I got down at the station. ‘Roma Termini’- a huge sign greeted me. The platform was abuzz with tourists- American teenagers in their shorts, European ladies in their petite summer dresses, Asians with their over-large rucksacks and the occasional Indian family trying to blend in the western scenario. As I took a deep breath, a rush of excitement flowed through me-I WAS IN ROME! Rome, the birthplace of western civilization; Rome, the cradle of Christianity; Rome, the eternal city!
Armed with a map and a zeal to explore as much of Rome as I could in my short three day trip, I set out on the streets of Rome after checking into a decent room at Hotel Bernini (my heart filled with a Robert Langdon-ish excitement at the name!). The main street was choc-a-bloc with traffic but Rome’s enthralling history kept surprising me at every few metres. Instead of boring names of localities, the signposts read names of places that you would probably come across in history books. Walking along Rome’s narrow cobbled alleyways eating double scoop gelatos, I almost felt like Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday!
Rome is a perfect example of a modern city steeped in ancient history. It is home to more than 900 churches, each one more exquisite than the previous. The best way to sightsee around Rome is to hop on board the hop-on-hop-off tourist bus that covers almost all the main points in Rome. They also have an audio guide so that you don’t miss relevant facts.
The colossal Colosseum, standing proud even in ruins against the cloudy afternoon sky is a one-of-its-kind sight! A brainchild of one of the most brilliant engineering and architectural geniuses, this huge structure has witnessed many a significant historical events. I could almost feel myself travelling back in time to an era where public executions and bull fights would take place in this very arena that I now faced.
Walking around Rome might take a toll on your feet but the sights are totally worth all the hard work. Roman Forum, or the ancient city of Rome that now stands in ruins is a great way to explore ancient Roman architecture and lore. But beware, you might easily get lost in the maze of ruins. A very unique feature of Rome is the Nasoni, ubiquitous water fountains at public places across Rome that provide clean, safe and free drinking water to the masses. Indeed, a blessing for travellers!
When in Rome, do as the Romans! Forget your burgers and fries for a while and indulge yourself in authentic Italian cuisine which goes way beyond your ordinary pizza! Like every other European city, Rome has a plethora of cafes and eateries that have menus that would scintillate your taste buds. Try the Tuscan delights or give in to a sinful meal of cheesy pasta and spaghetti. Don’t forget to sample the local beer! End your meal on a sweeter note with the famous Italian dessert ‘Tiramisu’ and I bet you wouldn’t forget that meal for a long time to come!
Among the countless fountains in Rome, perhaps the most famous is the Trevi fountain. Tradition has it that if you toss a coin in the water basin you’d definitely come back to Rome. If Fontane de Trevi was the most popular fountain, Piazza de Spagna is definitely the most popular meeting squares in Rome. A beautiful staircase known as the Spanish steps, an imposing obelisk and a beautiful church together make the place a huge attraction for tourists. After a hectic day of roaming around Rome, all you might want to do is flop on your bed but that would mean missing out on so many things that you could do in Rome at night! Have an evening of debauchery at one of Rome’s high end pubs or relax with some Roman Opera or simply catch up with a friend over cappuccino and croissants!
If you’re a Dan Brown fan, Rome definitely means a lot to you! You probably know all the places because you’ve been here before with Robert Langdon in the famous novel ‘Angels and Demons’. Yes, the ‘Path of Illumination’, a map of sorts that has markers to guide scholars towards the final meeting place of an ancient secret society called the ‘Illuminati’, as described in the novel stands intact even today and you can follow it for yourself.
‘Cross Rome the mystic elements unfold.
The path of light is laid, the sacred test
Locating the four altars of science can be quite a task since most of them are quiet, obscure structures that are nonetheless awe-inspiring and filled with Bernini’s masterpieces! The statues of Habakkuk depicting apocalypse and Saint Teresa in Ecstasy are marvels that you simply must see, especially if you’re a Dan Brown fan! The fourth altar of science, the fountain of four rivers, located in Rome’s famous piazza Navona depicts the four major rivers of the world- the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Rio de la Plata. No one who comes to Rome can go without seeing it! Another important structure that your Rome visit is incomplete without is the Pantheon. The Pantheon is a huge, circular structure that was originally a Pagan temple but was later converted to a church. The mystic aura associated with the Pantheon allures tourists, architects, artists, religious scholars and historians from all over the world. The structure consists of a circular opening, called ‘oculus’, in its dome, through which a column of sunlight falls inside. Looking at the Pantheon in all its glory, the Robert Langdon in me is somewhat at peace!
Vatican City, the most sacred place for Christians all over the world, is the smallest independent state in the world and a city within a city. The city has been built over Saint Peter’s tomb and is the official residence of the Pope. The Vatican City is home to some of the most influential and beautiful structures in the world such as Saint Peter’s Basilica, Castel Sant’ Angelo and the Vatican museums. The Vatican museum houses some of the greatest works of art such as the frescoes of the Sistine chapel by Michelangelo. Only someone who has a deep understanding of art would be able to fully appreciate the greatness of these phenomenal masterpieces.
The ‘eternal’ city of Rome is home to more than 40 catacombs or underground burial places. Some irony there! Be it art or religion or architecture, all roads lead to Rome! Three days of wandering along its narrow cobble stoned streets and visiting more structures than I’d ever visited in my whole life, I am truly convinced that Rome definitely wasn’t built in a day! I don’t know whether I’d ever come back to see this beautiful city but still as my train leaves Roma Termini I say, “Arrivederci!”