Old friends & The Colosseum, Rome – Italy

After lying down for a while and letting my feet recover, I got a message from T asking if I was free to hang out.

I first met T whilst I was backpacking in Cambodia in October; he’d been travelling a heck of a lot since, so I was looking forward to catching up and hearing all about his adventures.

He came and met me at The Yellow bar, where he casually pulled off his beanie to reveal he had chopped off all of his hair! We chatted and drank and danced until the bar closed, then we parted ways and he headed back to the couch surfing place he was staying in.

I’d been chatting to some other people as well who were staying in a hostel just around the corner which incidentally, had a beer vending machine.

So we walked back there to have a few more drinks and laughs until the early hours and then a very friendly Canadian fella walked be back to The Yellow where I crashed out until 09:50am.

I had to check out at 10am.

Wonderful.

Cue panicked flapping and frantic hopping around trying to pull my jeans on, brush my teeth and shove everything in my bag before waving goodbye to the Turkish girls and rushing across the road.

See, I’d not really made any plans but that also meant I was booking a room at The Yellow per night, so I had to check out at 10am and see if they had any other dorms to put me in, and then check in again at 1:30pm

So after this fiasco, I decided to book a few more nights so that I actually had the chance of a lie in should it be needed!

I left my stuff in reception and headed over the road for breakfast, where I bumped into F, so we sat and chatted over coffee, and then chilled in the common room lounge (where we both fell asleep on the sofa) until I could check in.

I wasn’t expecting anything different to the previous dorm, but after check-in, I walked into my new dorm and was pretty shocked.

The decor was awesome, kind of industrial chic, the beds were bigger and more spaced out with reading lights, there was a modern bathroom with a walk in shower and even a little balcony.

I wish I’d known about the difference between the dorms and booked this one all along!

I got chatting to the only other girl in there at this time, a hungover Aussie chick who was on the last leg of her journey before going to Bali and then returning home.

She gave me some simple directions to The Colosseum as I had said that was probably my plan for the rest of the day.

I took the remaining bed, which was unfortunately top bunk. When you were a kid, top bunk was the ultimate pick that you would fight off other people for. As a backpacker who enjoys a tipple, top bunk is not really the most favourable choice.

Any way, I had a power nap and an amazing shower (the light stayed on the whole time!) and headed off late afternoon, map in hand, to attempt finding something by myself.

I followed the instructions of the red headed Australian and asked for directions once from a shop worker who then tried to strike up a whole conversation which was kind of nice but I didn’t want to get there and find it closed, so I made my excuses and scuttled off.

I wandered down pretty little streets with ivy leaves and roses creeping up the brick walls, old churches with faded fronts and amazing street art. Whilst looking at all of this I actually kind of walked past it at first. Then I did a double take, retreated back a few steps, and looked to my left.

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At the end of the sloping road to my left, there it was, the Colosseum, something that had been on my bucket list since I was a nerdy child obsessed with ancient civilisations such as the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians.

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I had got there in the late afternoon and after swerving far too many men selling crappy selfie sticks, I got in and was pleasantly surprised to find there was next to no queue.

I had to wait all of about 5 minutes to buy a ticket there and then.

For those of you who recognise the iconic building but are not quite sure what it actually is, the Colosseum an amphitheatre (an open air venue for entertainment).

Construction began in AD72 and was completed in AD80 ; It is the largest amphitheatre ever built, with an estimated potential capacity of between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators.

It is most famous for gladiatorial contests and executions (most commonly of criminals and during the persecution of the Christians). However, also showed were live animal hunts, reenactments of battles and plays based around classical/popular mythology.

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I wandered around the first section, and must admit, was a little bewildered by the central floor.

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Since it was an arena, I had assumed that the floor would be flat, and was quite surprised to see this stone labyrinth in the middle of the structure instead.

Was it supposed to be a maze? I had visions of gladiators running in and out of a gory game of hide and seek, chased by the occasional Leopard lurking in the shadows.

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At the far side from where I was standing, was a wooden stage erected, but I couldn’t really make head or tail of it, as it only covered a small portion of the arena floor.

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Having read up on it, it seems that the wooden stage was constructed to show what the floor would have looked like back during the live viewings of it’s hey day.

The stone maze that had bewildered me, was part of the underground passages (or “hypogeum”) beneath the stage, which would be used by workmen to transport props and release animals from unknown locations around the arena during hunts and gladiator events.

After wandering around the first floor, I followed the stone steps to the upper levels.

They have a museum up here, and an exhibit of small every day artefacts, commonplace things such as beads and hairpins, bone toothpicks, plates, plectrums, a random assortment of things from spectators, lost and swept away down drains.

As well as sculptures and busts…

 

I wandered through the exhibit and made my way to the outside section on the upper level, to look down in the afternoon sun from a different angle, at the labyrinth beneath and glimpses of the forum from the open archways.

 

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I can tell you now, it’s pretty difficult to get non embarrasing seflies when travelling alone!

 

I wandered for some time, and when I had my fill, made my way outside to sit in the afternoon sun to relax and take in this striking monument.

 

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This relaxation was short-lived however, due to the ridiculous amount of bloody selfie stick totes.

One after the other they approached me (obviously prime target), and then came back again, like flies buzzing around manure they constantly try to wave their crappy plastic merchandise under your nose and don’t take no for an answer (unless, they piss of a young woman with a bit of a temper and the next guy that tried to wave his selfie stick in her face had it thrown in a bush).

The things is, I probably could have done with a selfie stick, as I mentioned above, it’s pretty difficult to get flattering selfies in a public place without feeling awkward as hell, but I didn’t want a crappy over priced one and especially (out of principle) not from overly persistent totes.

I’d make do…

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I decided to go for a walk around the perimeter, waiting for the sun to set and cast it’s shadow over the stones before finally heading off.

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Since I had found my way so easily, I must admit, I got a bit cocky and decided to not glance at my map as I confidently walked back through the streets I had come through earlier, noticing even more details than before.

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However, at some point or another, I had taken a wrong turn, and ended up in a Piazza I had never seen before.

Eventually, I admitted defeat and pulled out my map. I headed off in the direction I thought I was supposed to go in, but ended up walking in one massive loop and very much to my frustration, ended up back in the centre of the same bloody Piazza; with the same charity rep trying to get me to sign up. He was pretty delighted and tried to strike up a bargain that, as I was clearly lost, if I signed up to the charity he would tell me how to get back.

No thanks.

I walked back up the streets and asked a soldier guarding a building which way to go for Termini station, as I knew my way from there.

I headed up the road in the direction he had pointed me in. Walking in the evening by myself, I didn’t feel at any point scared or threatened. People took no notice of me as I walked past them sipping on drinks outside restaurants, waiting for chauffeurs in their ball gowns and suits outside a hotel lobby, having a quick cigarette between shifts out the back of a kitchen.

On even busy street corners there seems to be intricate sculptures in the walls, as if the very bones of Rome and it’s most basic foundations are crafted with romanticism.

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I walked past lit up fountains and through the Piazza close to Termini which looked quite pretty at night.

 

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Past the entrances of old Basilica’s…

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Eventually, I got back to The Yellow with slightly sore feet, ordered a Jack Daniels and coke and sat outside to relax.

I thought that would be it, and that I would have an early night.

But then I got talking to a bunch of Aussies.

Then I started doing shots with the bunch of Aussies.

Then there was dancing and drinks and we all decided to head to a party on the other side of the City, close to The Vatican.

Now, I’m not saying that hitch hiking is a particularly good way to make new friends, and I highly doubt I would do it by myself, but we ended up getting a ride with a local (in return I bought him a beer the next day) and he turned out to be a pretty nice guy!

I eventually got back to my hostel at about 11am, crawled into my bed, and immediately…

The construction work began.

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Freelance writer who loves reading, cooking & travelling. Rarely spotted without red lipstick. Penchant for whiskey on the rocks.

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