For our third day, we went in search of some ancient history; keen to see the wonderful spectacle that is the Colosseum. Many moons ago, Darren and I had both studied the ancient Romans in history lessons at school, but nothing beats going to the actual locations of these incredible civilisations in order to fully appreciate what life would have been like. En route to the Colosseum, we went for a wander around the old Roman Forum. Grabbing our audio guides, we pottered around the cluster of ruins that once upon a time was a thriving hub of public life, with bustling market places, government buildings, grand monuments and impressive temples. Now mostly in ruins, we used our imaginations to picture what this great space would once have looked like. For centuries this area was the place to be, but with the fall of the Roman Empire, the area gradually fell into disrepair. As you can see, not many of the original buildings and structures remained intact, as the stones were used to build other grand plazas and buildings within Rome. However the temple below survived because it was converted into a Christian church, and therefore still had a useful function.After soaking in all the sights of the forum, we headed up the road to the nearby Colosseum.As you would expect, the queues here were monstrous, but luckily we’d bought a ticket at the Roman Forum that also included entry to the Colosseum, so we headed straight in.It was only when you got inside that you really appreciated quite how massive it was.Look how tiny all of the other people on the other side looked!I hadn’t realised quite how bloodthirsty the ancient Romans were until visiting the Colosseum. Back in the day, events here lasted all day long, and anybody who was anybody in Rome came to watch and cheer. Seating around 50,000 people, the excited crowds would be treated to such spectacles as gladiatorial battles, executions, wild animal hunts, mock battles and watching condemned criminals battle with dangerous animals (usually resulting in the criminals being ripped apart)! Battles and hunts would have been staged with elaborate sets and huge numbers of exotic animals were imported from Africa and the middle east to take part and eventually be slaughtered. The Emperor Trajan is said to have celebrated his military victories in 107 AD with contests involving 11,000 animals and 10,000 gladiators over the course of 123 days.
After lunch and our customary afternoon nap, it was time for something a little different as we headed to the wonderful Gallery Borghese on the outskirts of Rome.Owned by a nephew of the Pope, this imposing looking mansion became one of the world’s first museums, and was absolutely filled with treasures. Back in the seventeenth century, being the Pope’s nephew meant that Cardinal Borghese had an almost limitless supply of cash to purchase gems for his collection, and if cash wouldn’t get him what he wanted, his power and position in society was enough to guarantee him what he wanted. This led to an incredible collection, including works from Bernini, Caravaggio and Titian. Although several key pieces were pinched by Napoleon to sit in the Louvre, many beauties still remain.My favourite piece in the whole gallery had to be Bernini’s Apollo & Daphne, capturing the moment when Daphne starts to turn into a tree as she struggles to escape from Apollo’s clutches. The carving of the marble is so intricate and you have to circle the statue multiple times in order to let all of the detail soak in. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the gallery so thanks to Wikipedia for this photo!
After finishing our visit to the gallery and starting the long trek back to where we were staying, the sun started to set, creating the most beautiful sky.By the time we got back to the city centre, it was well and truly dark. The city looked amazing when it was all lit up. With weary feet, we headed for a dinner of pizza (obviously!) and savoured the views, enjoying our last night in this wonderful city before heading north to Florence the next day.