For me, Rome and the Vatican are history books coming alive. Every rock and square and house seems to tell a story of its own. Four or five days are needed just to explore some parts of the cities in detail. My friend and I went backpacking there at the end of March 2012. Here are some snippets of our adventure that I’d love to share with you. Hope this will be helpful for you to plan your own Roman Holiday as well.
The guidebook we used during the journey was Rome and the Vatican: Discover the Archaeology, Monuments and Churches of Rome (Edizioni Lozzi Roma S.A.S.). We bought this book in Rome when we realized that it’s impossible to fathom this city without a guidebook. Most of the information written below is taken from this guidebook. Of course, I also find the information in Lonely Planet very useful.
Here is a map of the Eternal City, with the famous Colosseum down at the bottom.
1. The immense Colosseum or “Flavian Amphitheater” was built by Emperor Vespasian in 72 A.D. and was inaugurated by his son Titus in 30 A.D. Jewish prisoners were used as labourers in the construction of this monumental building. 9000 animals were killed in the one hundred days that celebrated the inauguration of this gigantic amphitheater. Professional gladiators were trained to fight to their death amidst the wild beasts in this colossal stadium. Today, the Colosseum, even as a ruin, remains the most recognised landmark in Rome.
2. Moving up north, you will pass through some impressive ruins in Foro Romano (The Roman Forum), which used to be a market place, civic centre and religious complex in ancient times. Then you will be surprised by the sudden emergence of a massive and white “wedding cake” 😀 Alright, the real name of the cake is Vittorio Emanuele II Monument, designed by Giuseppe Sacconi (1885-1911). On top of the building stand two huge bronze chariots surmounted by winged Victories. The monument is to commemorate the Italian unification.
3. Of course you can’t miss the legendary Fountana di Trevi, which is situated to the right of the Via del Corso. At the center of the fountain was the statue of Oceanus. The baroque fountain was designed by the architect Salvi (1735). At the feet of Oceanus are two pairs of Tritons and sea-horses (hippocamps). One hippocamps could be seen as wild and another more docile, representing the two sides of the power of the waters.
4. To the left of Via del Corso is centro storico (the historic center), where you will find the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.
The Pantheon, not to be confused with the Parthenon, is the city’s best preserved ancient monument. In 120 CE, Emperor Hadrian built over Marcus Agrippa’s original temple (27 BCE), the latter of which was destroyed by a fire in 80 CE. Even until today, you can still find these words inscribed above the entrance of the Pantheon: “M. AGRIPPA L.F. COS. TERTIUM FECIT” meaning “Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, in his third consulate made it.” The pagan temple was converted into a Christian church in 609 CE. The remains of the popular artist Raphael (1483-1520) are now housed here.
Try out this granita di caffe (a crushed-ice espresso topped with cream) in Tazza D’Oro (near Pantheon) to escape the heat.
Piazza Navona used to be the main market of Rome. In the center of this piazza is the Bernini’s 1651 masterpice, the Fountana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers). The Egyptian oblisk form the base of the four statues, who represent the personfications of the four rivers – Nile, Ganges, Danube and Plata rivers. Today the piazza attracts many street artists, tourists and pigeons.
5. Now, I can’t remember which church this is. But, WOW, its ceiling painting is truly amazing!!!
6. Let’s take a break from the fantastic monuments of Rome. I want to tell you some interesting facts we discovered during the trip:
#1: You can find this kind of drinkable tap water everywhere in Rome. To drink like a real Roman, you should put two fingers on the opening fo the tap and the water will be forced to spring out from a small hole of the tap and reach your mouth elegantly. Useful, isn’t it?
#2: The Roman sense of fashion = bright and natural
#3: Look at the bottom: Hello Kitty is roughly of the same rank as D&G.
#4: Mini bus in Rome is SO cute ~
#5: This is NOT a car. it is a scooter/motorbike with a covering that looks like a car. Don’t be surprised if a 14 year-old can drive this thing!
I will write about our trip to the nearby Vatican in another entry. Stay tuned 🙂