This morning we walked from our apartment to Piazza Venezia on our way to the Colosseum. The general area stretching from the piazza to the Colosseum was being busily prepared for tomorrow’s Republic Day celebration parade. Italian flags were flying out the front of the Vittorio Emanuelle II monument and the lawns and garden beds were freshly manicured. Temporary stands and seating lined both sides of the Via del Fori Imperiali, television camera platforms were being rigged up, paths were closed off by barricades and armed soldiers were quite visible everywhere. On the outer wall of the Colosseum we saw a large group, all harnessed to ropes and looking like they were about to abseil down the face of one of the world’s most famous ancient structures. Instead, they combined to hoist a massive banner up the wall, all the way to the top. I guess it will be unfurled tomorrow.

We stopped at a few places along the Via del Fori Imperiali to view the antiquities to our left. The most visually stunning of them was Trajan’s Column, constructed to commemorate his victories in two wars. It is decorated with a continuous frieze that winds round and round the column a total of twenty-three times and measures around two hundred metres in length. The column towers over the ruins of Trajan’s Forum, some parts of which remain standing today.

We had wisely purchased skip-the-line tickets for the Colosseum. They allowed us to join a much shorter line to enter the security scanning area. From there we were free to explore the structure at our own pace. We headed up the steep stairs to the second level. Artefacts and displays on this level explained how the structure was built and what happened in the arena. It was helpful to see reconstructions of how it might have looked in ancient times and where people would sit to watch the events, as many parts of the original structure no longer remain. Marg and I agreed that it would have been quite a challenge for a spectator to make it all the way to the top of the stadium and then get safely down again on the very steep steps.

We went out from the galleries into the sunshine and walked in a slow circle around the upper level. Whilst it was fascinating to look at the familiar arched walls of the Colosseum from a distance, it was also really interesting to view them up close, examining the brickwork and the placement of huge marble blocks to see how it had all been put together. One impression I came away with is that it appears to be remarkably solid and likely to still be standing centuries from now. Despite the brutal deaths that occurred here, where people were sometimes hunted to death by animals for the entertainment of spectators, we concluded that this really is a place of great beauty and remarkable architectural design and building knowhow.

We descended the stairs to the lower level and completed another slow circumnavigation of the arena. We could see from behind barriers that there was another level underground, where animals, weapons, machines and other things required for the sports and games were kept, but this area is currently undergoing renovation so we were unable to go down there for a closer look.

From time to time a deafening roar from above alerted us that an Italian air force jet was about to fly overhead. Presumably the pilots were rehearsing for their roles in tomorrow’s parade when a flypast of several jets in formation is likely to be a feature. That should be something worth seeing.

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