Started the trip off with a bang with this colossal (pun intended) structure of Ancient Rome. With this site, we used our first audio tour from the Rick Steves iPhone app. It is very normal for people to have audio guides (that look like old-school telephones) taking them around various locations, so us holding our phones with headphones in didn't look [more] touristy compared to everyone else.
The audio guide, though a little cheesy, is highly recommended (and free!). We started at the cross on the West entrance and were led around the first floor, second floor, and even great look off areas where you can clearly see the Arch of Constantine and Roman Forum.
With Rick Steves, you get about an hour's worth of information and site seeing, but you can definitely spend a lot more time here thanks to the exhibits - ours in particular was of Constantine's life. The timing was perfect, because right when we finished the audio tour, it started to thunderstorm. The exhibit proved to be a perfect way to pass the time as the God-like thunder resounded through the Colosseum's archways.
Our homemade itinerary originally had us spending a mere hour in the Colosseum, but it ended up being closer to 3 hours because of the rain, and consequently, the exhibit. By this time, we were extremely hungry but we tried to stick to the itinerary, which had us eating lunch after Roman Forum. What was the solution to holding off until then? Errol's first Italian gelato (pistachio)!
Palatine Hill and Roman Forum:
Honestly, after the Colosseum all I wanted to do was eat. But the first day we couldn't possibly veer from the itinerary so we chugged along with our snacks (beef jerky and trail mix from home) and took another couple of hours seeing the heart of Ancient Rome's government and activity.
We saw the Palatine Hill first. With a ticket to the Colosseum, you get combo tickets to Palatine and Roman Forum (which are both the same entrance, so technically you just get 2 entrances in one).
Maybe I was spoiled by Rick Steves who doesn't have an audio guide for the Palatine Hill, but I didn't find It that interesting. It could also have been the hunger and jet lag haze that prevented me from fully enjoying the experience. In general, it's difficult to imagine it in its hay day (palace upon palace of glory - in fact, the word "palace" comes from "Palatine". I guess I did learn something!).
The Roman Forum is a much more classic place. We've all seen the pictures of the few remaining columns, the grand arches, etc. on top of that, there's a Rick Steve's audio tour for it!
This first full day was quite exhausting, especially when we remembered we were not immune to jetlag. However, it was impossible not to awe at the massive structures carved with everlasting masterpieces of art.