Roman Rendezvous

Today I will move to greener pastures (figuratively and literally); A day and half in Rome, for Historical Rome is one of the greenest places I have seen this winter.

Our trip to Rome was sudden but beautiful in every way. It is said that Rome was not built in a day and hence cannot be flavored in a day either, but all in life is not as we want and we had only a day and half in Rome after taking off all the travel time.

Rome is a city of layers. When you look beyond the rocky and hilly roads and dig deep into the pages of history, the years of an era long lost come alive amongst the archaeological wonders and tell tales of power, blood and lust that leave you amazed and intrigued at the same time.

We started our day with our walk towards the Colosseum. When a lay man thinks of Rome, the picture that I imagine will pop into his mind will be the one of this imposing ancient structure. Imagine the elliptical structure in all white, completely covered in splendid travertine stone slabs. There are four floors; the first three had eighty arches each; the arches on the second and third floors decorated with huge statues; About 70,000 spectators screaming and cheering. …but that is not what we saw. What remains is just the skeleton of what was the greatest arena in the ancient world. Three-fifths of the outer surrounding brick walls are missing. In the Middle Ages, when no longer in use, the Colosseum was transformed into an enormous marble, lead and iron quarry used by Popes to build Barberini Palace, Pizza Venizia and even St Peter's. I found that part a tad sad; to rip apart one creation for another.

Any mention of the Colosseum is incomplete without mentioning the gladiators who were often prisoners of war.
They chose this way of life to death as it not only gave them a chance to earn money but also won them soft spots amongst the ladies, who even paid large sums of money just to spend a night of passion with one of them! Not that we saw any real gladiators but there were a few men dressed gallantly parading the grounds near the Colosseum.

After this part we walked down to Circus Maximus to explore the place, which during imperial Rome was a fashionable area to live in and some of its vanished splendor is still apparent in the vast ruins of the baths of Caracalla.

Completed by Emperor Caracalla in AD 217, the baths functioned for about 300 years, until the plumbing was destroyed by invading Goths. Over 1,600 bathers at a time could enjoy the facilities. It is said that a Roman bath was a serious business, beginning with a sort of Turkish bath, followed by a spell in the caldarium; a large hot room with pools of water to provide humidity. Then came the lukewarm tepidarium followed by a visit to the large central meeting place, known as the frigidarium, and finally a plunge into the natatio; an open-air swimming pool. For the rich, this was followed by a rubdown with scented woolen cloth. Sigh! Even the best of today’s health clubs rarely provide all this!

As the sun started setting we took a brief stop at one of the way side cafes. At this point it would be amiss if I did not mention the custom of having your drink either while standing or while sitting. The latter will see you pay double the amount! So you can now easily guess what we chose all the time. :)

The night took us down the beautiful lit roads and lovely sights…Rome looks vastly different at night thanks to the clever and strategically placed lighting. We walked from Spanish steps to the Colosseum and touched upon the trivia fountain, pantheon, pizza venizia and roma forum on the way. The night ended with dinner at a nice India restaurant called sitar; the food was hot, yummy and cheap!

Roma Forum

Castle St' Angelo


Trivia Fountain

View from Spanish steps

The morning sun guided us to Vatican City and due to our timing the crowds were much lesser than usual. Much can be said about the Vatican City which leaves you in awe due its sheer size. The basilica is filled with beautiful paintings and rich decorations. Since we had done our homework on the Vatican City we opted out of the guided tour and went about on our won. The trek to the top of the dome was an experience like none else. The steps that lead to the top are narrow, spiral and non stop. We must have climbed about 350-400 tiny steps that day but the view at the top was worth all the sweat.

After this we made our way towards Castle St Angelo which lies along the river
Tiber. With its unmistakable cylindrical contour and particularly scenic position along the shore of the Tiber River, Castel Sant'Angelo is one of the town's most famous landmarks. Again the history is riveting and so is the view from the terrace. Our final stop was the Roma forum and the palentine hill. This was without doubt my favorite place due to its lush greenery, hilly areas and lovely sights.

"Rome is an unrepeatable city and that is why she is called "eternal". She has had alternate sumptuous ages with those of decadence and inspite of that she has always revived gathering the treasures and memories with the charm of her incomparable landscape. Rome is the result of the subtle integration of power, art and transgression through twenty centuries of history. There among the stones of Imperial and Republican Rome, amidst the silence and penumbra of the first Christian churches and between the learning and mastery of the Renaissance and Baroque, you get closer to the soul of a city and she attracts and excites. Books and the net may provide you details about the historical and artistic aspects of monuments, fountains and streets but Rome bares her soul only to those who take the trouble to walk into her arms."


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