The Colosseum rises in stately arches over the streets of Rome, living emblem of the great empire that blossomed and declined here over two thousand years ago. This grand structure was one of the greatest architectural achievements of the ancient world, rising to a height of 157 feet, and could seat an audience of 87,000 – comparable to even the most advanced of modern football fields. The animal shows, chariot races, and gladiatorial fights that once took place in this huge arena were a centerpiece of life in the ancient empire, and evidence both of its sophistication and its barbarism.
Of course, the Colosseum is just one of hundreds of historic buildings to be found in Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican are the seat of Roman Catholicism, the dominant religion in the city today, while more ancient religious sites such as the Parthenon harken back to a pre-Christian era of Rome’s history. It’s not for no reason that Rome is referred to as the Eternal City.
But of course, like any modern city, Rome is far more than just a museum piece. It’s also a thriving hub of culture, commerce, and cuisine, and one of the liveliest cities in Europe. Squeezed in between the monuments and government office buildings are countless small trattorias, putting out the smell of fresh olive oil and baking bread, as well as bars and nightclubs where an international clientele of young Europeans meet and mingle. And of course, there is the constant roar from every café and bar in the city when Gli Azzurri, the Italian National Soccer Team, is playing.