A Roman Affair
As a self-avowed Italophile, never realised when this strange infatuation and yearning started. It was heartbreaking to have planned the trip twice...
As a self-avowed Italophile, never realised when this strange infatuation and yearning started. It was heartbreaking to have planned the trip twice and then only to abandon it. It was a gradual revolt by the heart and mind against me, that lead to a resolve to visit Italy, reached a crescendo.
My first stop over to this enchanting country was quite naturally its capital city, Rome. It was a gloriously sunny and breezy afternoon, as the aircraft landed at Fiumicino airport (located 30 kms to the southwest of the Rome). I reached the city centre, Roma Termini. An utterly thrilling experience as I sat by the window of the bus to see the city-life gently unfold layer by layer as we approached the heart of the city.
Rome is a city where time surrenders itself. Rather, the concept of time collapses entirely. Rome sees history, not in the rear-view mirror but squarely in front of it every single day, for the past 2,500 years. Rome was established around 753 BC.
Setting foot in Rome had an electrifying effect on me. I disregard the tiredness after a long flight and sprint out to meander the streets of ancient Rome armed with my camera. By now, night had set in and the streets were bustling with people, the hue of street lights radiated and turned the countless piazzas, fountains and city buildings into a glittering pageantry. What a glorious and perfect start for a visit to Rome, I thought to myself.
Walking past the cobbled streets of the downtown ancient city, I reached the magnificent Colosseum. It is the most iconic piece of Roman architecture and an awe-inspiring rotund amphitheatre built in 80 AD by emperor Vespasian for staging deadly gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights for public viewing. It could easily hold 55,000 people at a time, who would be seated as per their social rank.
A deft restoration work is visibly underway. I save the visit inside the monument, for the daytime subsequently. I gazed at the Colosseum with unsatiated curiosity. I marvelled at the incredulity of its architecture and engineering feat. Towards the right is an imposing Arch of Constantine between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill. It is the last remaining arch in Rome from the ancient period. An inscription bears the words “Inspired by the divine”.
Rome is a remarkably walkable city. The city is suffused with history no matter where you look at, with countless monuments, piazzas, fountains and town squares acting as its central props.
A few steps away, the Roman Forum delicately sours above in the sky. It was the centre of ancient Romans daily life. Today what you would see are the ruins and fragments of the architectural past, nonetheless an imposing and evocative sight.
Nestled amidst the narrow and non-descript by lanes of the city is the gracefully opulent spectacle called Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain). It is the city’s largest and most famous fountain. The visual assault that ensues, numbs one’s senses. It is bewildering to think and wonder if it is ‘ever’ possible to create a masterpiece with such impeccable craftsmanship. The monument seems to be borrowed straight from the heaven for an undisclosed period of time for the pleasure of the earthly denizens.
As the night descended, I enjoyed the wonderful pockets of calm and strolled past the ancient Roman streets, while enjoying a delicious pressed sandwich of spicy grilled eggplant with fresh mozzarella and basil and top it up with a splendid gelato.
Food is cheap, and you find many restaurants in the business districts that cater to low and high end of food connoisseurs. The amazing thing is just like its innumerable water fountains that are “free” and “fit” to drink, much of the priceless ancient history in Rome also comes FREE, of course, barring few exceptions.
The Pantheon, is another extraordinary monument believed to be built in the 1st century AD, is single largest span dome in the world located at the heart of the Rome’s business district, situated at Piazza Navona. An engineering marvel, the concrete used by Romans to build the structure has remained a puzzle to this day.
A few streets away, you reach Altare della Patria, an unmissable white marble memorial to the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emmanuele II. The hard, uneven cobblestones of the ancient Roman street would gradually start to take a toll. The legs can go sore and heels may pain. To make sure a walking trip to Rome is an enjoyable one must carry some good comfy shoes.
This city has more than 2,500 years of history – all intertwined. Rome is full of historical masterpieces on display of every architectural era, from Etruscan to Classical Rome, from Renaissance to Baroque. No wonder why this ageless, timeless and priceless city is aptly called the ‘Eternal City’.
By: VV Sundar