The Roman Forum – A Journey Back in Time
The day of our Colosseum tour actually started with a tour of the Roman Forum. Since the two are right next to each other, the Walks of Italy tour includes both in the same tour. While the Colosseum is more famous and is a more iconic sight, the Forum is filled with its own fascinating stories and rich history. Walking through the ruins while listening to the stories our guide told us really helped me imagine life and the drama of the Roman Empire a few thousand years ago.
Note: Walks of Italy is now called Take Walks and offers tours in a variety of countries.
We started at the end farthest away from the Colosseum where our guide pointed out a huge section that he said was still buried roughly 20 years ago. I visited with my best friend Rachel in 1999 and on a group tour in 1995, so chances are this section was new to me. So many tourist sights are the same each time you see them, but the Roman Forum constantly changes as new sections are excavated.
Our guide told us all kinds of interesting stories about the Forum. Like how so many churches, including the Vatican, were built using stones and marble that was taken from the Forum. At some point, a few buildings within the Forum were converted into churches, which saved them from being dismantled as well. It was interesting hearing about this the day before our tour of the Vatican and then seeing all the gorgeous marble there.
Another building still functions as a church today, although it’s only used once a year. The green door on the church is originally from the medieval times, and you can see from the level of the door just how buried things get as time passes.
Our guide told us stories of Julius Cesaer and other Roman dictators and emperors. Tales of family battles between brothers and an odd rule whereby people could be removed from history if they were horrible enough.
While walking through one section of the forum, the guide explained how excavations went through layers of earth and ruins, each from a different time period. Those digging things up had to decide whether to keep digging or stop, and ultimately they decided based on which time period they thought was most interesting. As a result, the main road through the Forum was excavated to the level it was in the first century BC.
Eventually we made our way to Palatine Hill, which was one of the original Seven Hills of Rome. This was once where wealthy Romans and emperors lived. As our guide was telling us about this, I was almost imagining a gated community in the suburbs.
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Hearing all these stories about the Romans made the ruins of the Roman Forum seem much more real to me. Even if I don’t retain so much of the information, when I was actually on the tour, the various tales fascinated me and made me enjoy what I was seeing so much more. Seeing the Roman Forum first also set the stage for the second half of our tour when we got to go behind the scenes at the Colosseum.
Thanks to Walks of Italy who provided us with a complimentary VIP Access – Colosseum Underground, Arena and Forum tour. As always all opinions are my own.
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September 26, 2013 @ 11:03 AM
I loved this place. I love how the air is full of the history.
September 26, 2013 @ 11:33 AM
Thanks Zof, I completely agree!
September 26, 2013 @ 4:10 PM
I really love the Roman Forum 9 photo — you can almost fill in the pieces that are missing in your mind 🙂
September 27, 2013 @ 10:33 AM
Thanks Heather! That’s one of my favorites too, I just wish I could remember more about that particular section. I love hearing the history when I’m there but I’m not so good at remembering it!
September 26, 2013 @ 4:48 PM
This is the type of history that I am interested in – how people lived their lives in the past. I’m glad you did an article on this.
September 27, 2013 @ 10:34 AM
Thanks Matthew, I’m glad you enjoyed it!
September 26, 2013 @ 11:46 PM
Wow, I absolutely LOVE these photos Ali! I’ve always had a fascination which Ancient Rome, and it has always been my #1 place I’ve wanted to visit since I was a boy. Just look at that architecture, simply stellar.
September 27, 2013 @ 10:35 AM
Thanks Ryan! Roman history is pretty amazing, and being there in front of those ruins from thousands of years ago is such a wonderful experience.
September 27, 2013 @ 2:57 AM
I usually don’t choose to travel with a guided tour but after reading about your experience, this definitely would be the one place I’d make an exception! Sometimes you need more than a crappy audio guide to really experience a historic place like the Forum. Thanks for sharing! Gorgeous pictures.
Happy travels 🙂
September 27, 2013 @ 10:41 AM
Thanks Lauren! I don’t do a lot of them either, but I usually enjoy the short ones, like a half day tour. It also depends on the location. I was fine not having a guide in Ephesus because there were signs all over explaining things, but Italy doesn’t seem to do that. Exploring Pompeii or the Roman Forum and Colosseum on my own still would’ve been nice, but it was soooo helpful to have someone explain everything.
September 27, 2013 @ 3:46 PM
Charming! Really well executed story!
September 29, 2013 @ 4:31 PM
September 28, 2013 @ 6:06 PM
Wow, those are some incredible ruins. One ruin I like now: the NATO bombing of the Yugoslav Ministry of Defense. They just left it. Amazing yet haunting.
September 29, 2013 @ 4:32 PM
Thanks Nicole! I’m not familiar with that one, I’ll have to look it up.
October 21, 2013 @ 9:33 AM
I visited the Roman Forum in 2006 and 2007, then not again until 2010. Even in that short span of just a few years, new sections had been unearthed. Despite having been numerous times now, this is still one of my favorite sites in Rome.
October 21, 2013 @ 4:47 PM
It’s nice to know they always have people working on it and digging up new sections. Makes it so much more interesting to visit multiple times.
November 23, 2013 @ 12:20 AM
I love this place and you’ve captured it so beautifully. This was actually the first spot I stumbled upon when I landed in Rome trying to find my flat I rented. Cool experience, just wish I didn’t have my luggage!
November 24, 2013 @ 12:15 PM
Thanks Jade! I hope you made it back over there after you dropped off your stuff!