• Crowds, Culture, and Cuisine: the Ancient and Modern City

Wednesday in Rome and a Continuing Theme

On Wednesday morning our class awoke early for a guided tour of Roman ruins. Our first stop was the Flavian Amphitheater, known now as the Colosseum.

The Colosseum that exists today is a skeleton of a once dominant structure. The inside arena is impressive regardless of the constant degradation due to centuries of neglect. At its longest axis the Colosseum extends to 189 meters and was once covered internally with beautiful marble and gold before being sacked and left to decay in the elements. Our guide explained to us the variety of uses for the Colosseum beyond the ubiquitous gladiator games. The arena would be filled with water and sealed for spectators to witness staged naval battles. Safari-style hunts were also a popular event for the bloodthirsty Roman populuation. Exotic animals like giraffes and elephants were brought in for hunters to kill with their arsenals in front of a crowd of 70,000.

The next stop of the tour took us through Roman ruins nestled in the valley at the foot of the seven hills of Rome. We saw the remains of structures that marked the early stages of Western civilization. Each stone could fill an encyclopedia of stories and information. The structures are shadows of their ancient glory, but remain ornate and beautiful. Ancient Rome was not the pristine white city portrayed in popular culture. Rather, it was decorated in dyes, paints, and precious jewels and metals in the architecture. Time and climate has wasted away the original beauty of the ruins. Later we visited the Trevi Fountain and threw a coin in at the recommendation of our guide. It is said that throwing a coin into the fountain guarantees that one will return to Rome, something we all hope to do.

In the evening our plans changed drastically, demonstrating our habit of diverting from our original plan in lieu of an adventure. We spent over an two hours in public transit and standing lost on the side of a highway. Our destination was the ambassador from Malta to Rome and Luther graduate Vanessa Frazier's residence for food and stories. We ended up having her and her husband pick us up and take us to their home located just off the old Appian Way, an ancient road critical to Rome's success by making travel and commerce feasible millennia before automobiles. We arrived after a bumpy ride on the ancient road to genuine Roman cuisine and hospitality. The food was fantastic. We listened to Vanessa speak about her role as ambassador. Her stories included portraits of unrest and war and her role in securing as many human lives as possible in situations of extreme distress. In one story she described a situation of her potentially fatal near-miss with armed and engaging enemies and thankfully evading disaster. After the generosity of Vanessa and her husband the class returned to the Hotel Casa Tra Noi in order to rest up for the next day of our Italian exploration to the Vatican City.