Italy

Tips for Visiting the Roman Colosseum

Posted by on 9:00 am in Italy Travel, Travel Tips | 0 comments

Tips for Visiting the Roman Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum, or also known as the Flavian Amphitheatre, is the largest amphitheatre in the Roman world. It stands nearly 50 metres and is as impressive in person as it is in photographs. It could hold 50,000 people. It made my top 10 attractions in Rome and it should be on everyone’s travel bucket list if you haven’t seen it yet.

The Flavian Amphitheatre started construction under Emperor Vespasian (of the Flavius family) in 72 AD and completed by Titus a decade later. It was built on the site of Nero’s Palace and the aim was to dissociate himself from the tyrant and to gain popularity by staging events such as gladiator battles and the massacre of animals.

Roman Colosseum

Roman Colosseum

The Roman Colosseum remained in use for 450 years but sustained damage in a lightning fire in 217 AD and an earthquake in 443 AD. Not long after, it ceased to be used for gladiator battles or animal hunts, possibly due to the rise of Christianity. The amphitheater soon was used for a multitude of things: a small church, a cemetery, housing, workshops and a castle during the next few centuries. In 1349, another earthquake caused great damage to the Roman Colosseum causing the outer south side to collapse. Stone and marble were pillaged from the Roman Colosseum for centuries and after the earthquake, much of it was used to build churches and other buildings in Rome. Even the bronze clamps were hacked out of the walls, leaving holes that you can still see today.

Avoid the Lines

There are several ways to avoid waiting in a LONG line. First, buy a guided tour so you can skip the lines and you’ll get extra information from your tour guide; I’ve always used Viator whenever I buy a skip the line tour.

Second, buy your ticket in advance from Palatine Hill located in Via San Gregorio No. 30 and Piazza Santa Maria Nova No. 53 (200 metres from the Colosseum). You will gain entrance to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum as well. This joint ticket is absolutely the way to go if you do not select a tour. You may also buy a ticket near the Colosseum entrance but that line will always be long. Skip it and get it in advance or via Palatine Hill.

Third, you can use your Roma Pass to visit the Roman Colosseum along with many other sites.

Fourth, buy your ticket online if the other three options are not appealing.

Colosseum, Rome, Italy

Colosseum, Rome, Italy – right around the corner from my hotel

Arrive before 8:30 am

The Colosseum opens its doors at 8:30 am so be in line a good ten minutes early and you will zoom through the queue. If you wish to visit Palatine Hill first, sure that works as well but I would recommend visiting the Colosseum first as it will get crazy busy as the day goes by. You will get some great pictures with little or no other tourists wrecking your photos. 🙂

Return at Night

As you can see from my above photo, the beauty of the Roman Colosseum must be seen at night. If nothing else, you must at least visit the Colosseum at night.

Metro

I would recommend staying near the Colosseum or the historic centre of Rome. It is a fantastic place; I was lucky enough to get a room in a small B&B around the corner from the Colosseum. There is nothing better than walking two minutes to see the Colosseum multiple times a day.

Rome’s metro system is quite good; you can walk from Termini station which takes 15 minutes (go straight down Cavour) or hop on the Line B and get off at Colosseo station which is right outside the colossal Roman Colosseum.

Inside the Roman Colosseum

Inside the Roman Colosseum

Other Information

Price for entry is 12 euros for entry to the Roman Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. I would recommend getting the Roma Pass if you plan to be in Rome for a few days; it covers many museums and other sites.  You get free admission to your first two archeological sites (so pick the most expensive) or one if you select the 48 hour pass; free admission to many museums; free use of the metro system; and discounts on numerous other exhibitions.

Restoration has finally started on the Colosseum so be prepared to see scaffolding. The Colosseum will still be open (they say 85% will be open and viewable). Work is expected to take over two years (it started in October 2013 so early 2015 maybe).

Keep an eye on your wallet in this area: lots of tourists plus many street vendors trying to sell crap. They have a hard time taking NO for an answer. Be prepared to be annoyed; be firm and say no. They may still not leave you alone so keep walking and DO NOT STOP!

Wear good footwear; the entire area is very ancient and many of the paths inside and out are uneven.

Water – drinks lots of water. Bring a bottle with you if you are touring the area during the hot summer months. It gets super hot in Rome! I visited in October and it was still blistering! Bring your own bottle to save money: lots of places to fill it up.

So have you been to the Roman Colosseum or are you planning to go soon?

You might also be interested in:

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Ancient Pompeii

Posted by on 12:45 pm in Italy Travel, Travel Tips | 4 comments

A trip to Italy is not complete unless you visit the ancient city of Pompeii, a city once lost to the world for over a millennium after the eruption by Mount Vesuvius in August 24-25, 79 AD.

Temple of Venus, Pompeii

Temple of Venus, Pompeii

Pompeii

Pompeii was a resort city that housed the summer homes of the Roman rich and elite. There may have been up to 20,000 inhabitants during the eruption with around 2000 perished as they had remained after the start of the eruption. Many other thousands perished in the Pompeii – Herculaneum area.

We must thank Pliny the Younger, a Roman administrator and poet, for his account of the earthquake and volcanic eruption four days later by Mount Vesuvius!  Pliny’s uncle, Pliny the Elder, was stationed at the imperial naval base of Misenum, across the Bay of Naples. Pliny the Elder was a senior officer in the Roman Navy but also a naturalist who wrote a series of books on natural history. He also perished during the rescue of a friend in Pompeii when he was unable to leave due to the change in winds. There are questions whether he perished from inhaling the toxic fumes or from natural causes stemming from his asthma.

Pompeii road

Pompeii road

Pliny the Younger wrote two letters to Tacitus, a very well-known historian, around twenty years after the events. Pliny the Younger gave an astounding detailed account of the whole event including a passing remark of earth tremors that were not cause for alarm since they were frequent in the area. Unfortunately, no one connected the possibility of an earthquake leading to a volcanic eruption. In addition, Mount Vesuvius had not erupted significantly since 1800 BC (there was a smaller one in 217 BC) so the people were NOT prepared for raining of fire.

Pompeii bakery

Pompeii bakery

Pompeii was covered in ash, which preserved the city until it was rediscovered in 1748. Excavations started immediately and they continue to this day.  For one full day, ash fell on the city along with pumice and rocks. Volcanic gases filled the city prompting many thousands to flee Pompeii and also Herculaneum. Soon a pyroclastic surge swelled out of the volcano at the rate of 100 km/hr, killing anyone who had remained.  The city was not rebuilt and eventually was lost to many feet of rocks and ash.

Mosaics in Pompeii

Mosaics in Pompeii

Being buried beneath all that rock and debris, it helped to preserve the city. Buildings, roads, paintings and mosaics have survived almost two thousand years. You can even see graffiti on the buildings with silly things such as “Aufidius was here” or  “Marcus loves Spendusa” or even political ads during elections. It is magnificent. My favourite building in Pompeii is the brothel. Erotic art fills the brothel as you can see below with a very comfortable looking bedroom.

Pompeii Brothel Erotica

Pompeii Brothel Erotica

Mount Vesuvius has not erupted since 1944 and the region has seen many small earthquakes over the years. Many people still live on the side of the mountain – I’m not sure that is brave or stupid. Probably a combination of both! 🙂

The easiest way to get to Pompeii is to take a day tour out of Rome. Or hope the train for a two-hour ride to Pompeii yourself. You probably won’t need the audio guide but if you can hook up with a tour group, I would recommend that. The guides are VERY knowledgeable about Pompeii.

It gets incredibly hot in Pompeii (and most of Italy) during the summer so be prepared. If you can visit a bit off-season (October), that is better. The weather drops below 30 degrees Celsius (yay) and there are fewer tourists. I am a fan of October travel!  For more info on travel to Pompeii, try their official website. Remember, Pompeii is actually a very large area and much of it is not even excavated yet. It’ll take many years to complete it (if they ever do).

Plastercast of a victim of Pompeii

Plaster cast of a victim of Pompeii – one of many

I leave you with my favourite photo I took in Pompeii (below). This was on the road and pointed towards the brothel. It gave those weary sea-men (ahem) directions to a house of ill-repute. 😉

Directions to the brothel in Pompeii

Directions to the brothel in Pompeii

So have you been to Pompeii? I’ll have another post up on Mount Vesuvius soon as I did climb up to the crater.

Top 10 Rome Attractions

Posted by on 2:09 pm in Italy Travel, Travel Tips | 11 comments

 

It is hard to pick just ten. There are endless sights to see in Rome and I highly recommend spending more than just two or three days in Rome. I happily stayed for six days and had a blast. I was lucky enough to stay near the Coliseum which I visited often. It was incredibly enjoyable to take a quick visit to the Coliseum before I went to bed each night. But now, here are the Top 10 Rome Attractions!

The Top 10 Rome Attractions

1. Trevi Fountain – The fountain is not far from the Coliseum and Forum. It is a gorgeous baroque fountain which has been featured prominently in several films such as Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. This fountain is very popular and during the day and early evening, you will have a hard time getting close to it. People crowd the fountain and won’t move their asses. Sorry just had a flashback. 🙂  However, it is worth the visit and a few bruises to your elbows. Don’t forget to throw a coin over the shoulder – I totally forgot. I blame the throngs of people.

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

Trevi Fountain, Rome, Italy

2. Coliseum – This is THE place to visit in Rome. There is nothing else so impressive and awe-inspiring in all of Rome. The Flavian Amphitheatre started construction under Emperor Vespasian (of the Flavius family) in 72 AD and completed by Titus a decade later. It was built on the site of Nero’s Palace and the aim was to dissociate himself from the tyrant and to gain popularity by staging events such as gladiator battles and the massacre of animals. The Coliseum remained in use for 450 years but sustained damage in a lightning fire in 217 AD and an earthquake in 443 AD. Not long after, it ceased to be used for gladiator battles or animal hunts, possibly due to the rise of Christianity. The amphitheater soon was used for a multitude of things: a small church, a cemetery, housing, workshops and a castle during the next few centuries. In 1349, another earthquake caused great damage to the Coliseum causing the outer south side to collapse. Stone and marble were pillaged from the Coliseum for centuries and after the earthquake, much of it was used to build churches and other buildings in Rome. Even the bronze clamps were hacked out of the walls, leaving holes that you can still see today.

I will recommend a “Skip the Line” tour for the Coliseum. The lines are exceptionally long all day long. This way you get to skip the line and you get a tour guide during the tour inside. Do not miss the interior of the Coliseum – it is spectacular! There are many options online – Viator and expedia are two top choices.

Coliseum, Rome, Italy

Coliseum, Rome, Italy – right around the corner from my hotel

3. Basilica of Saint John Lateran – This is the Rome’s Cathedral and the official ecclesiastical seat of the Bishop of Rome, who is the Pope. It is the oldest and ranks first among the four Papal Basilicas of Rome. It was built in the 4th century AD under Pope Melchiade.

Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome, Italy

Basilica of Saint John Lateran, Rome, Italy

4. Museo Nazionale Romano (National Museum of Rome) – There are many many fantastic items to see at this museum. My personal favourite is the Disc Thrower – a Roman copy from the 1st century AD of the lost Greek bronze status by Myron circa 450 BC. The Romans made many copies of Greek statues and we should be quite thankful since most of the Greek originals have been lost. The Romans copied the statues in marble which was cheaper than bronze. This copy in the Rome museum was discovered in 1906 in the ruins of a Roman villa at Tor Paterno.

Disc Thrower, Myron, Roman copy of Greek bronze, 1st c. AD, Museo Nazionale Romano

Disc Thrower, Myron, Roman copy of Greek bronze, 1st c. AD, Museo Nazionale Romano

5. Roman Forum – Aside from the Coliseum, the Forum is other super amazing place to visit on my Top 10 Rome Attractions. It is situated right beside the Coliseum and it was the central area of ancient Rome.  Commerce, business, religious affairs, justice, prostitution and all other affairs took place in the Forum. The funeral of Julius Caesar and Mark Antony’s famous oration took place in the Forum as well. This view was taken from Capitoline Hill.

Roman Forum, Rome, Italy

Roman Forum, Rome, Italy

6. Pantheon – This is one of the best preserved buildings in all of Rome. It is a Roman temple built by Emperor Hadrian after the Pantheon of Marcus Agrippa burned down in 80 AD and dedicated to the pagan Gods around 118-125 AD. The Pantheon stands today because Emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface VIII in 608 AD and it was used as a church. Below is the tomb of Renaissance painter Raphael. Several Italian Kings are buried here as well (Vittorio Emanuele II and Umberto I).

Pantheon and the tomb of Raphael, Rome, Italy

Pantheon and the tomb of Raphael, Rome, Italy

7. Capitoline Hill and Museum – The Piazza del Campidoglio has several museums that make up the Capitoline Museum. A copy of the Emperor Marcus Aurelius is in the courtyard with the original inside the museum. There are numerous items in the museums from the Dying Gaul to the Capitoline Venus to a courtyard filled with fragments of the Colossus of Constantine. I particularly enjoyed posing beside his giant head and hand. 🙂 Below is the She-Wolf of the 5th century BC. This is a symbol of the city which dates back to the Etruscans with the twins added in the 15th century (Remus and Romulus – the founders of Rome).

She-wolf in Capitoline Museum, Rome, Italy

She-wolf in Capitoline Museum, Rome, Italy – 4th century BC but twins added in 1400 AD

8. Vatican including Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica – You cannot visit Rome without taking a trip to another state, Vatican City to visit the Vatican, its museums and basilica. Below is the magnificent Sistine Chapel, painted by the equally magnificent Michelangelo in the early 16th century and returning to add the Last Supper thirty years later.  Funny, Michelangelo did not want to paint the Sistine Chapel as he considered himself a sculptor before a painter. His David statue is a testament to his sculpting prowess but he underestimated himself as a painter. His work in the Sistine Chapel is breathtaking.

Sistine Chapel, Vatican

Sistine Chapel, Vatican

9. Spanish Steps – 135 steps to heaven! This incredible staircase was built in the 18th century. This is another very busy part of Rome. If you can stop by at night, do so.

Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, Rome

Spanish Steps, Piazza di Spagna, Rome via Wikipedia

10. Appian Way – An ancient road in Rome that at one time, stretched 563 km from the Roman Forum to modern-day Brindisi. You can find numerous tombs in the catacombs on the Appian Way, another must-see on the Top 10 Rome Attractions!

Appian Way, Rome

Appian Way, Rome via Wikipedia

There is the Top 10 Rome Attractions. There are many others you can put on this list such as the Piazza del Popolo, Villa Borghese and Museo e Galleria Borghese. Those are also great Roman attractions.

What was your favourite part of Rome?

Travel Bucket List

Posted by on 10:00 am in Germany Travel, Greece Travel, Italy Travel, Russia Travel | 8 comments

Globe of the world

Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/topfer

Do I have a travel bucket list? There are certainly a list of countries I want to visit before I perish. That is true but I have never written it down.  Now is the time to collate all those thoughts from my brain (there are A LOT) and come up with a list. I have decided to do a top ten travel bucket list. The trouble will be narrowing my thoughts into ten. 🙂 I had started this list the other day but after reading Backpacking Diplomacy’s bucket list and seeing we shared a couple in common that I had already put on my list, I figured I should get going on mine and finish it.

 

The Travel Bucket List

1. Russia – Russia is the first on my travel bucket list. No surprise to anyone that knows me. I have studied Russian history for years and have been obsessed with the country for decades. My first memories of Russia are during the late 1980s during the Winter Olympics. Canada was hosting the games in 1988, in Calgary, and the whole country was on the edge of their seat. Russia existed in the form of the Soviet Union, the  so-called ‘evil’ comrades from Russia and several other eastern countries.

My memories are pretty scattered from that time. I remember the Battle of the Brian’s, the Jamaican bobsled team, Elizabeth Manley’s unexpected silver medal and Karen Percy kicking ass on the hill. The other memory is one of dislike. There was a lot of dislike for the Soviet Union and all the Eastern Bloc countries. I was young and did not like that so from that moment on, I decided to cheer on the commies (all of them). I did not like that no one liked them. Seriously, that was the reason.

I do not remember when my love of Russian history started but I can only assume it was around that same time. I read up on Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, Ivan the Terrible (actually translated incorrectly – Grozny is closer to formidable or threatening), Ivan the Great, and so on. I only ended up studying Russian history in university by accident. I had planned on majoring in German history, as my mother’s family is German, but switched to Russian when the German professor retired and the university did not replace him immediately.

Why Russia? There is so much beauty and history in Russia. From the Kremlin to Red Square to the Heritage to Peter and Paul Fortress, you will need weeks to visit this beautiful country. I am very excited that I will be crossing this item off my bucket list very soon. I will be going to Russia next February for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. I am also planning a few extra days in Moscow. Well, I will not be able to cross it off entirely as I will not have time to visit the Golden Ring, Novgorod and St. Petersburg. Plus, a trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway is a must-see (see below, I had to separate it out since that is a massive trip in itself). I hope to check off St. Pete during a Nordic trip. Maybe a cruise of the Baltic Sea??

UPDATE: I finally made it to Russia. HAPPY HAPPY. I stopped by Moscow and Sochi for the 2014 Olympics. In Moscow, I enjoyed Red Square and the Kremlin!

St Basil's Cathedral, Kremlin, Moscow, Russia

St. Basil’s Cathedral, Moscow. Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/ushakov

2. A Cruise – I have always wanted to take a cruise.  Whether it is an Alaskan, Baltic or Mediterranean Cruise, I definitely plan on making this happen. I lean towards a Baltic Sea cruise since I think that will be the easiest way to hit up Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and St. Petersburg in one trip and a good introduction to all those countries. I can always return on a separate trip, or trips, at a later date. I am a bit concerned that I would end up sea-sick. I live inland; we do not have a lot of water in Alberta. I did grow up in Manitoba which is the province of lakes but not oceans. I still think this would be a fun way to travel around an area.

3. African Safari – I have only recently been thinking about hitting up Africa as I have only even wanted to visit Europe. Now? I have such a yearning to visit Africa on a safari. How fun would that be? Obviously, I want to see the big attractions, known as the Big Five. I live in a very northern city in Canada (Edmonton – great city but we are quite north) so we do not have many exotic animals in our zoo. I just do not have the opportunity to see these majestic creatures often. The Big Five are: Elephant, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, Lion and Leopard. These were coined by hunters and are not the only animals I would love to see in their nature habitat. Others are Giraffes, Cheetah, Hippos, Gorillas and many more. I want to see them all. Maybe even go on a hunt? 

African Lion

Meoooow!! Photo via http://www.sxc.hu/profile/GermanGirl

4. Egypt – This is the easiest one to put on a travel bucket list. Who does not have this on their list? And if you do not, what the hell is wrong with you? 🙂  Come on – pyramids, mummies, cruising down the Nile, ancient temples and on and on. Sadly, there are serious troubles going on in Egypt and have been for several years. I really hope they can figure things out. There has been too much death and I hate to see such a beautiful place crumbling from within. I really hope things work out for them. Of course, I want this to happen as quickly as possible. I have pushed back a possible Egypt trip for a few years. I have an opening in 2015 – hint hint. I want to come visit. 🙂 

Egypt Pyramids Sphynx

The Sphinx and Pyramids in Egypt. Photo per http://www.sxc.hu/profile/tanya_b

5. The Tropics – As I mentioned, I have rarely wanted to even venture outside of Europe but as I look toward Africa, my eyes have started looking at visiting some place warm. I refer to this as “The Tropics” since it really covers many, many, many, many countries. Maybe I will go to Mexico, Bora Bora, Turks and Caicos or Hawaii. I really have no idea which country I will visit for my first warm vacation but I know one thing, it will be an adult-only resort. Ha, sorry no children allowed. Thank you! 🙂

I will try to relax on a beach, trying not to plan every minute of my trip, with a cocktail or twenty. There are quite a few activities you can do other than relaxing on the beach with a beverage in your hand. You can go horseback riding, take a boat ride, go scuba diving or snorkelling. That is usually not my jam; I am more of a museum and castle girl. I have not met a castle I did not love. I have not met a museum I did not want to marry and live happily ever after. 🙂 I hope to take that tropics trip in the next 12-18 months.

6. Group trip to Oktoberfest – I went to Oktoberfest back in 2008 as I took my first solo vacation. I toured around Germany for twenty-five days and had THE BEST TIME EVER. Ever since that trip, I have travelled solo to Europe two more times and I highly recommend a solo trip to every single person out there. Do it. Now. Great people and food!!!

I popped into Oktoberfest in Munich for two days but in honestly, I was there one afternoon. It was the last weekend of Oktoberfest which also coincided with Germany’s national holiday so it was CRAZY busy. I suggest going earlier and avoiding that last weekend. I had a great time, met some lovely people from Germany and a couple cute Austrians in their lederhosen and had the best time. I do want to return with a group of friends because I think it will be a lot more fun to take a group of friends to Munich. 

Oktoberfest Munich tent

Oktoberfest Paulaner Tent

 7. Santorini, Greece – I took a one day tour of three islands when I visited Greece back in 2011. I went to Hydra, Poros and Aegina and they were so damn lovely. I want to return to hit up Santorini, the most famous of all the Greek islands. I know several people who have gone and loved it. I think a return to Greece is needed. I did not have the time back in 2011 to add a few days in Santorini as I was also heading to Italy after my 9 days in Greece. I regret not making time but I will return. 🙂

8. Venice, Italy – This travel bucket list shares the same reasoning as Santorini. I simply did not have the time to add it to my Greek-Italian vacation in 2011. I chose Florence over Venice because I wanted to see Michelangelo’s David which was absolutely worth the trip. However, I have had my eye on Venice for many years and would love to visit. There are so many museums, churches, bridges and canals to gaze upon! Plus who can refuse a gondola trip down the canal.

Venice, Italy

Venice, photo credit http://www.sxc.hu/profile/leonardobc

9. Riding the Trans-Siberian Rail – I am not sure why this sounds so appealing but hitting the rails to make my way from Moscow to Vladivostock (seriously, how is that not the best city name ever? Just rolls off the tongue) sounds like a great trip. It is one of the longest rail trips in the world at 9,258 km; takes six nights and seven days to complete. You can also go to China or Mongolia as it links up with the Trans-Mongolian and Trans-Manchurian lines or stay in Russia.  All three sound great to me.

[Edit: Just found this fantastic article on How to Travel the Trans-Siberian Railway. Some great tips for stops such as Yekaterinburg and Kazan]

Trans-Siberian Railway map

Trans-Siberian Railway Route via Wikipedia

10. Camel Ride (or Elephant) in the desert – This is pretty self-explanatory. Who does not want to ride a camel or elephant? That would be totally fun. Wheeee!!

Camel, Desert

Come ride me – photo by http://www.sxc.hu/profile/mofl13

Well there you go. That is my travel bucket list (for now). I hope to cross a few of these off my list in the next year or two. There is nothing like travelling; it is better than sex and chocolate. 🙂

So what’s on your bucket list?