ROME, Italy – Boasting ruins that date back 27 centuries, Rome is easy to dig.

But examining all the layers takes time.

The Coliseum is a wondrous place to start. Its limestone now blackened by the emissions of automobiles, it played host to gladiator and animal battles for 500 years. Ancient elevators raised beast after beast to the arena floor, and thanks to the iconic arch exits, the stadium could empty a crowd of 65,000 in 30 minutes.

Nearby is the hallowed ground of the Forum, where you learn the story of the Vestal Virgins, who were buried alive for breaking their vow of chastity.

Joggers frequent the tracks on which competitive chariots used to race at Circus Maximus, which sits below Palatine Hill.

At the Vatican Museum, you will be floored by the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Eventually, that is.

Having perfected the art of the tease, the Romans lead visitors down several long corridors before reaching the genuine article. While craning your neck to admire Michelangelo’s masterpiece, completed with the help of scaffolding and candlelight, bask in the irony of staffers yelling, “Silence, please.”

Rain that falls through the giant hole in the dome of a Pantheon is drained through tiny holes in its marble floor.

A ghoulish site awaits at the Capuchin Crypt, where bones of some 4,000 friars are arranged in peculiar shapes, including that of a chandelier.

Rome has aged gracefully.

We should all be so lucky.


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