Naturally we had to pay a visit to the Flavian Amphitheater, aka The Colosseum. Getting there was pretty straightforward as our hotel was near the Republica metro stop. This meant we only needed to go one stop to the Termini metro stop and transfer to the “B” line to the Colosseo stop just across the street from the magnificent landmark. Although we weren’t in Rome at the height of high season, I still opted to purchase print-at-home tickets in advance online. I was glad to have done this as the line to buy tickets on site was still fairly long – I’d say we saved 20-30 minutes.
Hardly anyone has not seen numerous photos of the Colosseum, and it has been featured in movies and TV programs. It’s one of those attractions that seems so familiar that you might wonder what is so special about being there in person. I have to admit thinking that same thing as we dodged the men in centurion costumes and the aimlessly wandering tour bus groups on the way in.
Once inside, however, the sense of awe and wonder really hit me as I soaked it all in. The Colosseum would have been even more packed with Roman citizens – perhaps well over 50,000 of them – cheering, gasping, and clapping at the elaborate shows, spectacles, and contests. Much like modern stadiums, the best “box seats” were reserved for the emperor and also the Vestal Virgins
I found some little nooks where it was possible to grab a few minutes of quiet time to contemplate as people filed past. Ancient Romans didn’t have digital surround sound cinemas, the Superbowl, or the latest pop star concerts. I would bet that the events which took place within the Colosseum walls would still impress any of us from the 21st century if we were to travel back in time. For that matter, are many of our objects of entertainment obsession really all that great?
The Colosseum ticket actually includes admission to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill just across the way. We meandered over to begin the walk up the hill toward the Forum. We paused to listen to a man playing the accordion and tossed in a couple of Euro coins. As we were enjoying the music, one of the gypsy “fake beggar women” planted herself beside the accordion player. These women are not frail or old – and actually are not always female. This one pretended to be hunched over and barely able to walk.
As we walked up the hill further towards the entrance, my wife paused to take some pictures. Soon the accordion player had also relocated uphill apparently to get away from the gypsy woman…who we soon witnessed walking quite well at a quick pace up the hill. She sidled up to the accordion man again and resumed rattling her tin cup. After a minute or so, the accordionist started arguing with the gypsy woman – gesticulating wildly. It wasn’t difficult to figure out that he wanted her to stay away from him. He played another song or two and then packed up and left – though not before chewing out the woman one more time.