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Death and Glory: Rome and “The Coliseum”

Zeus was the only one who could have awoken me from the continent-hopping, beer swilling, urban trekking, adrenaline-crash induced coma that I fell into on my first night in Italy. Luckily for me he was on the job today, covering Rome with charcoal colored clouds, pounding rain and booming thunder claps that rattled my hotel room windows and my molars. Welcome to Rome punk!

Matteo, the girls and I caught the metro bus to the the Wedding Cake stop, and then followed Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Coliseum. Italy is typically a humid location, especially in the summer, and especially after a five hour storm. The sun begins to slip through as the dark skies break up. I am really regretting bringing this leather jacket now.

The jagged crown of the Coliseum looms in the distance as we gain ground on this superstar of European locations. Arguably the most identifiable symbol of Italy, this place is breathtaking, and has a proud, bloody, dramatic and checkered past, not unlike it’s homeland. The modern name itself is a convoluted term. This dominant example of engineering was originally called the Flavian Amphitheatre and obtained it’s Coliseum title by it’s proximity to the nearby Colossus Neronis. Emperor Nero had this enormous bronze statue made of himself during his full blown narcissistic reign, which was from 54-68 A.D. After his demise, the statue was knocked down and melted into something actually useful. Nero was reviled by the citizens, and apparently the feeling was mutual. He spent only a few months in the city during his 13 years on the throne. He killed his own mother and step brother, so I don’t think he was a big fan of theirs either. Knowing his days were numbered, Nero beat the assassins to the punch and killed himself at the age 31.

Damn! I didn’t know any of this until today. I knew this was the place of the gladiators, ultraviolence and countless deaths, but this was really peeling back some historical layers for me. In a symbolic move, stones from the Coliseum were later used in the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica as a symbol of Christian triumph in the region.

Learning of these stories reminds me that history is such a fascinating topic. Walking through the same archways and feeling the same sun on your face, like countless souls from centuries past, is a profound experience. There is a tremendous amount of beauty and astonishing sights in Rome, many with an undercurrent of war and death. Having thousands of years of human history play out on your turf, I guess you’re bound to get some blood on your hands eventually.

We made our way through the archeological grounds around the Coliseum, passing the Arch of Constantine, Arco di Tito and others magnificent sites. Back in the modern world, which seems like a loosely applicable term for Rome, the girls followed their own muse around town while Matteo and I struck out on our own for a a good spot to rest our feet and get a drink. The fountain steps in front of the Pantheon seemed to be as good of a place as any. This is where I pinch myself and hope to God I’m not dreaming. I don’t think I have enjoyed a Coca-Cola as much in my life as I did that one. Matteo is an incredibly gracious, funny and intelligent guy that relishes in good food, good friends and good times. I have been running all over town with him for only a day, but I feel like we’ve palling around since we were kids. For a guy like me, this has been one of those days I’ll never forget, and it’s only day two of my four month stay in Italy. La bella vita.

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I am a multimedia journalist, traveling and searching for new insights into the the human condition and sharing the stories of the people I meet along the journey.

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