‘Twas a gorgeous Saturday in Seville, so why not head just several miles outside the city to the town of Santiponce? While it’s mostly just known as a little suburb of the city, it’s also home to some of the most well-preserved Roman ruins in all the world. So, we jumped in the car with our friend, Pepe, and made a move to the northwest.
Most people – at least, most people we know, including us – have never even heard of Italica before. Yet, here it stands, over two millennia past its birth, as a fantastic example of what a striking Roman city once was.
Uncovered however many decades ago, Italica was founded in 206 B.C. as a settlement, post-battle, for Roman soldiers fighting under general Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. How about that name?
While it isn’t the coliseum in Rome, or other ruins that are usually on one’s itinerary, it’s quite the attraction here in Andalusia, and rightfully so. It’s where the emperor Trajan was born, and was highly looked upon in the empire by Hadrian as an official colonia.
Its amphitheater was the third largest in all the Roman empire, where up to 25,000 people would come and watch the epic battles that took place here.
The size of the amphitheater in relation to the town’s small population generally means that the folks who ran things here wanted to show just how awesome they were to the rest of the folks in the empire.
As time passed and people didn’t really understand the impact of deforestation, the town started to crumble in size due to the equally crumbling ecosystem in the area.
Eventually, it was forgotten as Seville grew, and the tides of war and politics and a struggle to survive took people’s search for prosperity to new places.
Over the years, locals and treasure hunters alike took items from the site, and rumor has it that many inhabitants of the town of Santiponce have little artifacts hidden away in their homes as secret prizes of living next to such an historical place.
Outside of that, most artifacts gleaned from Italica wound up in museums, but the site itself is home to very well-preserved ruins and mosaics that are well worth a look-see.
The best part of Italica is that you’re simply free to walk around the excavated area, with only calf-high ropes to keep you from trampling over the delicate remains of different homes and businesses.
Just imagine walking down these roads back in the day. Before they were paved over, of course.
Mosaics cover the floors of many of these dwellings, which to me signifies that these people were no joke and they were really proud of the prosperity brought to them by living in a city that was so special to the empire.
The amphitheater itself is remarkably well-kept, and while many of the arches and tunnels have seen better days, it’s easy to stand in the doorways of the arena and wonder what it was like to be a fighter ready to entertain the masses at the risk of death.
Thousands of gladiators and slaves alike – and probably plenty of wildlife as well – stood here over the years, ready to seal their fate.
I’m told that there are few places like this where one can freely roam the arena floor itself, and we took advantage of that in order to take in all the glory and sadness that prevailed here so many thousands of years ago.
I have no idea what this is, but it looks important, and it’s in Latin. Probably something along the lines of, “Hey guys, so we’re gonna do this thing. You’ll probably die, but that’s cool, because it might be better than being a slave.” And/or, “So totally, you’re a gladiator. You’re the best and whatever. Go out there and kill a lion. Girls after.” Also, “No giving up, no looking senators in the eye.”
Yeah, I could look it up. But this is way more fun. “Two drink minimum.”
There were also a few kids celebrating their first communion with a photo shoot, and we enjoyed watching the whole ordeal as they tried to get their most memorable shots.
After a few hours in the sun, we ducked out and headed across the street to refresh and revitalize with a huge meal at the well-known Ventorrillo Canario, which specializes in huge portions of grilled meat from the local area all the way to the Canary Islands.
Stuffing ourselves with the care of a starved wolf, we thought we should probably walk it off a bit more. We headed back to the city, grabbed the dogs, and went over to Parque Alamillo to give all of us a good shakedown.
As if that wasn’t enough, we thought we should top off our long and enjoyable day by sitting at Bar Rodríguez near our house, which specializes in snails.
While the ones they’re famed for aren’t quite yet in-season, we were able to get another type and try sucking down a few of the little buggers for our very first time ever. And well, they were quite delicious!
All in all, another fabulous day here in Seville. Thanks to Pepe for putting up with our antics!
We highly recommend you check out Italica if you’re in the region. Let your imagination run wild as you freely traipse around the ruins for a couple of hours.
It’s free for residents and EU citizens, and only a couple of bucks for everyone else. Bet you can’t get that in Rome!
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Have you ever visited Italica? Ever seen any other Roman ruins? If so, what’d you think? If not, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!