There are 12 Egyptian obelisks in the city of Rome, 9 of which were stolen (imported) from Egypt. They can be found peppered around the city, and mostly in-front of other historical ruins/monuments. Today was our free day to explore the city of Rome. We were dropped off by the Colosseum at 10am and were told to be back near the Spanish Steps at 10pm- this made for a VERY long day of walking. We chose to split off into small groups, my tour buddies for the day consisted of Jason Hausbak and Chris Mike. Our first stop was the Colosseum-- We opted to walk around the outside rather than wait in the massive line to go inside. We walked a few blocks around the ancient ruins on the Palatine Hill (one of the seven hills of Rome) and caught a glimpse of what used to be Circus Maximus: the Texas Motor Speedway of Rome-- where the Chariot races were held. All that remains of this track is the big field in the shape of the track and the ruins of an end house on one side of the track. The space is massive. We walked back to the ancient ruins and decided to wait in the line enter. The cost was only 11 Euro-- and as an added bonus, the ticket also served as admission to the Colosseum. These ruins are amazing, some were built as early as 700 BC. So many of the structures look incredibly well engineered and very modern. There are portions of the ground where the original marble flooring is still in tact-- all of ancient Rome was covered in Marble. Massive columns (and very detailed!) are everywhere-- we even got a glimpse of mosaic floors! This is when it occurred to me: in the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries, people lived in grass shacks. In ancient Rome, people lived in marble works of art! This culture is so advanced. We walked around this one set of ruins (which actually covers a very large area) for hours, and then headed back towards the Colosseum. I was quite happy that we were able to skip the long line (already being in possession of tickets). The Colosseum could hold 80,000 spectators. It was stripped of all its marble and iron about 1000 years ago--so it remains in its present form-- brick. I would have loved to see the Colosseum in full force-- among its modern amenities was a retractable roof (operated by sailors). I suggest you read about this building. A brief synopsis of other sites: We viewed the Pantheon- this building is very well preserved, it is in the same form that it was back in the second century (despite a bit of remodeling when it was taken over by the Catholics). Our travels also took us across the river to Vatican City. Although we were unable to get into the Sistine Chapel (it closed at 3), we were able to view St. Peter's Basilica. I can't describe how grand, ornate, and pristine this church is. It is an architectural marvel as well as a piece of fine art. Along the way, we viewed many other churches, fountains, and historical sites (including more modern sites-- such as Mussolini's palace and the monument built to the reunification of the nation--still pretty old by American standards). My feet are tired and I feel as though I've walked over 15 miles (I wish we kept track), but it was a great day and very well worth it. (although i wouldn't recommend wearing suede shoes of white shorts to walk through dusty old ruins)
Today I saw, in person, countless landmarks and artifacts that I have only read about in textbooks. This is all very surreal-- In the past two weeks I have seen more important historical sites than I can keep track of. Travel to Rome if you get a chance.
Tomorrow we set off for the hills of Tuscany.