WHEN IN ROME“When in Rome…”
All my life I’ve wanted to live out this fantasy, not just as a figure of speech, as a reality, and recently that’s exactly what I did.
With only 48 hours to discover and explore Rome and all its landmarks, the incredible amount of history that the ‘Eternal City’ has behind it quickly dawned upon me.
With time at a premium, immediately after checking in to my hotel I made my way to the Trevi Fountain, which is the largest baroque fountain in Rome. The colour of the water, the spectacular statues and architecture that incase the intimate site, and the massive crowds that were there to witness it set the benchmark for days to come.
A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome.
Needless to say, I flicked a few Euros in just to make sure.
After exhausting nearly half of my camera roll at the famous fountain, I raced around to the Spanish Steps. This amazing landmark was designed by an Italian architect, funded by a French diplomat and named after the Spanish Embassy. It’s here that so many famous movie scenes have been filmed, such as Federico Fellini’s ‘La Dolce Vita’ and Audrey Hepburn’s ‘A Roman Holiday’.
Before I went off to discover my next famous Roman monument I needed a carb refuel, which came in the form of a meat antipasto plate and a combination spaghetti and meatballs with a side of lasagna, followed by a bucket of gelato, which gave me the energy to get over to the Pantheon.
The Pantheon is one of the best preserved of all ancient Roman buildings. Since the 7th century it has been used as a church dedicated to St Mary and the Martyrs. Almost 2000 years after construction, it’s still a remarkable building and boasts the largest unsupported dome in the world today.
With the incredible experience of the Pantheon still swirling around in my head, it was not long before I found myself walking around the perimeter walls of the colossal Colosseum. To this day it’s still the largest amphitheatre ever built.
If only those walls could talk, what a tale this mighty monument could tell. In its heyday, gladiatorial combat and executions were a regular occurrence in front of charged up crowd of nearly 80,000 bloodthirsty punters.
When the Colosseum was in full swing, up to 400,000 people lost their lives and a million wild animals were slaughtered, all in the name of entertainment.
Continuing on my crusade after ticking the Colosseum off my to-do list, I came across an area known as the Roman Forum, which really is a walk through Rome’s history books.
For centuries the Forum was the centre of Roman public life and the site of triumphal processions and elections, as well as the venue for public speeches, criminal trials and gladiatorial showdowns. The array of ruins and buildings here is surreal. It’s hard to believe that it’s not a movie set built for the tourism industry (a conspiracy theory in the making…).
On my second day in this splendid city, I started things off by touring the Vatican. If witnessing opulence at its most extreme level is your thing, than this is a must-do tour. Some of the most famous artworks and frescoes in living memory are housed within its walls.
Lining up to enter the Vatican is like being part of an adults version of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, during the scene when the children and their accompanying guardians are waiting to go in. The excitement and anticipation is palpable.
It’s hard to describe what one sees and feels in the Vatican. For me, my feelings ranged from the exhilaration of witnessing jaw-dropping artworks, sculptures, tapestries and golden frescoes in the flesh, to an overwhelming sadness that there is such an excess of monumental wealth when around the world there is so much poverty and desperation.
Amongst all the history on display in Rome, it was entering the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of which was famously painted by the great Michelangelo, that had me spellbound more than anything else. The stories, detailed frescoes (which most of us have at the very least seen in pictures) and extraordinary artworks are an extremely spiritual experience. My only disappointment was how small the painting of the last supper actually is!
At the end of the Vatican tour I was lucky enough to witness the changing of the very colourful Swiss guards – all in all, a pleasant finish to my Rome experience.
Rome, with all its historical ruins, wonderous beauty and delicious food, left me with an indelible memory. I’m not sure the Romans themselves spend two days straight ticking off all the historically important sights, but when in Rome every tourist certainly should. You won’t regret it.
HOW TO GET THERE:
Vicki Gilden at Rose Bay Travel – (02) 9371 8166