Beautiful blue sky, nothing but Roman ruins sprawled in front of me and I was in love with Rome all over again. As we stood within the Forum, I tried to absorb as much of the Roman marble and brick my mind could consume. But I knew a few hours weren’t long enough to fully appreciate thousands of years of life and death.
Ada’s focus was three feet off the ground: she was free of the backpack and able to pick up rocks, chase pigeons and navigate the original Roman roads made of large flat stones, at the quickest speed her little feet could manage. The three of us found our perfect destination: she had room to safely roam and we had the freedom to relax and stroll leisurely.
We began our tour at the Arch of Septimius Severus, directly behind The Capitoline Hill. But with our map upside down, we thought we were at the other end of the Forum and under the Arch of Titus. We had no idea where we were or what we were looking at and soon gave up trying to figure out the historical significance of the various piles of marble.
Instead we happily watched a Gardner snake weave in and out of a brick wall and Ada climb on pieces of fallen columns. We ate a packed picnic lunch under the massive arches of the Basilica of Constantine and Maxentius, where we met a family from Germany. Ada and the little German toddler spoke in the international language of poking while we chatted with her parents.
At the Colosseum, Ada once again passed out in the backpack; we dodged the guys dressed as gladiators and the “tour guides” luring tourists with promises of skipping long lines for a fee. Turns out, the line was short and it’s easy to listen in on real tours once inside.
The Colosseum was a let down. Perhaps I was overwhelmed after the Forum or maybe my expectations for historical greatness were too high. We were limited to the stands, where I imagined crowds of Romans roaring for the blood of some poor guy being attacked by a tiger or gladiator. I imagined the floor filling with water and naval ships reenacting battle scenes. But the experience was detached. I wanted to be in the center looking out at the crowds; I wanted to feel the desperation of the victims and the adoration of a victorious gladiator.
We promised ourselves that we’d visit the Palatine Hill on another trip and walked our tired bodies back to the apartment. Tomorrow was our last day in Rome and with only one day left, and a lot to still experience, I began to feel the weight of unmet expectations.