On Saturday we took a day trip over to the tiny town of Santiponce, north of Sevilla. As Andrea correctly pointed out, this is not even a one stoplight town (they love their traffic circles here, and in this town … no traffic lights at all). For a ten minute $1.30 bus ride (dodging a shepherd + his goats at least once), we left the city limits in search of Ancient Rome.
One thing is certain – Europe has “old”, “ancient” and “historical” on lock. We started our day at the Monasterio de San Isidoro del Campo, founded in 1301. A short walk across town led us to the remains of an ampitheater, built some time around the first century. The First Century. It was a little startling to walk out onto the ramp and see the ruins .. and the highway. Takes away from the charm just a bit!
Going further through the town we reach the archeological complex of Itálica. According to the literature, “it was the first permanent Roman settlemtn in the south of the Iberian Peninsula and the cradle of the families of the emperor Trajan, who was born here in the year 53, and his successor, Hadrian.” The remnants of the town are all stone and mortar, with some mosaic tiles scattered throughout. The town wall, the thermal baths, and interior courtyards all show some semblance of a household / collection of households once upon a time.
Admittedly, in the blazing Sevilla sun, it all started to look like a pile of rocks to me. We decamped to the spot on the map marked “Amphitheatre” and were rewarded by shelter from the sun and historical awesomeness. Here is the Roman history we were expecting – a theater that once hosted 25,000 people for an afternoon of fighting amongst gladiators and beasts. Walking through the tunnels underneath the seats, you can look out into the arena and admire this ancient structure. Easily, the highlight of our day, particularly after we overheard a father telling his young son stories about the gladiators. His son had so many questions, and little-kid-Spanish always makes me smile. “Y papa, donde estan los leones?” (Dad, where are the lions?)
Next stop on the Roman City to do list: Mérida.