Rome captured my imagination at several levels: from
French comic writer Rene Goscinny’s “Asterix” to English historian Edward
Gibbon’s “The rise and fall of Roman Empire”.
Rome was the epitome of civilization; and yet Rome was also the epitome
The best place to start Rome is “outside” Italy.
Yes, Rome is a city that has an independent
country as one of its suburbs:
St Peter’s Basilica is the cynosure for Catholics
worldwide; is the largest church in the world; is the burial site of Apostle St
Peter; and was designed by Renaissance artist Michelangelo.
Michelangelo does know how to impress.
Part of the trick to ensure grandeur is to provide a huge public
square (that can house 60,000 people) surrounded by tall colonnades in front of
the Church isolating its beautiful dome from the clutter of the skyline in the
he evening sun of a summer day and the cobblestones in the square create magic in the air.
|St Peter's Basilica (from St Peter Square), late evening on a summer day|
Getting into St Peter’s requires faith, hope and
patience! As soon as you enter, the beauty of Michelangelo’s Pieta
strikes you. As kids we were shocked to
hear in 1972 a vandal throwing his hammer at this sculpture. We were told of how the sculpture was restored
by carving out a part of the Carrara marble from the back and use it to fix the
broken nose of Virgin Mary. No wonder,
these days, Virgin Mary and the Christ on her laps are protected by bullet
proof glass and visitors are kept more than a hammer’s throw away.
Can you imagine what millions of faithful hands touching it can do to a statue? St Peter
statue has no toes in the feet; all eroded by the touch of a million fingers
over several hundred years.
Take the stairs and climb your winding way up to the top of
You would get rewarded with a
wonderful view of the square and the skyline of Rome in the distance.
|View of the Square, Vatican and Rome from atop St Peter's dome|
Vatican’s museum houses a rich collection. As with all museums, some were gifts given
with affection and some were taken away from their rightful owners with an even
Start your tour of Rome where Rome started: Foro Romano, the main plaza of ancient Rome,
now in ruins. The forum is awesome. One can easily imagine Julius Caesar in
triumphal procession through the plaza or wise Augustus issuing an inspiring
speech on one of its platforms.
Curia Julia, house of the Roman senate sits at one end of
|Curia Julia, the Roman Senate Hall|
The Arch of Constantine sits at the other end. The Roman habit of celebrating military
victories with imposing arches was soon adapted by several countries.
|Arch of Constantine|
The Colosseum at the end of Foro Romano, is 1900 years
old and in its days could seat 80,000 spectators! The amphitheater is both an architectural
marvel and an engineering marvel. Under
the floor, there are a series of tunnels and hydraulic elevators to move Emperors,
Vestal virgins, Gladiators and caged animals to the right spot quickly!
The Trevi Fountain is a signature icon of Rome; all done
in Travertine marble. It is a tad
smaller than what I had imagined from "La Dolce Vita" or "Roman holiday"; yet quite
impressive. Yes, we saw countless
people take a coin in their right hand and throw it over their left shoulder
into the fountain. Let us hope their
girl friends, bankers, and potential employers said “yes”.
|Trevi Fountain, collects Euro 3,000 a day in small coins|
The Vittoriano is another signature icon of Rome. Some hate it for changing so much at
Capitoline. Some like it for its modern
architecture. The locals call it, what
|Il Vittoriano, the national monument ("Typewriter" to locals)|
Then you get to the Capitoline. As you climb up the hills, an imposing statue
of Emperor Marcus Aurelius welcomes you.
His book “Meditations” was read by more people in 1992 (after the then new
President Bill Clinton described it as his favorite bed time reading) than in
the days when it was written.
|Emperor Marcus Auerlius (last of the five good emperors and author of "Meditations")|
|Two wise folks: Marcus Aurelius and my daughter!|
The star attraction in Capitoline is Spinario, the
sculpture of a boy extracting a thorn from the sole of his foot.
|Spinario, the Hellenistic bronze of a boy who is flawless from head to toe, save the thorn he is extracting!|
There is more to see:
Circus Maximus, Appia Antica, the Catacombs etc. After you do all that, treat yourself to a
nice authentic deep pan thick crust Pizza at Piazza Novono.
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