Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The big, the bold... and the REALLY old

Well we have finally come to the end of our trip. It is a bit sad that this wonderful adventure is comming to a close, but also at the same time we are excited to be back among friends and relatives to share our memories with.

Today we started the day off by visiting probobly Rome's most grand/historic structure of all, the Colosseum. It is approximately the size of the old Kingdome (during gladiator duels the stadium held anywhere from 50,000 to 70,000 people!) yet was built 2000 years ago without the help of any gasoline powered heavy machinery. The whole thing was constructed completely using "slave" power, which it turns out is quite effective!

I didn't realize but the actual floor of the colosseum was a raised floor 2 stories off the ground. Beneath the sand (the roman word for this was "arena") was a wood floor and beneath that was 2 stories of substructure that housed elevators for raising and lowering animals and people, the animals and people themselves, and elaborate "sets" that could be changed quickly up above to represent the area that the fight was supposed to be occuring in.

After wandering around the Colosseum for about 2 hours and snapping a ton of pictures we headed across the way to the Roman forum. This was the heart and soul of ancient Rome, where all of their ancient temples to their many gods laid, their senate buildings, and even their halls of justice and a prison. It is pretty amazing to think that what we were walking around in, the broken columns, the half built walls, and even some almost entirely whole structures, had not 150 years ago been buried in over 20 feet of dirt. During the 1800's the entire area was excavated by hand and is still a working archeological dig as the slowly unearth more and more of ancient Rome. The current city of Rome is actually built upon layers and layers of the old city as they continually built their city up. In the forum we saw sights such as the Senate Hall, the columns from the temple of Saturn (the oldest structure I believe we saw, dating from 500 B.C.) and even the remains of the temple of the Vestal Virgins (inside joke, but no joke we actually saw them.)

After walking around on the same stones that the likes of Julias Ceaser, Marc Antony and others wandered on we climbed up the hill to Palantine Hill. This was the hill that the Palaces of all the old Emporer's built their palaces upon. As we wandered around the 150,000 square foot "house" that the remains of still lie here, we realized that our house wasn't really all that big ;) Also from up on Palantine hill we had a view down to where the old Circus Maximus used to be (it is just a lump of earth now). Think the Daytona Race track, circa 1 B.C. This is where they held chariot races ala Ben Hur, 12 times a day, 240 days a year. This race track could hold 250,000 people at a time (much like our Nascar tracks of today) and in fact during one race on of the wooden bleachers failed and in the collapse more than 13,000 people died!

After that we took a short walk up to St. Peter in Chains (where we had to wait around for about 20 minutes because they were on their lunch break when we arrived) but then entered and saw both the chains that supposedly held the apostle Peter and the apostle Paul when they were imprisoned in the Roman prison's as well as the most impressive sculpture I think I have seen this trip. This was a sculpture by Michelangelo that was done for a Pope, but was never completed. It is a sculpture of Moses that was supposed to be part of a sarcophigus for the Pope when he died. It was to have 16 full sized sculptures on it, but I think Michelangelo only was able to complete about 6 before the Pope died, and with his death this "project" was abandon, but still in it's current form it is massively impressive.

After there we took a pretty long walk through the heart of Rome, passing some military cerimony which we believe to be the Italian version of the changing of the color guard (we just randomly ended up practically in the middle of it). After waiting a few minutes for the ceremony to complete we arrived at the Trevi Fountain. This was made even MORE impressive by the knowledge that the entire fountain is powered by a gravity water system via the rebuilt ancient aquaducts. We then took a short walk through the very touristy section of Rome (it is hard to tell the difference between it and the rest of Rome, the city as a whole is pretty touristy) and arrived at the Spanish Steps. They were a bit of a dissapointment, I didn't know exactly what to expect, but after the sights we had seen early in the day viewing a large section of 300 year old marble steps, although nice and pretty, kind of paled in comparison for the day.

After that we hopped on the Metro, rode back to our stop, grabbed a bite to eat and took one last wander through the tourist stores before heading back to our room. We are probobly going to try and wander around a bit tonight to find one last bit of gelato (we have honestly had gelato at LEAST once per day, every day this trip, and in the Cinque Terra and other places we were averaging upwards of 2-3 times per day).

Can't wait to see everyone and share some more photo's (if you aren't sick and tired of them already) of our trip. The photo's I have posted throughout have just been whatever I could find quickly, and after reviewing some of them I have noticed I could have picked MUCH better photo's to display, so hopefully this will at least proved SOME incentive to view our vacation photo's (plus for the grandparents we have like 1000 more pictures of Maddie, which they always love to see).

So for the last time from Rome, and I guess from Europe for this trip,


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