Inside the Colosseum

While in Rome, I made a repeat visit to the Colosseum, aka the Flavian Amphitheatre. In its day — it was completed in 80 AD — it could seat 50,000 people.

A lot more of the Colosseum would still be standing had it not been used as a quarry for stone and bronze later in its existence, as well as suffered from violent earthquakes. It’s incredible to try to imagine what it must have looked like the day of its grand opening, isn’t it?

The arena is shorter than a football field, a little more than 270 feet at its longest section.

The arena’s floor is long gone, but without it, you can see into the areas where the animals, gladiators and other people used to run around.

[Photos by Marie Look]

Six Things in Rome

I have visited Rome once before, in 2005 — the week Pope John Paul II died and Pope Benedict was elected. But the city was crazy busy at that time, of course, so it’s been wonderful to get to come back this week and experience Rome all over again, without the excessive crowds.

I’m trying to squeeze in as much as possible by day, walking a lot and taking more photos than I can review each evening. Slowly but surely, I’ll work my way through all of it — the city and the photos. Here are just glimpses of six things I’ve seen so far this week.

[Photos by Marie Look]


Riomaggiore is one of the coziest, most charming little towns I’ve ever stepped foot in.

In July 2011, my family and I visited Florence. We took a nearly three-hour train ride from there to Riomaggiore, a village on the Italian Riviera, and one of the Cinque Terre (“five lands”). The five villages are located along a stretch of rugged coastline west of La Spezia, in the region of Liguria.

Village-hopping among the five is a popular activity with tourists, as all of them are very picturesque and easy to navigate. The homes are very close together and the roads are steep. Many residents must access their homes, gardens and private vineyards via a network of stone stairways.

[photos by Marie Look]

Castello di Verrazzano

There is a winery in Tuscany called Castello di Verrazzano. I ate dinner there with my family during the week we were staying in Florence.

It’s up on a hill, with spectacular views of the surrounding area — vineyard after vineyard, with a colossal estate dotted here or there. It felt like we were stepping back in time.

And I’m no wine expert, but what we were served certainly did taste exceptional.

Palazzo Pitti & Boboli Gardens

In July 2011, my family and I spent a week in Florence, and among the places we visited was Palazzo Pitti, the one-time residence of the Medici family and other Italian royalty. Today, it houses a collection of several museums. And the Boboli Gardens behind the palace are also a very popular site to see. (Actually, more “to wander” than “to see,” as the grounds are expansive — and not well marked with signage, I might add. We only got a little lost …)

[A courtyard at Palazzo Pitti]

[A banner listing the museums]

[The ceiling of a grotto in the courtyard]

[A view from Boboli Gardens]

[Looking back at Palazzo Pitti from the gardens]

[My father took this photo while we were exploring the gardens. I love the closeup of the flower with the blurred primary colors in the background. I’m actually the red blur, my sister is the yellow blur, and my mom is the blue blur.]

[A relief on the wall of one of the buildings on the property]

[Sculpture by Igor Mitoraj]

Somewhat adjacent to the Boboli Gardens are the smaller Bardini Gardens. It was extraordinarily hot and humid the day we chose to visit the property (not the best timing perhaps), so once we discovered the latter gardens, we were pretty thrilled to find a small cafe, where we could rest a bit and enjoy some gelato.

[From the cafe, we could see Florence beyond these two statues]

[These covered pathways were gorgeous, and provided some excellent shade]

[Peering through some vines at the Duomo and Campanile]

[A better view of the Duomo and Campanile. The brown clock tower all the way to the left is Palazzo Vecchio.]

Photos by Marie Look