Posted by: mdmusingsie | July 21, 2011

Ghosts in the Palatino

Today’s agenda – the Colosseo (aka coliseum) which involved another trip on the Metro. Being “veterans” now, no longer looking quite so much like lost tourists, it was a routine trip. As you exit the Metro station, the coliseum is right across the street. It’s definitely a dichotomy of cultures. I wonder if the ancient Romans would be pleased or appalled to have ready access by rapid transit? It’s hard to tell.

As we waited in line we were approached by a number of college aged students hawking guided tours for 13 Euro. Wary of street vendors and scam artists, we declined. For future travelers, you can get a guided tour for 5 Euro (at least at this time) when you buy your entrance ticket, however, read on as it might be worth the extra depending on how much time you spend in the area.

The Colosseo is an interesting place; smaller than you might imagine. The streets around and leading up to the impressive structure had originally been travertine. It seated about 50,000 and had standing room for an additional 25,000 (all facts and figures provided on the guided tour and not all have been verified). The ones standing were obviously the poor as well as the servants of the well to do. Women had to be seated separately (typical chauvinistic culture).

The gladiator events were actually staged like any kind of theatrical performance and only happened twice per year. There were no thumbs up or down vote for who would live or die – it would have been impossible to manually count that many people. Most of the gladiators were slaves who had to be sponsored by a patron who paid for their training, room, board, uniforms, and weapons. Criminals and those with excessive debt were the ones fed to the lions.

There are quite a few informational plaques around the structure, so the inside tour would likely be optional. However, the tour offered by the outside vendors does include a guided tour of the Palatino which lacks informational plaques, so it might have been worth it.

It was on the grounds outside the Colisseo that I found the first Pepsi in Italy, and paid a dear 4 Euro for a 500 ml bottle, which is an outrageous price. However, being in one of my sleep deprived states, beggars can’t be choosy. It tasted good, and that’s what counts.

We walked a little ways away from the main tourist traps to find lunch at a wonderful place on Via Capo d’Africa called Ristorante Papagio where I had the best Pasta Carbonara I’ve ever had. Interestingly enough, it’s right next door to the Shamrock Pub. It had been sorely tempting to eat at an Irish pub in Italy, but Italian food won out on this occasion.

Refreshed, we returned to the ancient site to view the Palatino and related structures. About a quarter of the way in I had an odd feeling. It could have been the heat and lack of sleep or it could have been one of those situations where you just feel that you aren’t supposed to be somewhere. I’ve had such feelings before, one of the strongest being at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania. There have been other ancient sites where I’ve felt right at home, like I belonged there, the most recent I can remember is Kanturk Castle in County Cork. Ghosts from lives past (my own or others)? Hard to say, you can choose your own theory, but I obeyed my sixth sense, as I’ve been learning to do on a more frequent basis, and departed alone leaving the others to explore at their will. I felt no remorse at having missed part of the ancient site, so whatever the cause, it worked out well for everyone.

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