on August 14, 2007
The heart of ancient Rome is a central mass of the ruins of the Forum (the Republic), the Imperial Fori (the Emperor’s forms), Palatine Hill, and the Coliseum (free entrance during Culture Week). The Imperial Fori are separated from the rest by Via d. Fori Imperiali. There are three entrances to the Roman (Republic) Forum, the oldest of the Fori. Avoid the one in the middle of the block along V. Fori Imperiali. It lacks the impact of the view when entering from the Coliseum end or Capitoline Hill. For a thousand years, the Forum was the government center for the known world, and its most surprising feature is how small it is– about a half mile long. Also note how narrow the Via Sacra, the most important street in the world for 1,000 years, is. The best views of the Forum are from the neighboring hills, from the corner of the Palatine Hill garden where Caligula’s palace was located and from the Capitoline Hill. Otherwise, exploring the Forum is pretty straight forward. Walk down Via Sacra, loop around the block, and return to where you started. Do not do this without a guide book with enough detail to explain what you are seeing. We also found it very useful to buy (10 euros) an overleaf book from a sidewalk stand along V. Fori Imperiali for the illustrations of what it all looked like in the Rome’s heyday. With your back to the Coliseum, to the right of the Arch of Septimus Severus, is a building next to a church, the Curia. Don’t miss looking in here, the meeting room of the Roman Senate. Be sure to get a close look it the Arch of Septimus Severus and the Arch of Constantine at the opposite end of the Forum. Otherwise, visiting the Forum is straightforward– follow the roads and use your guide book to read about the sights. When we arrived, our Michelin Green Guide said to plan on spending at least seven hours in the Forum, Palatine Hill, and Coliseum area. We thought that was extreme, but 5½ hours later, we decided to save the Coliseum for another day and go back to our hotel for a break. This is a fascinating place. Don’t shortchange yourself by allowing too little time.The ancient Greeks built with stone and marble, a time consuming, expensive way to build. The Romans cut costs and reduced construction time by building in brick with a marble veneer. The Popes stole most of marble to build Rome’s churches, which is why you will see a lot of brick and very little marble in the once marble covered Forum. The rows of holes in the exposed brick walls are part of the system used to attach the marble veneer. Look close at the marble columns that remain. There are places where time has exposed the inner brick pillar and you can see how the marble was attached to the surface.
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