Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Rome's Colosseum: still moving after 2000 years

I came across a news article saying Rome's Colosseum or Colosseo, like the Leaning Tower of Pisa, is sinking to one side. It wasn't a surprise, I thought, as I've read somewhere that the land that it stands on -- or the entire Roman soil, for that matter -- is soft in a sense that anything built on it tends to sink overtime. Thus the seemingly unending discoveries of ruins and evidences of Rome's glorious past underneath whenever they dig for constructions.

But caretakers of the ancient monument know better, saying the 40-meter slant on the Colosseo's southern side, noticed since about 2011, could be caused by a crack at the base. Studies are also done if traffic around it is also causing the movement.

With all the buzz being generated by this 2,000-year old structure -- news-wise or within tourist circles -- one thing has hit me: this edifice has gone through a lot, what with the numerous gladiator shows and reenactments and theatrical shows that it has hosted, not to mention the threat from earthquakes and fires as well as robbers that threatened its structural integrity.

Indeed, the Colosseum still moves, both literaly and figuratively. And for a tourist to be moved, it doesn't really cost that much.

The Colosseum will not be among Rome's most visited attractions for nothing. From afar, it will impress the traveler weary of walking all day. Or upon emerging from the Colosseo station of the Metro, a somewhat closer view of the Colosseum is much more of a surprise -- maybe something that you might think is unreal as it will strike to you as a painting, or a surprise as a gift drawn out of a box. I\n fact, you don't even have to come inside to admire its beauty. And take note: it's a different story if you chance upon the Colosseo at night.

The Western side of the Colosseum.
The more curious travelers, on the other hand, would not go to Roma without going inside the Colosseum itself -- of course for a fee.

Cool air will embrace you as you walk through the high-ceilinged halls that encircle the entire structure.

Steep steps will lead you to the upper level, the highest where visitors are allowed. There are exhibits and even a video presentation that explains the origins of the building, as well as some artifacts -- vases, costumes and seemingly ancient museum artifacts -- that would give meaning to your visit of the Colosseum. It could be boring, though, but if you don't pay attention, the Colosseum would be reduced to a large heap of stones, albeit beautifully rendered. A ver piedras otra vez?! (to look at rocks again), as sarcastic Spanish speakers would say.

If you really can't stand the exhibit, then by all means, go out to the middle and see the vastness of the Colosseo!

Legions of tourists -- lots of them! -- line up to get inside the Colosseo.
Travelers with sore feet can sit on the giant boulders and look at the pedestrian life outside the Colosseum.

Picture-perfect arches, which used to be passageways of gladiator fans, are the views while lining up for tickets at the Colosseum.

While looking at the center of the Colosseum, one couldn't imagine where or how spectators of shows here sit -- or do they just stand? -- as there are nary a trace of bleachers inside. But I can be sure that when they say this can house 50,000 spectators at a time, there can be little room for SRO.

The ground, which is supposedly where gladiators fight with beasts, is lined with high walls to form cells, which I suppose are some sort of "dressing rooms" of participants (Ok, I admit, I didn't pay attention to the exhibit!).

High walls that form cells at the center of the Colosseum.
It didn't take me half a day to walk inside the Colosseum; it was about an hour, I believe. But was it worth it? Yes. I was moved.

Tip sheet:
1. There are buses around Rome that will lead you to the Colosseum. If the Metro is much more convenient, the Colosseum has its own station at Line B.
2. Entrance to Colosseum is 12 euros. Those with Roma Card (sold at the Termini or in tourist kiosks around Rome) have the option to choose Colosseo as their free destination, plus another free destination, plus unlimited rides at trams, buses, and the Metro for three days, and discounts to different establishments, for 35 euros. I went there twice and I think I was able to save more doing it a la carte, that is, buying a tourist transpo ticket for about 16 euros (unlimited train, bus and tram rides for three days), and then pay separately for each destination. Three days are not really enough to see more than two paid destinations (say, the Colosseum and the Roman Forum), anyway.
3. When in Rome, wear comfy footwear.