Rome is a historical layer cake and Italy with Us is offering you a scrumptious piece. The Roman Forum and Colosseum tour lets you see the Eternal City sliced open. Each tier reveals a city built atop and recycling the ruins of earlier cities.
Dig in on Via del Colosseo, the narrow street that leads to the Colosseum. Your guide, aka Indiana Jones, will show you evidence – a temple’s ancient column here, a Roman-era wall there. You’ll look down on the Colosseum from what seems like a hill. Wrong. Under your feet are Renaissance Rome, medieval Rome, ancient Rome.
Descend to the Colosseum, the city’s level in 80 AD when the world’s largest amphitheatre was inaugurated. This remarkable structure stands tall after 2000 years, whereas most modern stadiums last a few decades. Discover the arches built without mortar, remnants of flushing toilets and evidence of the retractable roof. Only in person can you appreciate this monument to engineering, architecture – and power – since slaves did the back-breaking work.
As you gaze at the arena, your guide will bring to life the spectators’ experience, from the senators in the VIP section to the women in the nosebleed seats. The free entertainment came with a price: your vote for the generous emperor. After all, this is the birthplace of “bread and circuses”. Later, on the arena stage, feel the rush that gladiators felt. Rising from the underground backstage via lifts, they popped onto the stage from trap doors to the deafening chants of up to 70,000 people.
The Roman Forum is your next destination. Walk along Via Sacra, the main road taken by victorious Roman soldiers returning home from conquests. You too will pass triumphal arches, including the Arch of Titus commemorating Vespasian’s and later Titus’ victories over Judea. The story (one-sided, of course) comes to life in intricate carvings depicting Victoria, the goddess of victory, next to Titus and soldiers bearing a menorah and other sacred war spoils.
You’ll be astonished by the fourth-century AD Basilica of Maxentius and Constantine. What remains of this enormous public building are soaring concrete vaults, remarkable for their ability to support weight. More than a century after it was built, Michelangelo and Bramante studied the building while designing St. Peter’s Basilica. Equally impressive are the Temple of Romulus with its bronze door and precious porphyry stone columns and the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina. Both were converted into churches, protecting them from medieval looters who, you’ll see, nevertheless tried to abscond with materials.
Check out the brick-faced, first-century BC Senate House, repeatedly rebuilt over the years. Shakespeare might claim that Caesar was murdered here, but the Bard is wrong. Learn where Caesar met his maker and then pay your respects at the altar where he was cremated. Scholars have doubts that this is the original altar but that hasn’t stopped visitors from leaving fresh flowers every day. Hail, Caesar!