Friday, October 24, 2008

Italy Day 3: Roma: Part 1: The Colossal Colosseum

Note: This is part of an ongoing series of diary entries and photos from our trip to Italy this fall. You can see all the journal entries here
The plan for today was to get up early and go to the Colosseum as soon as it opened to avoid the tour-bus mobs... and I really wish that we had been able to do just that, but jet lag had other plans for us. I finally got to sleep around 4:00 am this morning, so getting up before 8:00 was not all that possible, and the kids were still asleep at that point as well. We finally made it down to the Colosseum just before 10:00 am, not bad for folks from the other side of the pond on the third day here in Rome. There were still plenty of people here, though not nearly as many as accumulate in the afternoons.
I would love to walk into this place and have it be totally empty. The impact of the structure itself is very weighty. Not just that the size and scale of it is impressive (it is!) but it has a feeling of heaviness to me, all camera-pointing people aside, there's no forgetting what went on here. Thinking of the people's lives made sacrifice here for sport, for religious intolerance, the deaths of magnificent and beautiful wild animals hunted down with no place to run. The pain and suffering laid down in this one spot on earth fills the air with almost a palpable sadness.
The big cross next to the arena is another reminder, and though the rest of the family I don't think was as affected as I was, I had a hard time moving past the emotions of the place. The family is used to this aspect of my personality, I was also the one who declined going in all of the dungeons and torture chambers of the castles in our last trip to Europe. There are things I just can't let myself think on too long, or it feels like the pain will not leave my own head.
Still, once I could move past all of that and just start looking around, I did find the architecture of the place fascinating. The brickwork and the supporting arches, the sunlight slanting in on the ancient stones.
Mackenzie was a great tour guide, telling us all that he remembered of the history of the place, the gladiators, where Caesar would've sat, what the configuration of the underground areas was like with their pulley-drawn elevators and passages. According to what we heard, they are going to attempt a full restoration of the Colosseum, and indeed there is part of the floor on one end, extending over the underground portions. It would really be something to see the place restored to its former size and grandeur, yet I think maybe something would be lost, too. I'm glad we got the opportunity to see it the way it is right now.
When we finally exited the structure, we walked around to the eastern side. That's when the scale of the building really becomes impressive, since much more of the original facade is intact on that side. It's simply huge from this angle. Here's a few more images from the Colosseum before we move away from here:

I will post the rest of our third day in the next installment! Coming up: the incredible Santa Maria degli Angeli, Roma's most fascinating, unique, and interesting Cathedral.

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