We stood on the uneven stone, swaying slightly as we squinted at the menu on the wall next to the front door of the sandwich shop. Walking here is an art form, the streets are charming but deadly and even standing evenly seems to be a challenge. You watch beautiful Italian women in heels gracefully saunter past tourists wobble like newborns wearing some type of hideous walking shoe. As I turned, the looks on our faces were obvious, it wasn’t our first choice but we were hungry and time was not on our side this afternoon. We had a City Wonders tour that was not to miss and the clock was ticking for our day tour of Rome.
“I think we should just check out this other restaurant I heard about,” I said to my mother and sister, hoping that their hunger pangs wouldn’t induce a riot on the sidewalk. “It’s small so they may be full already but if that’s the case than we can always come back for a quick sandwich. I haven’t steered us wrong in the food department yet so let’s check it out?”
We agreed and set off down the street, peering down at my phone watching our little blue arrow approach our destination on the map, my stomach growling louder with each step.
The Full Monti
This neighborhood is a total gem. It is in the center of Rome, close to all of the must see areas but without the feel of a tourist trap. The bars and restaurants are filled with locals, the style here seems unique to the area and quiet compared to the bustling city that surrounds it. This residential neighborhood is a great place to walk around and explore if you have the time to move off the beaten track a bit. Check it out before your walking tour since it is in such close proximity to the Colosseum.
I had heard there was a wonderful family run restaurant in the area and since it was the start of lunchtime we decided to press our luck and see if a table was available without a reservation. La Taverna dei Fori Imperiali was busy at lunch hour but we managed to get a table and thankfully because it was our best meal in Rome.
The Flavian Amphitheater
What is in a name? In the present day most of us know this structure to be the Colosseum but it was actually named ‘Amphitheatrum Flavium’ but there was a 100 foot bronze statue, the Colossus of Nero which stood and so the massive statue slowly over time influenced the name of the amphitheater.
The facts about the Colosseum are about as easy to digest as its size. It’s hard to wrap you mind around the fact that a structure this large (1/4 of the building is missing from the structure you see today) was completed in only EIGHT YEARS back in 80 AD. We have highways that aren’t rebuilt in that span of time in the present day!
The ticketing system was much like how we attend sporting events today. Because the Colosseum was a gift to the Roman people to keep them happy and entertained, tickets were free. Based on status and class system you received a clay ticket with an inscription showing which one of the 80 gates was where you were allowed to enter. The more affluent Romans sat in the closer VIP sections and slaves and women were seating in the upper levels of the amphitheater.
The events held here would have been more entertaining the reality television. Exotic animals were brought in, lions, giraffes, crocodiles, never seen before by the public and it was a treat to watch them be hunted and killed on the arena floor. The director of the games would set up the landscape of trees and bushes, creating a scene for the hunters. All of the animals killed in the first part of the games would be butchered and served to the people, an estimated 50,000 to 80,000 could fill the Colosseum during an event. They had several different styles of games and combat, public executions of criminals, free food and even prizes for several random attendants.
One of the highlights of our City Wonders tour was that we were granted access to several locations that are not open to the general public. We had the chance to head to the lower level of the Colosseum to get a view of where the animals were kept, the elaborate trap door system that was in place so with excitement and surprise the beasts could emerge from different points of the arena floor. After exploring parts of the lower level we headed up to the top, another section of the Colosseum that is closed to the general public. The view was amazing and it was great to be able to take the massive size and layout of the amphitheater.
Make sure when you visit Saint Peter’s Basillica at the Vatican you pay attention to the marble. It was re purposed from the facade of the Colosseum. Other items were also taken and reused as the arena was abandoned over time.
After we had the chance to see the lower levels we made our way down to the Roman Forum where we got a chance to go through the ruins, learn about the different buildings, public spaces and hear stories about the Senators, Vestal Virgins and the location where Julius Caesar was placed after his death.
We ended our tour under the Arch of Titus, the inspiration for the Arch de Triomphe, a great end to a wonderful day in this historical part of Rome.
I have been to Rome twice before and this was my second visit to the Colosseum, first time with a guide. This section of the city has an overwhelming amount of history so having walked through both on my own and with an expert there is no question I would recommend booking a tour. Not only in our Colosseum Underground Experience Tour did we get to have access to sections off limits to the average ticket holder, our guide was an Archeology Professor and his knowledge allowed us to learn and appreciate so much more than walking through ourselves. Thank you so much to City Wonders for our most interesting day tour of Rome!