Travel planners considering a Roman holiday need to keep this in mind: It is very, very hot in this part of Italy, and very, very crowded in this part of Italy, in the summer. Frequent pitstops for gelato in Rome are recommended for a summer family vacation. Furthermore, while off-the-beaten-track sites are a great alternative to heavily trafficked, “top 10” types of tourist attractions, a first-time vacation in Rome really necessitates battling the crowds to spend some time in those top travel attractions in Rome. We got up bright and early to head over to the Roman Coliseum. All this years of seeing the Coliseum in movies and in photos didn’t prepare us for being there. Or me, at least; I embarrassed my daughters by weeping a little. It was that moving.
We have over a thousand summer vacation photographs taken in Italy (and London). What with the Roman Coliseum being one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and what with it being more iconic to the city than any other attraction (unless you count the Vatican, which is actually its own city), the first photos from this family summer travel experience almost demand to be of the Coliseum. My emotional reaction notwithstanding!
The interior of the Coliseum in Rome has this maze-like appearance because during the Roman Empire, the wild animals (lions and other big beasts imported from Africa, etc) slaves and gladiators would wait below the main staging area until it was their time to be “on stage.” This heightened the theatricality of the events. This photo of the Coliseum also shows the seating arrangements in the amphitheater. The emperors and vestal virgins had the best seats, while senators and rich merchants sat somewhat higher up, and the poor people of Rome basically had to scrunch together at the very top — the ancient equivalent of the nosebleed sections.
The above photo of the Roman Coliseum gives a pretty good sense of the amphitheater’s scope. The stage floor here is a modern example of what the entire base would have looked like to Romans back in the year 80 AD. Sand covered the floor, so that gladiators wouldn’t slip and fall. Animals roaring, gladiators clashing, spectators cheering — standing in the Coliseum on a hot summer day, it’s not difficult to imagine the sounds, the smells, and the humanity of 50,000 excited Romans crowded in the heat of the day to watch the drama unfold. The sense of spectacle is easily conjured, even while dealing with tourists during the peak travel season in Italy.
The experience of walking through such an incredible, ancient part of the world can be overwhelming. Children on a family vacation in Rome may not always be able to appreciate the enormity of the Coliseum’s significance (it may be later, when reminiscing over vacation photos, that they really “get” it). What they almost always can appreciate, though, is signs that kids in days past felt the same way. There’s quite a lot of graffiti, right at kids’ eye level, on some walls. The Roman Coliseum has been a major international tourist attraction for centuries, of course, and seeing what some other child carved into the wall when his parents dragged him to Rome in the 1800’s for his own edifying travel experience, brightened my own kids’ days.
Despite the heat and the embarrassment of an emotionally wrought mother, my kids had a great time seeing the Roman Coliseum. It was a highlight of our summer vacation in Italy.
Every month the Travel Blog Mob comes together around a common theme. This month, Summer Vacation Photos has been the impetus for some wonderful photo-based travel posts.
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Traveling with MJ: Italian Vacation: Gondolas in Venice
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