Please read through my experience with the various facets of Rome:
- Colosseo (Colosseum)
Undoubtedly, this is the thing that puts Rome on the world map (except the high-street fashion and Vatican City). As we leave our hotel to see one of the wonders of the world, we are quite sure about being able to spot it from a distance. After all, we’ve all seen how majestic it looks in the pictures!
To our dismay, we weren’t able to spot it till we stood in front of it and the huge crowd let us know that we were there.
My first thought upon climbing the stairs to the first level is that it must have been a sight in earlier times but it sure doesn’t look like much now.
What now remains is a skeleton of the huge arena that was once the fighting ground for gladiators, a source of entertainment for the rich aristocratic class. Half of the place is gone, owing to the destructions by opponent kings throughout the history and the other half is battling to withstand the ravages of time.
All in all, we came out of the place a bit disappointed.
- Trevi Fountain
This was such a relief after the Colosseo and the hugely disappointing food (more on this in upcoming paragraphs).
A beautiful work of art designed by architect Nicola Salvi, the sound of its gently flowing waters calls the tourists walking through the lanes of Rome to spend an hour or two admiring the white marble fountains.
We ended up visiting Trevi every day of our trip here. It was lovely to see people making wishes and throwing coins in the fountain. (It is said that if you throw a coin in the Trevi, you’ll come back to Rome again very soon!). Enjoying my ice cream while the tiny water droplets from the fountain caressed my face, I got lucky enough to witness a marriage proposal! 🙂
- The Roman Forum and Palantine Hill
Now, I still can’t comprehend why these places are suggested to tourists. They may be a haven for archaeologists but for people having no knowledge of and love for historical ruins, these places are just that: Ruins.
(Fun fact: The English word “palace” is derived from “Palantine”).
With some of its buildings as old as 8th Century BC, Roman Forum was a cultural, economic and judicial center, not only for Rome but for the world, and is the place where all major activities in Rome used to take place.
Sadly, what now remains are just stones from some King’s palace, some columns of what used to be a temple and the likes. It might have been a place bustling with people at one time but is a sorry sight now.
After spending an entire afternoon here, the only time I liked the place was when I had my “Et tu, Brute?” moment AKA the exact spot where Julius Caesar was assassinated. (It has been turned into a shrine now, adorned with flowers and people offering coins there!).
- Piazza Navona
The fountain, a famous work of art by the talented Bernini, stands in the middle of the Piazza. From the base of the grand fountain emerge four river Gods representing the power of four continents, one of which is river Ganges representing Asia. On one side of the Navona lies a beautiful church and lines and lines of restaurants on the other.
It was my favourite place in all of Rome, with musicians and artists performing so heartily that you feel like letting go and joining them and painters scattered all over the place, some calling out to you for a live portrait and others sitting content with their work on display.
We spent around two hours here, taking in the liveliness of the place and had to force ourselves to leave to visit other places.
- The Spanish Steps
Spanish steps may not look like a worthy place to visit, in that they are just steps to sit on but the place has a nice lively vibe that makes you stop and enjoy the view of the Piazza di Spagna, which is one of the most famous squares of Rome, with its famous fashion street.
- The Pantheon
Once a temple and now a church, it is astonishingly well preserved, mostly because has continually been in use. The gigantic heavy columns on which stands the circular periphery of its structure, speak about its legacy. The most noticeable thing about the Pantheon is its large dome that is said to tell the time by the exact spot where the rays of the sun fall on it.
- Vatican City
If there is one reason that you should come visit Rome, even if like me, you do not understand the intricacies of art and paintings, it’s this! The place will leave you awestruck, overwhelmed and exhausted.
Beauty so magnificent, it makes you wonder at the world you live in- one that clearly lacks the magnitude of colours, designs and thoughts on display in Vatican.
For the things painted on the walls you touch and on the floors you walk on and the ceiling you look at and the doors you enter have all a story to tell. And they make you perplexed, for how are you to take in so much beauty at once?
Not once do I regret the hours spent at the Vatican Museum. Each room here is an art piece in itself.
And then there is Sistine Chapel! A room where not an inch is not covered by art, it has the power to keep you engrossed with its life like paintings.
I must have clicked around 200-300 pictures in Vatican itself. Because you don’t need a specific angle or perfect lighting for the pictures to turn out beautifully; you can randomly point your camera anywhere and immerse yourself in a fake self-confidence at your photography skills (like I am for the pictures used in this article)!
By the time we reached St. Peter’s Square, it was already evening and my legs refused to cooperate. Adding to that an hour-long line to enter the St. Peter’s Basilica, I had almost given up. On the steps of the large wide corridors I sat, replaying scenes from Angels and Demons in my head, while my brother stood in the queue.
Making the most beautiful of churches seem mediocre, this is by far the grandest Basilica I have seen and I have seen a lot! A classic work by Bernini, the Chair of Saint Peter, laden with gold, forces you to look at it without blinking.
Everything worth seeing in Rome is accessible by foot which is great since you can move around at your own pace, spending more time at one place and less on the other, while discovering new ways each time to reach your destination. The only exception to this is the Vatican City, for which you can take a metro (which by the way, is almost as crowded as the Rajiv Chowk metro station of Delhi metro). A ten-minute walk from the station takes you to the main area of Vatican (nobody asked to see our passports even though we were in a “different country”).
Be sure of carrying a map with you at all times since the number of sign boards in Rome are zero to none. We also downloaded an app called “maps.me” which proved to be extremely helpful in all our travel.
Be prepared to be shocked. Extremely shocked. One thing that I was most counting on Rome for was its food. Because how can one not get excited by the thought of having authentic Italian food, sitting in the capital of Italy? All my excitement faded with the first bite of the pizza here. This by far was the worst pizza of my life and I have had the privilege of having half burnt Domino’s pizza.
Feeling like throwing up at every bite, the food here disappointed us so much that we ended up buying packaged food from a grocery store. I’m not sure about how the non-vegetarian food here is, although if you are a vegetarian like me, stock up on breads, croissants, etc. to survive.
Except the Gelato. With a myriad range of flavours like all berry, Nutella, coconut, you will be left asking for more!
All in all, I think one needn’t spend more than 2 days in Rome- one at Vatican and the other covering all the other places. The city appears exciting in the sense that any new place is different and has a different feel to it, but it doesn’t do much to retain that excitement. With fountains at every corner of every street, this place is great if you a real history buff who wouldn’t tire of looking at monuments and structures from centuries ago.
PS. I was consciously trying to find people doing the famous Italian hand gesture (the one used as the main picture) and I am happy to announce that they actually do it, just not as much as we imagine. 😛