The number one thing Brayden was looking forward to on this trip was our tour of the Colosseum, and it didn’t disappoint. We started by going deep underground and exploring the complex labyrinth of cages, tunnels, and mechanical elevators under the arena floor. Our guide told us about the different types of spectacles that took place and showed us how animals and gladiators were held below and then raised into the arena to entertain the masses. (Interesting origin story: the word “arena” is Latin for “sand;” the modern definition comes from the fact that sand was used in the Colosseum as a flooring material to soak up the blood.)
We also stood on the arena floor and even climbed up another level for a bird’s-eye view of the entire structure. It was a much more interesting and informative experience than the one Chris and I had 20 years ago, when we just walked around the main level on a self-guided audio tour.
The tour also took us to the Palatine Hill, where the richest Romans once had their palaces, and the Roman Forum, which was the commercial and political centre of ancient Rome. We were pretty tired by that point, but the kids did perk up a bit when the guide pointed out the original Senate house and the temple that holds Julius Caesar’s ashes.
Afterwards, we wandered down a side street and found a taverna for lunch. This place did not cater to tourists (meaning no spaghetti and meatballs…Romans NEVER serve those together) so it was more of an authentic experience. We all loved it!