A ROMAN (FORUM & COLOSSEUM) BIRTHDAY for the Ages, Thanks to EYES OF ROME. (Part 2)

My Birthday adventure in Rome at the Roman Forum and Colosseum with Eyes Of Rome Private Tours continues…

I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a Birthday, and my smile here and all day showed it. Forever Grateful to our friends at Eyes Of Rome!

What was still mind-blowing as Katie had us wind around from location to location, was here we were at one of Rome’s most traveled to destinations. Almost 5 million visitors a year come here! Yet, rarely, the routes she took, did we cross paths with more than a few people.

Rome’s greatest sites, like the center of the Roman Forum here, are usually teamed wall to wall with tourists… unless you have the right guides looking out for you. It’s incredible to take pictures like this without hundreds of people dotting them everywhere.

More importantly, as you’re seeing in so many of my pictures posted here, you hardly see but a couple of people if any in the background.

2,000 year old ruins, right there for you to not only see, but touch, respectfully of course. The history is real, no props here! (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

This alone is worth the private tour experience! Nothing spoils visiting iconic spots and fighting mass crowds.

Here Katie and I slowly make our way to the Temple of Saturn, no sound but the breeze through the Roman Forum and the photographer’s shutter. An incredible peacefulness and a priceless way to view the ruins. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

It can’t always be avoided, certain times just are busy but great guides like Katie know the best routes to give you the best experience possible for the greatest memories. That’s what’s it all about.

This is the spot marking “Point Zero” of Rome and it’s Empire over 2,000 years ago.

Katie never stopped with the history behind every step we took, making us feel like we’d traveled back in time. She made learning fascinating, but it’s hard for it not to be. Just coming up to a simple piece of ruin, then finding out that it is “point zero,” literally! Ever heard the term, “all roads lead to Rome?” Erected in 20 BC by Augustus Caesar, located by the Temple of Saturn, it measured the distances from all locations in the Empire relative to this single monument. So yes, this is where… all roads led to Rome!

Size might not matter, but you have to admit, I do have one large Column here!

Just too cool. These little fun tidbits were one after another. It was making for a fun day, not that we found any humor in these ancient ruins. Well, maybe we had some moments. Who could resist posing by one of the mammoth fallen columns a certain way, or standing on an empty platform where a statue once stood,

The House of Vestal’s courtyard still was surrounded by statues of the most famed Virgins… Nathan here wasn’t one of them! (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

or in front of the Casa delle Vestali, aka the House of the Vestal Virgins.

Leave it to my wife to find Casa delle Vestali, the House of the Vestal Virgins. She just might be a bit late however from being accepted in. Umm, since they disbanded by the 4th century that is.

Yes, any fan of Mel Brooks “History of the World, Part 1” had to stop and grab a photo outside the sign of the Vestal Virgins house after all, lol. All jokes aside, this place is a must to see in the Forum. Once, a 50-room, three-story palace built around an elaborate elongated courtyard with a huge pool the courtyard is still surrounded by statues of the Vestal Virgins.

Looking up to Palatine Hill, our next stop. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

From here it was now time for the mild hike up to the top of Palatine Hill.

Alone, our private little group slowly made our way up the Hill as Katie continued to fill us with more of the history surrounding us. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

One of the most ancient parts of Rome, it has been called “the first nucleus of the Roman Empire” and is the centermost of the Seven Hills of Rome. Standing over 130 feet, this once was where the houses of the rich were located.

As breathtaking as a view can be, even now with the ruins of the Roman Forum below us and modern Rome in the distance.

Able to look down upon the Roman Forum on one side and upon the Circus Maximus on the other. Augustus Caesar’s Imperial Palaces we’re located here.

To look back to the Colosseum from here and trace our footsteps from the day so far was something else. One can only imagine what it must have been like 2,000 years ago.

This was thee place and the views were unmatched.

Yeah, just hanging out up on Palatine Hill, Colosseum in the background and having a pro photographer shoot away. Life wasn’t sucking at this moment! (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

We took a short break, admiring the views, posing for pictures with the photographer, I mean pretending he wasn’t there and filled up our water bottles at a fountain.

Crisp, clean drinking water just waiting for you. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome).

As with previous and future writings, I’ll mention in Rome, the water coming from fountains is fresh, pure and clean, you can and should refill your water bottles. Save money and stay hydrated!

Hydration break and just a great excuse for all of us to take another once in a lifetime picture together.

We then headed to observe more of the ruins of those ancient palaces and the Circus Maximus.

Still playing model, while trying not to look over my shoulder down upon the Circus Maximus. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

Again, there is something about just walking the paths that the ancient Romans used 2,000 years ago in everyday life.

Ruins of the Palace of Domitian up on Palatine Hill. This was where the Emperor’s private living quarters were located. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

We take for granted the amount of history here and what that’s like. America, for example, has only a few hundred years of history, yet here we are walking in places with thousands of years worth.

Sometimes we just sat there in silent amazement, as Nathan and I are here looking down into the Palace of Domitian. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

Before you knew it we had circled back around to the Colosseum. Oddly as this is about to seem, that was filled with great feelings of joy at the time, yet soon after disappointing feelings too. You see, last time in Rome, Katie brought to life the Colosseum for my wife Nicole and I and our friends Jenn and Tracy. Since Nathan and his wife Nicole hadn’t been, but we had, we wanted to change it up a bit and make it even more special, we thought, by doing the Colosseum Underground.

The famed Hippodrome. Home of some ancient Rome’s great chariot races, though not as large as the Circus Maximus, still, up to four chariots would race at one time. In fact, it housed many of Rome’s spectator sports over the early centuries. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

Here’s my Public Service Announcement… and how I should have paid more attention to what Katie and Emiliano had tried to warn us about. No matter who books the “Underground” tour, that company’s guides will not be taking you! One entity actually controls the monopoly on the Underground. Yes! So, with us, we literally had to “say goodbye” to Katie and our photographer and then we were now handed off to become part of… yes, a huge group tour! Our worst nightmare! Everything I preach against and why to do private tours was now about to happen to us and it did.

Katie isn’t just another smiling (and pretty) face, she’s not only family to us, but we were here on the most amazing private tour, and she is one of Rome’s greatest guides. We had hoped she would be with us every second, how could we not? (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

We were given these walkie talkie devices with headsets to put on, where an old lady we were barely were able to understand, sticks her umbrella in the air as a point of reference to not lose her. Yup, that’s what they do! Most sites are littered with countless guides running around with different colored umbrellas in the air with a cattle of people following behind!

Not exaggerating, our new guide, mumbling into her transmitter, closed umbrella held up high in hand for us to follow and try to understand her.

So, we followed, actually though, semi-excited still. We were going into the Colosseum and going places that most are never able to go to. Plus, Nate and Nicole hadn’t been.

For Nicole and I, this way into the Colosseum was a first and completely memorizing.

We entered in through one of the Colosseum’s grand entrances, which, mind you, was pretty awesome. Coming out right onto the Colosseum floor… breathtaking!

The once in a lifetime moments were piling up this day, and the awe I had right there, added another.

Standing there, looking up and around the Colosseum from that vantage point, let me just say, was just slightly worth the added expense and headache of this tour group we got bunched with.

We certainly couldn’t wait to walk here, in the steps of the gladiators below the Colosseum… however, that wouldn’t be sadly.

The floor of the Colosseum wasn’t always able to be walked upon, let alone given access to. But now, a small portion of it has been reconstructed and with these tours, you can gain that access. Aside from the ridiculous stickers, this group makes you wear, the photo ops are truly “once in a lifetime.” We even managed to be us… breaking away from the group quickly to get the best pictures we could away from others, before being scolded to “stay with the group.”

Don’t get me wrong, Nicole and I will treasure this exact moment, and especially picture forever… just might have been “priceless” without the walkie-talkie thing around my neck and stickers on us.

We were still actually in great spirits, though tragically missing Katie. Instantly you realize what you’re missing having a guide like Katie brings to life where you are as opposed to someone spitting out Wiki info that I seem to know more of. But, we were on our way to the Underground finally, what we had waited for, so the anticipation alone had us happy.

These “private tour” moments with Katie earlier had us missing her so much and only strengthened our views of how important it is to make those moments as perfect as you can. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

Exiting the grand entrance we made our way to this stairwell and down we went. Below the Colosseum, we made it. At first, it was really something. The stone passageways lit up,

The first moments were pretty impressive. Here we now were, walking some of the passageways the gladiators did walk around.

making our way to an elevator shaft where they once brought up the animals to battle the gladiators.

One of the reconstructed elevator systems used to hoist animals and more to the Colosseum floor above.

This was pretty cool. We then followed the guide around a small bend trying to understand what she was mumbling about as we hit an immediate dead end. We turned around and of course, again, we dropped back to grab some pics and do some more social media Live. After all, it was not only my birthday, umm, yeah, they still hadn’t remembered lol, but we had to let our friends back home see where we were. It was still pretty unreal. Think about it, we’re underneath the Colosseum in Rome!

This was probably the most impressive of all the spots below, and unfortunately as far as we were allowed to go. Three-quarters of the Colosseum undergrounds passages in front of us, but still amazing to see the Colosseum above from this view.

After getting scolded “again” to catch up with the group, we all of a sudden noticed we were backtracking. That was it! That’s all there was! We spent like 15 minutes down there! On our own, we could have walked the small area in 5 minutes. Now don’t get me wrong, it was very cool to have gone down there but, would I recommend it? I’ll get back to that. As now we had to hurry, back upstairs and now at least into the rest of the Colosseum we went.

Again, it was pretty surreal being on the Colosseum floor, and one can’t have too many pictures of one’s self… even with a dorky electronic thing around the neck and that sticker.

Luckily, the so-called rest of the guided tour didn’t seem to last much longer. As we headed up into a part of the Colosseum, still not hearing our guide, we soon realized we were able to turn in our electronic devices and be free to roam as we please.

Free of that tour group and those devices around our necks, unfortunately, we forgot we still had those obnoxious stickers on. None the less, seriously, is this one of our greatest pictures? The smiles were genuine!

We set off to roam in Rome, well the Colosseum anyway. The smiles again returned to our faces. This is a destination any visitor to Rome must come to. You’ve seen it in movies and TV, pictures and video but seeing it in person, let alone walking around it is another.

I can’t imagine ever growing tired of such views like this. Each time I walk the rim of the Colosseum, I’m just more in awe of it each time. You’ll never truly appreciate it’s size until you are right there.

Construction began in 72 AD under Emperor Vespasian to house 50,000 to 80,000 spectators. It was finally completed in 80 AD under Emperor Titus, and soon all of Rome’s residents came to witness the greatest events of its time. From epic gladiator matches to mock sea battles, from re-enactments of famous battles to dramas based on mythology, from executions to animal hunts, it all happened in the Colosseum. Katie would be proud of my memory of her teachings.

This is why you travel! To see and experience history in person. See the World!

It wasn’t until medieval times did it cease to be used for entertainment and finally start to fall into decay. Only to finally fall victim to ruin by earthquakes, stone robbers, including the Vatican believe it or not, and just thieves in general.

This was my day, hanging out immersed in history. What a day it was, though sad it was coming to an end. Thus, one more picture before we headed out.

Yet it still remains an icon of Imperial Rome and is listed as one of the New 7 Wonders of the World. In fact, it’s so popular, that it currently holds the title as the most visited site in the entire world! That’s right, the “most popular tourist attraction” had 7.4 million visitors in 2018 and is expected to break that this year. Incredible!

Those first moments arriving at the foot of the Colosseum earlier that day, looking up in awe! (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

To start our morning bright and early from a view of the Colosseum we had never seen, to ending our day walking about taking pictures inside, packed in between with countless historic spots and our minds filled with endless information… unbelievable.

It was a day filled with smiles, from early on with the Colosseum as our backdrop, with Katie and the Nicole’s here for one. (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

Quickly going back to the subject of paying extra for the Colosseum Underground? As with anything in life, it’s a personal preference. Overall, of course, we’re glad we did it. We saw some spots we otherwise couldn’t, captured a few priceless photos too. Was it worth the cost? Not sure. I will say and the fight by the tour companies, I hope they soon win, that the one that has the monopoly loses it. If we had done that with Katie, it would have been worth every Euro! In fact, one we would redo with her!

You could almost hear Nathan… “Hey Julian, the photo-shoot isn’t all about you!” LOL (picture courtesy of Eyes Of Rome)

I can’t wait to write later about our incredible day at the Vatican and afternoon at the Borghese Gallery. For now, I hope you enjoyed our time spent with Katie and Eyes Of Rome and were able to get some insight into the advantages of experiencing these moments with a private guide. Also, understanding when vacationing, if it’s a trip of a lifetime, make it just that! Private tours actually aren’t that much money, yet, they change your trip for the better in so many ways.

More of the up close and personal beauty of the ruins thanks to Katie and Eyes Of Rome. Here, looking up at the Arch of Septimius Severus, all along the Rostrum where the great speakers of the time spoke, along with the Church of Saints Luke and Martina popping up in the background. Stunning!

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