Friday, May 15, 2009

When In Rome ...

We did like the Romans

We turned into temporary locals.Rented out a charming apartment, (my husband called it old and run down...our concept of charming differs) and stayed there for four days.We cooked pasta and spaghetti for dinner, did our laundry at home and went to the local markets and stores to buy vegetables and groceries. Our apartment was close to Piazza Navona and most of the tourist attractions, including the Vatican were within walking distance.

I have been to Europe before but in no other cities of the continent have I witnessed such a spectacular past. Roman ruins carelessly lay scattered throughout. Cobbled roads, made by the Romans were still in use.Walked through an alley and turned around the corner, and suddenly came across an ancient wonder. It was simply astounding.

The first day of our trip, we aimlessly walked and reached the Vatican. What we had not realised was that day being a Sunday the Pope was about to address the people.

It was a surreal feeling standing on the St. Peter's square and listening to the Pope along with thousands.The sheer grandeur of the Vatican and the atmosphere around simply stunned me.

The dome above the alter inside the St Peter's basilica epitomised pure elegance. It was designed by Michelangelo when he was 72. All of the basilica was a virtual treasure chest,but sheer wonder was a sculpture done by Michelangelo called the Pieta. A superb piece of Jesus after his Crucifixion in Mary's arms, this is apparently the only statue which bears the signature of the artist. The flawless marble had a sheen that really can not be described...almost looked like Jesus was sweating after his ordeal. Apparently in 1972, a man entered the basilica with a hammer and started striking Mary saying "I am Jesus Christ and this is not my mother". Before the security team could stop the man, he had struck almost 15 times and damaged part of her face. Since then, the statue has stood behind bullet proof glass door.

The dome of the basilica was open to public. An elevator took us halfway up. But it was still a long climb. More than the number of the steps, it was the narrow spiral way which almost did me in. My 2 daughters ran up but I was almost doddering. The steps were narrow and there was a recurring thought that if I missed a step there was nothing to hold.The climb was not for the faint hearted and people with vertigo. Towards the end I had started feeling dizzy but the view from the top was a real reward though.
The Vatican museums were enormous and we had to select the sections we wanted to see. Even then our tour took us more than 2 hours. It took me a while to believe that the prints of the famous paintings that I had seen, were actually in front of me in their original forms. The famous Sistine Chapel, with its frescoes from the Genesis was breathtaking. No matter how much I try, I will never be able to describe the beauty. I could have sat there for hours and still not been able to wholly take in their magnificence.

The next day was reserved for the ancient Roman ruins. The Pantheon. The Colosseum. The Roman palaces. The Pantheon is the best preserved ancient monument in the city.It was designed in AD 120 and is still almost intact.What was amazing was the sense of symmetry and proportion. The opening of the dome illuminates the building and lights the stone ceiling. Almost like a spot light. To imagine all this was built when the Romans lacked the modern building techniques.The original bronze door to the Pantheon, 1800 years old, still survives.

Legend has it that as long as the Colosseum stands, Rome will stand and when Rome falls, so will the world. Of all the monuments in the city, this was the structure that thrilled my children the most. Inaugurated in AD 80, the stadium could hold almost 50,000 people.The arena had a wooden floor cover. Trap doors and passageways led to the underground chambers where the animals were kept. Wild animals in cages were hoisted onto the arena by pulleys. The floor of the arena was covered with sand to prevent the gladiators from slipping and to soak up the spilled blood. The cavea and the podium held the public and the VIPs.
Then there were those sights that we have seen so many times on T.V or pictures. Trevi fountain. Spanish steps. The Castel Sant'Angelo. The whole of the city was like an open museum.
No where in the rest of Europe have I encountered such art on the streets.

Also, nowhere else in Europe have I seen such noisy and colourful people as in Rome. We felt we were in the middle of a carnival through out our stay.There were fun, laughter and tourists everywhere. Generally, the Europeans place a high value on low decibel level. You can walk into a crowded public place and hear very little noise, but not so in Italy. There ,people love to talk rapidly and loudly, using their hands and eyes as much to emphasise their points.

There were still so many things we missed out on seeing.We only had 4 days after all. I also know no matter how many times I may go back, there would still be something left unseen. As the popular saying goes in Italy, 'Roma, non basta una vita'.
A lifetime is not enough for Rome.


के सी said...

very nice pots more than travel journalism.
enjoying your trip to roam.

sujata sengupta said...

Enjoyed the post, great pictures..but missed David..what happened?

Aparna said...

Thanks Kishore,
Sujata, David is in Florence.Wait, you will get to meet him too.

PBCHATURVEDI प्रसन्नवदन चतुर्वेदी said...

thanks for this blog.I also visited Roam with your blog.

Onkar said...

I too remeber the grandeur of the Vatican, but I missed out on the Pope's address.

eye-in-sty-in said...

Hi Aparna! Thanks for sharing your trip in such detail on your blog. I'm subscribing to it. Did I mention, I totally love pasta and spaghetti.. like maggie, its fast to cook and good to eat :D

aMus said...

loved reading this...i have not been to Europe, and woudl love to go someday...

"my husband called it old and run down...our concept of charming differs' this made me smile, because it sounds familiar...

Vidooshak said...

What an awesome awesome post. I loved how you started by talking about apartments, laundry and cooking-- on a HOLIDAY. Hyuk!!! That made sure I read through the rest of this post-- and the blog.

First time (of many) here, redirected from Mama-Mia's comment page. You write very well and I love the permanent humour watermark, like in the post about arriving back to Mumbai. Hilarious1

Sai Charan said...

Hi Aparna,

You have given a clear picture of your tour with nice piece of description decorated with striking photos.

The flow of narration is fine and that makes the reader to not take a pause and just follow through the post till the end.

Yes, truly said, “A lifetime is not enough for Rome” as Rome has so much to offer and that makes it one of the most visited tourist destinations in Europe.


Aparna said...

Thanks Prasanna and onkar.I loved hearing from you.
Eye-in-sty-in and suma, I love both of your blogs. Keep posting regularly.
Vidooshak welcome to my blog. Hope you will visit again. we incidentally always rent out apartments when we visit Europe. Becoming locals is the best way to see a country. Cooking and cleaning also become fun. Try figuring out how the washing machine runs when the language of instruction is not english.Its a different high altogether.
Sai charan thanks for your encouraging words.
I will do some more posts on my holiday. Hope all of you will have the time to read them.

Rajesh said...

Beautiful snaps and good narration. Each city is unique in what they have to offer to the workld.

Miss M said...

Brings back memories!

Did you get to climb to the top of The Vatican??

Beautiful pictures btw! :)