The city of Rome, or the Eternal City ( La Citta Eterna) as it is called, was on my list of places to visit as soon as I got the news that I would be visiting Europe in near future.
According to the Roman mythology, the city was founded by the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, in around 8 century B.C. There are seven mythical hills around which the city was built – the most famous of them being the Capitoline Hill and the Palatino Hill.
Alright, first things first.
My colleague and I started from Germany in the wee hours of the morning for Rome and saw a beautiful sunrise from the flight. Upon reaching Rome, we bought the tickets for the metro and reached Roma Termini which was the main metro station. Then, with the map in hand, we started on our tour.
We had kept The Vatican on the top of the list, as I had read somewhere that it is best to reach there by about 11 am otherwise it becomes quite crowded. So we boarded the metro to reach the Vatican city. That metro ride was the first thing that gave me the feel of India in Europe – for it was so crowded that we literally got crushed – the way it is in the local trains of Mumbai. Nonetheless, we reached there in no time and then following the tourists and asking the shopkeepers the way to the basilica, we reached the famous St. Peter’s Basilica, the home of the Christian high priest – The Pope.
We were greeted by the view of a long queue and felt that if we stood in the queue, our whole day would be spent there only and we would not be able to see anything else in Rome.
But we came to know that the queue was for the Vatican museums, and thus relieved of our fears, we proceeded towards the church.
And boy, was it a church! It was sheer poetry, which spoke volumes about the great artists and sculptors who spent their lifetimes in creating that masterpiece.
The various artists who worked on the beautification of the basilica, includes names like Raphael, Michael Angelo and Bernini.
We tried to capture the splendor of the church in the camera ( which was a tough job) and then stood in the long queue to enter the church. Upon reaching the entrance of the church we went to the place where we had to deposit the backpacks that we were carrying. Being such an important religious place, it is always under threat from the terrorists and miscreants. Hence, all the visitors are supposed to undergo a security check. At the place where we deposited the bags, there was a counter where we could rent the audio guide. The audio guide was accompanied by a map of the basilica, so we just had to press the numbers on the audio guide keypad, seeing the numbers on the map, and it would start the commentary about that portion of the church.
Thus equipped, we started on our tour of the church, which gradually unfolded the stories of the centuries that it held within itself.
After having a spellbinding three hour tour of the church, when we came out we realized that we were quite hungry. So we decided to have the Italian speciality – the pizza. After refreshing ourselves with a nice pizza and an even nicer ice-cream, we continued our tour and the next stop in the list was the Piazza de Spagna.
It is a square bustling with tourists and is famous for the Spanish steps, which lead from the piazza to a church. We decided to skip the church having spent so much time at the Vatican. So after being photographed at the steps, which is more or less a ritual for the tourists there, we started towards the famous Fontana De Trevi, a famous fountain designed by Nicola Salvi, and what a sight it was!
It seemed to appear straight out of a fairy tale and legend has it that if you toss a coin into the fountain, it guarantees a return to Rome. Since I was charmed by Rome and wanted to return there again and again, so I followed the tradition and tossed the coin. Does the wish come true, is yet to be seen!
From there we proceeded towards the ancient Rome. En route we saw another beautiful building, the Monument de Emanuel.
We did not have enough time, so we had to be content with just a view of the magnificent building, from the roadside.
At that point, we got a bit confused seeing the map and the monument, so we asked a girl about the directions to the Colosseum, and she very graciously gave us the directions. This was one good thing about Europe, that generally the people tried to help if you needed, even if we did not speak a common language.
I was too tired by then and so upon ascending the steps leading to the Capitoline hill, we decided to take a break and sat down in the Piazza De Campidoglio, watching the other tourists and their activities.
There was a statue of Goddess Roma, the goddess of Rome, and that was the only place, out of all the places that we had visited, where we found her statue.
From there, we proceeded towards the Roman Forum, which comprises various temples like the temple of Vespasian, temple of Caesar and the forum of Trajan.
It was awesome to see the huge structures and we wondered how were those forums constructed, in the old days when there were no cranes! Truly it reminded me of the famous words of Caesar – “Veni Vidi Vici” ( I came, I saw, I conquered ). It was not about conquests over the other rulers, but about the conquests of the human spirit! Overlooking the Forum is the Palatine Hill, which contains the ruins of the palaces of ancient Rome’s who’s who!
Thus, getting awed minute by minute while trekking across the paths that were trodden by the people from as early as the 1st century B.C, we reached the most awe inspiring structure of the ancient Rome, the grand Colosseum, which some say was constructed in the 1st century B.C.
And seeing it was the culmination of what I had been feeling the whole day, a sense of realizing what the human beings can achieve, once they set their minds to it.
The ruins themselves were telling the story of how grandiose the building would have been in its prime.
Though history is replete with the stories of the grotesque games and events that took place in the Colosseum, today it is one of the major tourist attractions of the world. It appeared to me that it still serves the same purpose for which it would have been constructed centuries ago, and here I do not mean the hosting of games, but of amazing the people with its sheer size and grandeur.
There again after passing through the security checks and having equipped ourselves with the audio guide and map, we explored the ruins of the grand Colosseum.
We spent about two hours there, trying to understand what purpose each part of the stadium served during the days of the gladiators. Also from the Colosseum could we see the arch of Constantine, which was built to commemorate some victory. There were some professionals who were dressed like Caesar with whom people could get themselves photographed in exchange for some moolah. Interesting what job ideas people have!
By the time we came out of the Colosseum, we were dead tired. So we proceeded towards the Roma Termini from where we had to board the train to Venice. Because of lack of time, we missed the Pantheon and the various gardens that I had read about like the Villa Borghese. I wish that I would go a next time to Rome, with some more time in hand and visit all the places that I missed in this trip.
Then once at the station we had some difficulties in converting the ticket that we booked online, into a regular ticket but having solved that problem, we proceeded and had the dinner.
We had to wait for some more time for the train and once it arrived I bade goodbye to Rome, with the hope of returning there some time again and started for the next destination – Venice.