Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Uncovering Ancient Rome: The Colosseum & Forum

The Roman sun only got hotter as the afternoon progressed. Visiting the Colosseum was what Paul was most looking forward to throughout our entire trip, and we weren't rushing things. That didn't mean it wasn't uncomfortable at times. Sure, it was amazing standing inside something so amazing, so historic, but the present kept interfering. The heat was practically unbearable, and the crowds weren't helping. I dragged Paul into the Colosseum's gift shop more for the air conditioning than the souvenirs.

Paul was flipping through some books and I was standing nearby. Suddenly, a man's voice called out his name.

Paul turned around to find his former work manager, the first one he had when we moved to New York. They hadn't spoken for months, and neither knew the other was even planning a trip to Italy. Small world.

Yes, small world, and a visit to Rome makes it even smaller. All the world converges on its narrow cobblestone streets. The city center is small and the main attractions are generally easy to walk to ... if you can find them. Rome was definitely not laid out on a grid. Pretty much everyone I saw was carrying either a guide book or map. Even I, who spurns looking like a tourist, couldn't walk half a kilometer (we are in Europe, after all) without checking the map to make sure we hadn't missed our turn. Of course, getting lost in the streets is charming in and of itself, but not when you're hungry and trying to make it to St. Peter's before it closes.

Rome also taught me the meaning of dry heat. We burned up in the sun, but it was downright comfortable in the shade. But shady doesn't exactly describe the Colosseum or (especially) Palatine Hill or the Roman Forum. While I was looking forward to seeing them, however, it was Paul who was truly excited. He's long been fascinated with Roman history and, in fact, is making his way through "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire."

Roman Forum & Palatine Hill

Trajan's Column

It was impossible not to be in awe of such sites. But the true lesson of the day involved Rome's constantly flowing "drinking" fountains. In such heat, the fountains aren't just a quaint artifact of daily life -- they're a necessity.

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