The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 2: The Roman Colosseum

Your retro virtual vacation to Italy 2008 with Thor and me launches with a deep dive into ancient Rome and its signature Colosseum that hosted gladiatorial combat.

NOTE: Since travel is still on hold with the pandemic continuing, I’ve started a new blog series offering a virtual vacation and time-travel to my first big trip with Thor, in 2008. Italy! Starting with highlight photos posted here on Saturday, Jan. 30, I’ll continue every week. Join us in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Buon viaggio!

Those readers who’ve followed my blog series of Greek travels and history know that I inhaled everything about Greece from an early age, especially the fascinating mythology. My first big overseas trip was a months-long hippie backpacking adventure through the Greek mainland and islands, followed by many extended sojourns in the Caribbean, Central and South America, and New Zealand. So when Thor and I planned our first big trip together, I was excited to see more of Europe and the rich culture of Italy. Rome, our first stop, was instant immersion in throngs of history, art, and people.

(We’ll visit the amazing Pantheon, above photo, in an upcoming post.)

Aside from a youthful fascination with “sword and sandal” movies like “Demetrios and the Gladiators” and “Ben-Hur,” I wasn’t that interested in ancient Rome. It seemed to me that the empire-building Romans had stolen most of their culture, art, and religion from the more ancient and classy Greeks. The Romans subjugated Greece in a series of wars from around 146 BC, and by 27 BC Augustus Caesar had completed the conquest. I merely dabble in history, but from what I could see, Romans were terrific engineers and soldiers, but relied on Greek models as bases for their architecture, art, and literature. Wealthy Romans hired (or bought as slaves) educated Greeks to tutor their children. Greek became the favored language in the expansive Roman empire. It seems that the Roman poet Horace agreed with me: “Captive Greece captured her rude conqueror.”

Because our Book View Cafe website server at this point may not handle many photos, I’m posting my complete blog entries on my own author website at, where you can finish this episode and enjoy all the accompanying photos. Please continue reading by clicking on the link below, then you can return here (use “go back” arrow above) to comment, ask questions, or join a conversation. We love your responses!


You will find The Rambling Writer’s blog posts here every Saturday. Sara’s latest novel from Book View Cafe is available in print and ebook: The Ariadne Connection.  It’s a near-future thriller set in the Greek islands. “Technology triggers a deadly new plague. Can a healer find the cure?”  The novel has received the Chanticleer Global Thriller Grand Prize and the Cygnus Award for Speculative Fiction. Sara has recently returned from another research trip in Greece and is back at work on the sequel, The Ariadne Disconnect. Sign up for her quarterly email newsletter at




The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 2: The Roman Colosseum — 7 Comments

  1. One of my vivid memories of the trip is emerging into the open air from a dark crowded subway station and being bowled over by the Colosseum…..RIGHT THERE in front of you. You have to look up so high you strain your neck.

  2. What boggles me is that the coliseum had a floor over all those cells and corridors. Wood? With all that blood dripping through . . . the stench in that heat must have been stunning. The whole thing is a paean to the worst in human nature. The Romans were aware of it, and I guess attempting to channel it?

    • Yes, apparently it was a wood floor over the subterranean warren, with fresh sand brought in as the blood pooled. One account suggests that the rulers were, indeed, channeling and attempting to release the violent impulses of the plebian mobs to keep them obedient.

  3. I have usually avoided the Roman Empire period of history. Reveling in violence and cruelty is so not my thing. I’d rather visit the ruins vicariously through your marvelous photographs.

    • Thanks, Phyl. I agree! Hang in there, as the upcoming posts will be more uplifting. (Except for some rather gruesome Last Judgement murals in Florence.) As we saw in the U.S. Capitol attacks last month, it seems the human impulses to violence and cruelty never go out of style. *sigh*

  4. My family was in Italy in 1959 when I was a kid. I remember the hordes of cats in and around the Colosseum – are they still there? The forum is a very vivid memory. We were there in very early spring -chilly and damp with almost no tourists. The guide we had been a green grocer in the Bronx who had retired back home to Rome. When he realized I had had a decent education in classical history we had a wonderful time – my folks just trailed behind the two of us as we discussed the history of the Forum.
    Hadrian’s villa was another fascinating place. The excavations have revealed a lot more of that comples.

    • What a wonderful early experience! Yes, there are still a LOT of cats all over Italy, with people putting out food and water dishes for them (as we also saw in Greece). The Forum, despite being mostly rubble, has such a concentration of history, as I’m just poking into it.