill one to be passable and not that intriguing (and I love museums!) The buildings of the Roman Forum are quite well preserved and beautiful, while Palatine Hill is very much in ruin (though the view from the hill is spectacular).
Both sites have signs throughout.
The Pantheon was built around AD 120. While originally intended to honor all gods (the word pantheon literally means “of all gods”), the Christians repurposed it for themselves as a church in the 7th century.
The domed roof is awe-inspiring, and the building features statues and paintings of saints.
Bonus – the Pantheon is free to enter. Because so many people can fit inside (and it is a quick one room visit), the line wasn’t bad at all.
Jewish Quarter Ruins – Teatro Marcello
Free to wander into, and with no waiting line, these ruins near the beautiful synogogue are the former Theare of Marcellus (Teatro Marcello) – an ancient Roman theatre named for the Emperor August’s nephew.
It looks like a miniature Colosseum with other random columns thrown about!
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