As anyone is obligated to do in Rome, we headed to Palatine Hill to immerse ourselves in yet more throngs of tourists in downtown Rome. After a bumpy bus ride, we arrived at the Colosseum stop bright and early, tickets in hand. To be completely honest, the Colosseum is basically chaos – tour groups everywhere, hawkers selling selfie sticks intermingling with the crowd, and ‘guides’-a-plenty to ‘assist’ you in finding the correct lane as you enter (and, probably, help themselves to your wallet).
The Colosseum itself is relatively (in my opinion) underwhelming if you don’t use a guided tour – there is limited signage, and, given the overwhelming number of other tourists, it’s difficult to really appreciate the site. However, there is limited signage telling of the history, gladiatorial battles, and different layers to the architecture. Obviously, it merits a visit due to its cultural significance, but we spent an unexpectedly little amount of time at the site itself.
After disentangling ourselves from the mass of tourists, we tried to visit the Domus Aurea, which is a still-under-exploration site about 1/4 mile from the Colosseum that is far less trafficked. Unfortunately, we missed the memo that you need a special weekends-only ticket (and apparently a hard-hat!) to visit. Instead, we happened upon a group of Roman transients who appeared to be using the area just next to the entrance to the site to get day drunk and do drugs – only in Rome can a priceless site be repurposed like this!
Then, we ventured to the Roman Forum, which is a huge complex, and, in my opinion, much more compelling and certainly worth a 2-3 hour visit. The site is incredible – a huge number of ruins, each from various ages (i.e., Roman, medieval, modern Churches in the background). They also allow pretty open access to the site, so you can wander to your heart’s desire.
There are also some great views of the Colosseum and modern Rome, especially from the different ‘panoramic’ viewpoints at various heights on the hill. All in all, we probably wandered for a solid 2-3 hours.
After exploring, we had lunch at a delicious restaurant which does Roman-Mediterranean fusion, sharing a Roman artichoke, Amatriciana, and a pasta with lamb ragu and saffron noodles. Honestly, it was one of the best meals we had in Rome.
Then, we wandered back to the hotel to rest before dinner via the Spanish steps, which honestly were packed – as per all tourist sites in Rome.
I have to say, we were both a bit overwhelmed after sharing space with literally thousands and thousands of people, so we ended up hanging around the hotel and doing some housekeeping (i.e., paying some bills, catching up on emails, repacking, etc. which need to be done when you’re gone for nearly a month regardless of where you are in the world) and opted for some Thai takeaway for dinner (which was surprisingly good!).