Roma – where Gods still linger

This is a city where the past is the present, where Gods still linger and monarchs are worshipped , where myths and legends merge to create history , where romance is about wars fought and won, where art is a way of life , where stones speak and the silence of the scultures speak of a glorious past, where winged creatures are not birds , but Gods , where the spirit of Renaissance still lives on the streets , celebrating the exuberance of life. Its the root of civilisation and ironically, you run away from civilisation the moment you set foot here , as you step into the bygone eras .

This trip for me was personal and special. I ‘ve poured over the stories from classical mythology , learnt by rote the names of all the Gods and Goddesses, dreamt of Zeus and Venus, got intoxicated by Bachchus and smitten by Cupid and read all the exploits of the Ceasars and imagined Nero fiddling … and I completely got lost amidst the art and architecture . It was hot and humid and extremely crowded .

There was art in every nook and corner. Statues and sculptures screamed for attention as pretty fountains dotted every street . Each piazza has a history behind it, be it Piazza Navona or Piazza Venezia or Piazza Di Spagna . In Piazza Navona are three fountains: Fontana del Moro, Fontana di Nettuno and in the centre of the square Bernini’s magnificent Fontana dei Fiumi. Four allegorical statues portray the Nile, the Ganges, the Danube and the Rio de la Plata, symbolizing the four corners of the world.


As we passed through the city, we came upon The Area Sacra . It has temples and remains of Pompey’s theatre complex . Adjacent to the same is the Curia of Pompey, which was used as a temporary assembly for senators .It is widely believed that Julius Ceasar was stabbed to death amidst these ruins here on the Ides of March .

The Pantheon was one of the temples that was first on my priority .In Latin , it means the temple of all the Gods and it was dedicated to the ancient Gods of Rome. Rebuilt in 27 BC by Agrippa, it was destroyed , only to be built again by Emperor Hadrian in 125 AD ..ironically this was my last stop over in Rome as we were late to catch our train to Zurich. It became a tomb and painters like Raphael are buried here . Today its a church and even weddings are celebrated here . This temple to me is the definition of the word ancient .

We went to the Vatican ,the sovereign city state , landlocked in Rome is governed by the Pope . .The route from Rome takes you across the Tiber to St Peter’s Square into St Peter’s Basilca . The Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, the Sistine Chapel and the museums are the other must visits here. We were told that the Pope was away in Austria … There were strict dress codes..shorts, short skirts and even sleeveless T shirts and tees were not allowed..

We spent a lot of time marvelling at the Basilca, especially at the Dome, which is believed to be designed by Michaelangelo and then redesigned by architect Giacomo della Porta and then quickly made a dash to the Sistene Chapel to look at the frescos before going to Castel Sant’Angelo , a beautiful mausoleum built on the banks of the river Tiber, by Emperor Hadrian (2nd century AD), who wished to have a tomb for himself and his successors. According to the legend, it was not yet completed by the time of Hadrian’s death and the emperor being buried in another place until the mausoleum was ready. It was at first a fortress , then a prison and finally a magnificent papal residence. The magnificent bridge , the calm river and the imposing structure and the serene surroundings uplifts you to a completely different world.

The Colosseum …one of the ancient seven wonders, this gem is a beauty ..We walked in the sweltering heat and waited in the long queque and sweated as the sea of humanity gathered around us …but it was breathtaking . The Colosseum owes its name to a colossal bronze statue, representing the Emperor Nero,(no, the sculptor is Ganymede and not Nero) that used to stand in this area.

Symbol of Rome worldwide, the Colosseum was built between 72-80 A.D. and this amphi theatre could hold more than 70,000 spectators who could watch the fights between gladiators, the hunting of animals . Legend has it that the architect who designed the Colosseum is said to have been thrown alive to the wild beasts “as a reward for his own work”, thus inaugurating the long story of blood and cruelties of the building he himself had conceived.

Next to the Colosseum is the temple of Venus and Roma designed by emperor Hadrian. It was dedicated to the patron goddesses of Rome – Roma, the divine personifaction of the city, and Venus, the mother of the ancestor of Romulus and Remus.It was this temple which caused the rift between Hadrian and Apollodorus, the brilliant court architect of emperor Trajan. Apollodorus had remarked that the seated statues of the godesses were too large for the temple. For if they would stand up, they would actually knock their heads on the ceiling.Those comments should eventually cost Apollodorus his life.

We walked down to The Roman Forum, which is the most important archaeological area in Rome. It extends from the Capitol Hill to the Palatine. In the 7th century B.C., the Forum was the very nerve of Rome’s political, commercial and religious life. Later on, the Imperial Forums were added to the Roman Forum – Foro di Cesare, Foro di Augusto, Foro di Nerva, Foro di Vespasiano and the most imposing one, the Foro di Traiano, of which one can still admire the huge Column of the Markets.

Today the remains of the Forum Romanum seem like a pile of rubble and rocks that are scattered around.- but this is the layout of ancient Rome’s town centre , the very foundation of the ancient city where columns and pillars speak of battles won and lost , where statues of queens and goddesses vied for attention , where temples and palaces once stood majestically against the hills .

As we walked towards Piazza Venezia,we were greeted by a majestic white monument. The Vittoriano built to honour Victor Emanuel II, the first king of Italy, offer some breathtaking views of Rome . Built of white marble, the monument invited controversy for destroying a large portion of the Capitoline Hill . It also has the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

If I have to sum up Rome in a couplet, I am reminded of a poem by Keats and though the Ode is to a Grecian Urn, it will not be misplaced here

“Beauty is truth, truth beauty
that is all ye know on earth and all ye need to know “

15 Comments

  • Thank you Backpakker for touring us in the ancient city of Rome!
    You know something? Some of your captures are almost similar to the ones I have clicked during my trip to Rome! What coincidence :)

    When I entered the Temples there, I really felt it were functional and got a feeling of being watched.. from above! Very different but spiritual feeling indeed!

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  • sanjay lobo says:

    hey guy’s,making a trip to Rome & Paris. ca we have some tips on accomodation @ cheap hostels?
    Sanjay.

  • Elroy says:

    Hi Backpacker
    How far is Rome from Milan? Can we travel to Rome by road/train

    Appreciate your thoughts
    Elroy

  • backpakker says:

    Olive – Greek and Roman mythology has always interested me ..I will try to incorporate the same next time around..unfortunately, Im not a shopper..so will have to make an extra effort .

    Priya – Thanks for the elaborate comment ..I really envy you ..did pass by trevi..didnt take a pic though !

  • Priya says:

    :-) Very nostalgic post for me! I had the good fortune to visit Rome with a person who’s been living there for a while and who’s part of the clergy, so I got to visit some less known places also like the jail cell where St.Peter was chained and where he baptized the jailor, the Santa Scala (or the staircase of Pontius Pilate’s palace where Christ was made to walk on his knees) and the altar in that church where they display what they believe to be pieces of Christ’s cross and nails! And ofcourse, the catacombs! Best of all was being able to attend a blessing ceremony with Pope John Paul II (back in 2004).

    Amazing place. Given a chance I’d go back any number of times ‘coz I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen the best of it yet!

    Thx for taking me through it again – Rome would probably be the one place that’s not home but that which I terribly miss as if it were home!

    P.S: Trevi is conspicuous by its absence – don’t tell me you didn’t drop a coin into the fountain! ;-)

  • Olive says:

    You should also include tips on where to stay and how much stuff costs just so others can get an idea. And it is nice that you didn’t let a little Greek myth get in the way of your writing — Zeus ?

  • backpakker says:

    Thank you..I had been to Sistine Chapel..even in that little time, I felt transported to a different world ..loved the frescoes ..I researched the entire tour and travelled..the entire Europe tour was more like a do it yourself tour !

  • Ram Dhall says:

    Thanks for this wonderful whirlwind account of Rome, which you have very aptly described as ‘city where the past is present, where Gods still linger”.

    Aye, you write very well – almost soul stirring. Your article brought a whole lot of nostalgia of my brief visit to Roma.

    You have mentioned about your visit to the Sistine Palace. I was totally flabbergasted by its beauty and grandeur. I still remember the Italian guide telling us that the Chapel was built in the time of Pope Sixtus (1471 -1484), from whom it takes it name. Another thing I remember is its dimensions are almost like those of Temple of Solomon (in one of the books on Renaissance history, I read that these are 40.93 metres long by 20.70 metres wide). Some of the frescoes, which include Baptism of Jesus Christ, Last Supper, creation of Adam and Eve, will linger in my memory for long.

    I must say that I am so much impressed by your post that I am going to order a few books on the subject and will ensure that during our next visit to Europe, we include Roma in our travel plans.

    Will look forward to more from you.

  • backpakker says:

    Manish – I had visited Germany, Austria, Italy and Swiss last Sep – a sort of a do it yourself holiday but a whirlwind tour and I had posted all the travelogues on each destination in my blog. Rome was one of the best as civilisations and history excite me .I had wanted to share all the pictures and the places ..so didnt really pay attention to a travelogue as such..I would have loved to go on writing … but I was just awe struck seeing the place . in fact, you will find more pictures in my blog

    We were warned ..but nothing happenned except that we were once kinda stalked if I can say that in the underground station ..we were staying in a sub urb near the Vatican ..that experience scared us enough not to venture beyond 8 pm on the first day ..

    Nandan -thanks..I still feel that there is more to Rome than what I have seen and experienced..need to go there again

    Rahul – thanks..I went to Venice and passed through Florence in the train.. .. Rome was the best ..it just takes you to a different world…My biggest regret is that I didnt spend more time there

    Geetha -Thanks..maybe thats why they say all roads lead to Rome..yes, there is art and architecture at every nook and corner..its unique as Manish says

  • Manish khamesra says:

    Rome is Unique. There are only a few cities as beautiful as Rome. Italians are very nice and warm people. They are very much like us.

    Rahul, but be very careful in your forthcoming trip of Italy. In Italy there are big gangs which targets the tourists. We Indians can be very easily identified as tourists. Be very careful with your baggage in Rome, don’t take photographs with the Gladiators in front of Colloseum, else you will invite problem(basically you have to pay them for it and this you will come to know after clicking the pictures).

    I would suggest don’t keep passport in any hand baggage, better to keep it in the pocket of your shirt or rather I should say something close or touching to your body. If you would lose anything it would not be that much hurting as if it is your passport.

    Take care and enjoy. There are many few places in the world that can boast of such an ancient civilization :)

  • Geetha Saravanan says:

    It is a beautiful, soul stirring description! My father whose visited Rome around twenty years back used to say… you stand in any part of the city and look in any direction… you’ll see a beautiful sculpture. Till now I’ve visited Rome thru photographs he took, tourist brochures, Rennaissance art books and the novel ‘Angels &Demons’ by Dan Brown ( of the Da Vinci Code fame). These took my eyes to the city while your account takes my heart and spirit there. Truly fascinating!

  • Rahul says:

    Nice descriptions, history brought live!
    Rome has never been anywhere near the top of my list of places to visit as opposed to other places in Italy, like the Amalfi coast, Venice or Florence, but it truly is a city I can’t afford to miss just for being so steeped in history.
    I will be there this spring, Amen!

  • nandanjha says:

    Rome is now closer to me then what it was ever before.

  • Manish khamesra says:

    I think you have to work hard to stop yourself from writing more. To write about Rome in one post and that too so short and crisp might be very difficult. Though I sincerly wish that you won’t have written about all of them in one post and rather split them into several posts writing in detail about them(I know that it do means around 20-30 posts on Rome).

    All roads lead to Rome, do I mind if Backpakkers all posts lead to Rome for some time :)

    I am lucky that I have seen ROME and can relate with every line you have written. Thanks backpakker for making me revisit this wonderful city.

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