Christmas in Italy – The Ancient sites: The Pantheon, The Colosseum, and the Roman Forum.

Christmas in Italy – The Ancient sites: The Pantheon, The Colosseum, and the Roman Forum.

In keeping with the tradition of adventure, Sarah and I went on a big trip for Christmas and New Years!

This year, we met up with Sarah’s family in Italy, traveling to Rome and Florence; not quite a perfect midpoint for everyone, but it was close enough. And, also, you know. Rome. Florence. Amazing!

Please forgive me for some of these being a bit out of order… the posts are organized somewhat chronologically… but also organized by theme and location.  Some may not be exactly in chronological order, so for reference please see the initial summary post, which has a complete day-by-day, blow-by-blow account of the adventure.


Friday, 22-Dec & Tuesday, 26-Dec


How can words describe the remnants of the majesty of Rome?

I’ve been to England and France. I’ve seen huge monuments, both lively cultural centerpieces and ancient ruins. They don’t compare.


The Pantheon was massive. Its soaring ceiling and gorgeous statues were humbling in their beauty – even before learning that the Pantheon was a landmark of civil engineering and material science.

The Forum was massive. The three arches were so tall that they defied understanding while we stood underneath them; their real scale only became obvious when we stood back on a hill, and saw how tiny people were standing next to them.

Neither compared to the Colosseum though. Dark ages explorers thought that the Colosseum was the ruin of the biblical Tower of Babel… and seeing it in person doesn’t dissuade the idea. I mean, seriously. Romans did not do things by halves. The seating, the arches, the labyrinth of passages not only under the main stage, but below the seating. I just… It was huge, okay. It was really, really, beautifully, magnificently, other-adjectives-here, amazing.


We didn’t see them all in the same day, of course. Waxing poetic aside, we saw these three ruins over the course of two full days; One day wandering around the city and exploring the Pantheon, and one day seeing the Colosseum and Forum. To be frank, there wasn’t a huge amount to see, aside from the afforementioned broken-brain syndrome – the Pantheon was huge, but fairly fast to see… I think we spent a grand total of an hour inside. The others were longer, of course, but not a “full day museum” level of long.

That’s something of note, I think: The structures themselves stand as their own testament. In the United States, a tiny museum can take an entire day to plod through, thanks to all of the placards and notes… but here, the monuments are left as they are: There were definitely notes and research points… but so much has been lost to time that those notes were fairly few and far between. Instead, we simply looked. We saw the majesty and creation that once had been.

Now, for what we’ve all been waiting for… the photos.

The Colosseum:

The Forums:

The Pantheon:

Triumphal Arches:


Let’s see… other specifics.

  • Don’t listen to “official ticket sales people” when you’re at famous landmarks in Rome. They all work for paid guide tours: they told us that the line into the Colosseum was over six hours long… when it took us a grand total of 20min to walk in, buy tickets, and start a self-tour.
  • The Colosseum is awesome… but the Forum was honestly a bit more interesting. Less grand, I’ll admit, but it was more of a “walking museum”, where you could explore the ruins as you felt, by various paths and winding routes. It was amazing, and super pleasant after the crowd of the city.
  • Stray a bit far from the monuments when looking for food. We did both… and found that the places a few streets away were generally a bit better and cheaper. Not that the places on the big squares were bad! But remember: this is Rome. Food in Rome isn’t classified on the same scale as the rest of the world. It’s seriously that much better.

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