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December, 2004

Once the heart of the known world, from a European travelers perspective, all roads still lead to Rome. While the modern city itself is enjoyable enough, the grandest reason for visiting the city is to take a step back into the heart of Ancient Rome, that fabled era of gladiators and gluttony, and to stand in the shadows of some of history’s most storied structures.

While the tour of ruins and historical sites on the European travel circuit coliseumcan start to become somewhat of a blur, upon first site of the Colosseum it is immediately apparent that this is not just another “mound of rubble”. Astoundingly maintained, yet reputedly nowhere close to mimicking the grandeur it once held, standing inside the Colosseum is actually a breathtaking experience, which is not a term I toss around lightly. Standing down near the building’s floor, gazing from the gallows that existed beneath  the arena up to the highest reaches of the “nosebleed seats of the Ancient World”, it is literally chilling to envision all of the outlandish events of brutality and entertainment that existed inside these very walls. One of the few spots in Europe I feel that is worth every cent of the inflated cost of entry.

That being said, while I am usually not a fan of group tours, partaking in a guided walking tour of the Colosseum and the neighboring Forum is another activity that is worth the price of admission. Paying for a tour at some antoninusnon-descript side-attraction? Forget about it. Paying to have someone bequeath mountains of knowledge upon you regarding one of the most historically significant sites on the planet? Bring out the wallet.

Aside from learning enthralling stories of adventure regarding the Colosseum itself, most tours will also include a walk through the Roman Forum, the downtown bustling city center that served as the political capital of one the greatest empires of all time. In the days of Caesar, the Forum was the Ancient day Manhattan above which he observed his subjects.  Obviously a sprawling area with an enormous amount of history, the lengthy history of the Forum can best be seen in the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, an instantly recognizable site in which a Christian church was simply built directly inside of a pagan temple due to the inability to tear down the original, which was  erected by Antonionus in 161AD. Ruins on top of ruins…a telling theme of the Forum

Walking from The Colosseum through the far end of the Forum will spit you out near the PiazzaVenezia, which to be fair, with all of its traffic and modern urban chaos is not the nicest Piazza in Rome. A better choice is to hang out obeliskin the Piazza del Popolo and check out the enormous Egyptian obelisk. While Rome obviously has an abundant amount of ancient ruins, this obelisk is really old, even by Ancient Roman standards. Erected to commemorate the conquest of Egypt, the obelisk was built in 1300BC in Egypt. 1300 BC. That’s 3300 years ago! There are few places in the world where you can view up close work that humankind has created that is over 3000 years old, much less enjoy a casual evening in an open square directly at the base of.

With countless ruins, teeming ciy life, the mighty Pantheon, and 3000 year old obelisks to check out, there simply is no way to see all of Rome on a 800px-Trevi_Fountain_widesingle visit. That’s alright though, because if you head on over to Trevi Fountain, a simple flick of a coin will ensure you pay another visit to the city…or so the legend says. Fed by a canal that draws water from over 20km away, the Trevi fountain is easily the most exquisite–and popular–fountain in all of Rome. Hordes of visitors come to snap a shot of the ocean themed architecture and to toss a coin over their shoulder in hopes to gain the opportunity to visit the city once again. The good thing they’ve got going for them is that it’s been here for 3000 years…I don’t think it’s going anywhere.

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