Like many mature cities, Rome is divided into different areas each with its own characteristics and attractions.
Old Rome, as the name suggested, is where it all began. With the Colosseum as its flagship, millions of tourists throng the area every year.
The city guidebook that we've got from Lonely Planet warned us about the queue at the Colosseum. Even at lunch time, the queue was easily a few hundred metres long.
To avoid that, we got a Roma Pass, which comes with free entry to any two sites/museums of our choice and a 3 day Metro/bus pass. Most importantly of all, it allowed us to skip those horrendous queues. It's affordable at 20 euros and it's available at most convenient stores (just check with your hotel's reception).
Much has been written about the Colosseum, an architectural feat (completed in 80 A.D.) that had allowed 50,000 spectators. Once you step into the spectators' stand, you could almost hear the bloodcurdling screams of the gladiators slaughtering the exotic wild beasts brought in from the far flung regions of the Roman empire.
With the original wooden arena's collapse, the basement, where animals and men condemned to death await their fates, are exposed. Really reminds me of the scene from Russell Crowe's Gladiator.
We were out of the Colosseum just after ninety minutes later. A feat for us really but the rest of Old Rome awaits.
Palatino, where the affluent Romans resided is just 200m southwest of the Colosseum. The entrance fee of 11 euros is bundled together with that of the Colosseum.
From there, you can see Circo Massimo, which could easily sit up to 250,000 spectators. The distance of a typical race was around 6.5 km, which must have been quite a few rounds.
Other than a patch of rather well defined grass, nothing much of the original structure remains. But images of Ben Hur kept on coming to my mind. Call me a movie nut, I don't care!
From the northern tip of Palatino, we could see the ruins of Roman Forum and the temple of the Vestal Virgins. A pity that we didn't get the audio guides for that. Please don't make the same mistake as we did, without a proper guide, every ruin could look pretty much the same.
Even from a distance, the Colosseum still looks kind of imposing. It's not difficult to imagine its grandeur at its peak.
If you continue to walk further north, you'll reach Il Victtoriano (picture below right), a huge building built to commemorate the first king of Italy. You can't really miss it for it pretty much dominates the skyline
It's not exactly the favorite building of the locals. They nicknamed it "The Typewriter". Not difficult to see why though, just stand in front of this massive building and you'll pretty much get the idea.
It also houses the Memorial for the Unknown Soldier. Because of that, you cannot smoke, eat, drink or even sit in the monument. Police patrol the area to ensure that. But I saw a police officer smoking at a corner rather discreetly.
There's also a lift at the back of the building, which, for 7 euros, will bring you right up to the top for a 360 degrees view of Old Rome.
After 6 hours of walking without a break, we plonked down at the cafeteria within its premises. The cappuccino somehow tasted better than those I had in London.
We decided to call it a day as we dragged ourselves back to the hotel and prepare for our visit to the Pantheon the very next day...
Why not read these as well?
Rome (1/5) - the capital of the civilized world
Rome (3/5) - Pantheon (the grand old Dame)
Rome (4/5) - Vatican City, the Papal kingdom
Rome (5/5) - Final words...
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