My husband knew my fascination with Rome held a much deeper meaning. Imagine my stupefied reaction when he surprised me with a side trip to the Eternal City as part of our honeymoon. Mind you, he is a stay-in-one-nice-place and immerse-in-the-culture type of guy. He is never thrilled with the idea of hopping in different places for bragging rights to a selfie. It took a while for me to appreciate his logic, but he is absolutely right. Experiencing a place goes beyond a photo op.
We have to take time to notice that the piazza is a big party venue. People from different walks of life are invited to come and check out the goods, sip the wine, devour the pizzas, slurp that gelato and wishfully thinking they might run into their “destino” who can be a chiseled Roman demigod. I guess I have watched way too many Romantic movies. But, seeing Rome onscreen or in prints cannot compare to the feeling of standing in the middle of St Peter’s Square or ogling at Michelangelos’ obra maestro at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Even a little fall of rain did not dampen our spirits. The Opulence of Rome was simply astounding!
The Coliseum , Palantine Hill, Roman Forum
To see as much of Rome in a day is through a private tour. It was our one way ticket to “no-long-line” access to all the must-see spots and the backwood paths. Our day started with a VIP welcome at the train station where we met our guide for the day, the very witty and pretty Claudia from Walks of Italy.
We made our way to the Coliseum via taxi and easily breezed through the crowds bypassing the mile long lines and was inside this well renowned fighting Arena in no time. She showed us the ins and outs of this historical site that was undergoing restoration at that time through the efforts of the Tod’s tycoon, Diego Della Valle. It was so rewarding to know as a patron of this Italian craft that my choice of foot wear has made a contribution for posterity!
We explored the eerie dungeons and learned about the coliseum’s assortment of seating accommodations.The distinctions were based on social strata and are reflected on the different stones used to build each section.
The internal hydraulic mechanisms of the hypogeum(“underground”) transporting gladiators and wild fighting beasts alike were so fascinating. It demonstrated a lot of Roman engineering advancements from that era.
The brilliance of the Coliseum’s’ structure were on the staircases. The shape of the steps were apparently built for crowd control. It was believed that the design of these steps can empty this amphitheater in less than 5 minutes. With its enormity, this was quite remarkable. I don’t know if this was a fact or a factoid, but for us, it was definitely easier to go down than to climb up those steps. So the next time you visit the Coliseum, try to do the staircase challenge.
The nearby Roman Forum and Palatine hill depicted the wonders of ancient Rome. These collection of infrastructure brought to life the saying ” All roads lead to Rome!” And we could not agree more.
The genius of the Roman engineering was unmistakably in fully display!
The dome inside this centuries old temple is an exemplary architectural masterpiece that has baffled the modern world. It is a very large unreinforced structure that has stood the test of time. The “oculus” or central opening acts like a temperature regulator, a light switch/illuminator or an ambiance controller rolled into one. It is literally the eye of the sky. Even torrents of rain can get through this opening.
This building also served as the final resting place of Italian kings and notable historical figures like Raphael and his fiancé Maria who died before they had the chance to get married. The story behind their long unfulfilled engagement according to the local lore is that Raphael had a mistress who was the daughter of a baker who became an inspiration for some of his paintings.
History from the lips of a local was definitely far more intriguing than the written encyclopedic excerpts of history books.
The Piazza Navona
Rome is an architects’ paradise. The remarkable artistry of innumerable majestic structures are in display with 360 views. They are wide open and ready to be explored!
After passing through numerous obelisks and diplomatic buildings, we entered into this well renowned town square called the Piazza Navona that showcased the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi aka the fountain of four rivers. It was designed by an artist known as Bernini. His family crest adorned the center obelisk which was surrounded by sculptures that represents the four major rivers from each continent namely the Nile in Africa, the Danube in Europe, the Ganges in Asia and Rio de La Plata in the North and South America. Places where the Papal authority has influenced.
The Italian Cafe
Our tour guides’ expertise was broad and her interests were so congruent with ours so instead of a Michelin star restaurant, we wanted to experience the typical Roman palate. We asked Claudia where she goes to lunch and she took us to this hidden café away from the Piazza that offered the most sumptuous Italian dishes. The prices were reasonable and service was excellent. It was a lovely break from all the hustle and bustle of the day.
The Spanish Steps
On our way to the Spanish Steps, we passed by Rome’s version of the Rodeo Drive. Some of fashions’ major flagships were luring us with all its splendor. But it started to drizzle hard so we decided to spend the rest of the day in the Vatican instead of the Trevi fountain which was closed for restoration. Yeah, I know after hundreds of years someone decided it needed cleaning during our visit.
To be continued…
Disclaimer: This article is intended to amuse. The opinions are solely mine/ours. In case you’re itching to say something, please let it all out! I’m all ears…