The Coliseum, Palatino Hill, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and countless more must-sees lie within the realm of Roma. I wanted to see everything I could but even my quick feet can’t do all of Rome in three days. But I did give it a valiant attempt. Take a look at all my pictures and you’ll get the idea. As for this post though, I’ll cover my favorites; the Coliseum and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Being a sports stadium lover and a big fan of the movie Gladiator, to me the Coliseum was magnificent. My first venture to its vicinity was after dinner on my first night with my new friend Theresa from Vancouver. The Coliseum was beautifully lit up and the full moon was shimmering above it. It was bigger than I had thought it would be. I stood and imagined what it would be like in its hey-day with the roars and cheers of over 50,000 Romans rumbling during every battle to the death. Before being left to ruin, the stadium’s exterior gleamed a bright white in the hot Mediterranean sun with its main sand covered arena floor doused with scarlet blotches of blood. In its time the Coliseum stood not as some large sport arena but as a symbol of the grandeur of ruling Rome. More than any other ruin, when I stepped inside the Coliseum I felt transported back in time. The gladiatorial blood baths playing out in front of me while the people of Rome, from Senators and vestal virgins to lower class workers and merchants, sat side by side, transfixed on the games. Unlike our modern stadiums, the Coliseum didn’t feel spacious and out of touch. Instead, the four steep bleacher levels lined the tall walls, each right on top of the other perhaps creating a synergistic feeling of electricity shooting through the hearts of all those focused on the same singular battle. At least this is how I imagine it… Much of it has fallen apart now with the floor gone, walls destroyed, and seats missing. But there was still more than enough left to stir the imagination.
St. Peter’s basilica created a different type of awe. St. Peter’s square, with its beautiful Bernini colonnade and Maderno’s facade is one thing, but walking inside the gargantuan church triggers one of those “wow” moments. Its ostentatious enormity cannot possibly be matched. Every single inch is over the top and epitomizes its Baroque background. But although it is so large (just the baldacchino is seven stories high) it was ironically built to feel small and intimate. Not until you start walking around do you realize how expansive the space really is. When I looked up to the top of the inside of the dome I didn’t even notice the ring of people standing on the balcony around its lower edge. Only when I made the over 500-step trek to the top, with a stop on this balcony, did I realize it was there. The people below looked like ants roaming the floor. The view from the top of the dome was impressive and well worth the lines and admission fee. It’s impossible for a picture or even words to describe the scale and extravagance of St. Peter’s. Being there is the only way to fully understand. There’s incredible history and pieces of art to go with the opulence as well. All the great architects and artists who worked on it left their mark and as churches go, it sets a high standard in more ways than one.
All in all I very much enjoyed my time in Roma. Yes, there were lines, fees, and an uncountable number of tourists everywhere, but for whatever reason those things still didn’t disenchant the city for me. There’s just so much history, art and incredible architecture on every turn I found it easy to get lost in it all. Maybe one day I’ll return to finish the long list of sights that make Rome truly one of the most identifiable cities in the world.
Trip Update: After Rome I hopped on a train to Perugia on Monday. Yesterday, with the hilly Perugia as a home base of sorts, I went on a day trip to the beautiful Florence. I’ll probably be making another day (and maybe night) trip to Cinque Terre this weekend then pack up again and take my show on to Venice.
The tentative plan is then Switzerland, Austria, Budapest, Prague, Germany, maybe Poland, France, Spain then ending in Greece. Then it’s off to Cyprus and Australia. Of course, my plans are usually in just as good of shape as the ruins…