Easter in Rome: Uncovering the Roman Forum
After the excitement of the spectacular Colosseum, we re-assembled with our group for the next stage of the tour; a short walk over to Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. Although my legs were weary from days of exploring Romes historic monuments, I was completely in my element. I’d not only ticked off the second location on my Seven Modern Wonders of the World list, but had also fully immersed myself in a journey through time exploring one of my favourite topics at school as a child; the Romans!
As a tour party, we were able to access the forum relatively quickly; though with the time approaching 12:30pm the queues were building fast, so I’d definitely recommend arriving early to beat the crowds. After the hustle and bustle of the Colosseum, there was a relative peace and quiet to Palatine Hill as we strode along the path through the trees flanking the right-hand side of the hill. This afforded another view of the majestic Colosseum in all its splendour and with the remains of what was once a block of two-tier apartments built into the hill of a commercial district, I can only imagine the prices these commanded on the Roman real estate market - Million Dollar Listing New York, eat your heart out! The guide described this area as Ancient Rome’s version of Oxford Street - the epicentre of their shopping experience. After reaching the end of the street and descending the steps, the Forum completely opened up to the imagination.
The ruins of temples, monuments, houses and other structures were laid out in what was clearly a grandiose city centre lying at the heart of the mighty Roman empire. We surveyed the magnificent Arch of Titus, dedicated to the Emperor by the senate and the people of Rome after his victory over Judea in 70AD, before moving further down into the ruins. It’s easy for a creative mind to run amok at this point, picturing politicians bickering, city folk bartering and centurions marching through the streets. It really must have been an incredible sight to see.
For me, the most interesting location within the Forum was privy to an ancient religious tradition akin to something you’d see in blockbuster Hollywood films; think 300 where the Ephors choose only the most beautiful Spartan women to live amongst them as Oracles. In this case, the Temple of Vesta was home to one of Rome’s most ancient cults; the Vestal Virgins. These women maintained a sacred fire forever burning as a symbol of the city’s life-force, with men severely prohibited from entering. Should one break their vow of chastity, they were liable to death by being buried alive; incredibly bizarre and utterly brutal.
We continued making our way around the site, studiously reading the information provided on each ruin of note, before deciding the legs were finally due a rest and making our way back to the comfort of Trastevere. Our discoveries did not stop here though, as we walked along the perimeter of a grassland park once home to the Circus Maximus; judging by the size, what a phenomenal venue that must of been!
Mid-afternoon led to another of my favourite activities; eating (as if you hadn’t grasped that by now). This time at the wonderful Eggs restaurant in Trastevere. A modern, chic bistro that serves some tremendous food in jars, it thoroughly satisfied this fat boy who was ravenous after a third day exploring. I can particularly recommend the “purple” carbonara; consisting of duck breast with caciocavallo di scanno that was incredible. Try it for yourself, you won’t regret it.
Easter weekend in Rome had been amazing. Yes, it was busy. Yes, it was expensive. Yet, it was also the best city I have ever had the pleasure to visit. Full of history, beautiful architecture, delicious food and an incredible atmosphere, it truly delivered in all areas. Over three days, we worked out we’d walked more than 26 miles exploring the Italian capital; good job I kept the tank well supplied with pasta and gelato!
Book the flight. Book the hotel. It’s a special city.