Ciao da Roma! You guessed it, this week I’m writing about my time in Rome. But before I begin, I have one question for you: Have you ever seen such a beautiful night? That’s a little Lizzie McGuire movie reference for you, if you didn’t already know that. I’m going to be honest with you, I didn’t love Rome. I can hear the slightly offended gasps and see the questioning looks on your face from here, but hear me out. It’s not that I didn’t find the history and culture of Rome incredible, but I think I had this predetermined idea of what Rome would look and be like, so I was shocked when it wasn’t what I was expecting.
First off, I imagined that the city would be centered around the ruins and the more modern parts of the city would be on the outside of the city. It’s not like that at all, in fact there was a McDonald’s across the street from the Coliseum. I mean, yeah, people need to eat and it’s not like they could just move the Coliseum and the ruins. But still, it just seems weird and out of place. Secondly, I imagined that Rome would be immaculate, meaning minimal graffiti or just general garbage on the streets. It’s not. It’s more like New York City in terms of the cleanliness of the city, meaning it’s not great, but it could definitely be worse. However, the major monuments, like the Trevi Fountain, Coliseum and Pantheon, are all incredibly well kept and clean. That brings me to my third point, that the city really needs to work on their restoration schedules. While we were there the Spanish Stairs were being restored, which is a good thing, except they are going to be out of use for a few months at a minimum. Also, the Tevi Fountain was just recently restored, which was great for me, but it took three or four months to restore the fountain. Here in Florence it only takes a few weeks to a month to complete the restoration of, say, Michelangelo’s David, which I understand is far smaller than the Trevi Fountain, but I still think they need to work on the schedule. On a personal note, I’m also a little bitter that a beautiful Italian man, preferably named Paolo, didn’t ask me to take the place of his duet partner and sing with him in a concert in the Coliseum. Again, that was a Lizzie McGuire reference.
With all of that being said, I did find the history of the city incredible. The first day we were there we took a tour of the ruins and the Coliseum. Most of the ruins are in a place called the Roman Forum, which, in its day, would’ve been the city’s square, where most Roman business and trade would’ve been conducted. The ruins include several churches or places of worship, three arches, a bank and a memorial for Julius Caesar. Each of these things are incredible and unique, but the memorial for Caesar is especially cool because it was built on the actual site where his body was burned. The memorial itself is really a glorified shack that the Romans called a chapel and the altar is a stone slab, but you can feel the history when you walk in and see the altar. Another cool thing about the chapel is that, because we visited it on the Ides of March, there were flowers, candles and coins strewn about in memory of Caesar.
After we explored the Forum, we headed to the Coliseum. Before I attempt to describe the Coliseum, I want to express how amazing it is from a purely architectural and scientific standpoint. Now I’m neither an architect nor a physicist, but even I know how wildly impressive it is that the Romans were able to use concrete and not just stones to create a building that stands in remarkable condition to this day, almost 2,000 years later. It’s absolutely insane! Alright, I’m done geeking out over the Romans’ outlandish architectural advances. Anyway, walking into the Coliseum is as intimidating, yet amazing, as you may have imagined. You wait in line, then go through a security check, which I find ironic, then you walk down a hallway and then, boom, the floor of the Coliseum is ten feet in front of you. If you’re anything like me, you then stare at it and miss the majority of what your tour guide is saying, because you are thinking about all the lives, human and animal, that were lost on the very place you are standing. It’s hard not to be taken aback when you’re standing on a piece of history. Other than my slightly dramatized first impression, the Coliseum was, architecturally speaking, exactly what I expected. I think that’s because I’ve seen pictures of it before, although a picture can’t do it justice at all. The one thing I wasn’t expecting was the floor, or lack thereof. Because the floor was once made of wood, it has rotted away over time, so now all that’s left is the stone supports. I had seen pictures of it before, but I had no idea why they were there or what they were. Honestly, I thought it was some kind of maze or something. Yes, I know how ridiculous that is and, upon re-reading this, I kind of regret admitting that.
We finished with the Coliseum and then all went our own ways for dinner and the rest of the night. A few of my friends and I decided to grab dinner then go to the Trevi Fountain, so that’s what we did. The fountain was spectacular. We went at night, so it wasn’t packed with tourists. Granted there were still, like, a hundred people there, but it was not nearly as bad as it usually is during the day. It was also all lit up because it was dark, and because it was just restored the marble and the water were pristine. The water reflected off the statue so it looked like it was sparkling and the characters looked like they were moving. Due to this magical animation, the Trevi Fountain is high up on the list of amazing things I’ve seen in my life.
Cut to the next morning. After getting up before the sun rose to, well, watch the sunrise, the Mount crew and I headed to Vatican City for our audience with the Pope. For those of you who are unsure of what a papal audience is, it is when around 2,000 people gather in the square in front of St. Peter’s Basilica and get to see and hear the Pope speak. We got to our seats about three hours before Papa Francesco was due to arrive and we waited, partially in the rain, for him to arrive. At first, he drove around in his pope-mobile, just doing pope things (i.e. kissing babies), then he got up on a stage and gave a brief homily. Hearing him speak was so amazing, however, I don’t know Italian all that well so I missed a lot of what he was saying. Then, representatives from about five countries asked the Pope to bless the country in their native tongue, so he said a small blessing for each country. The whole thing took about thirty minutes, but it was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had and probably will ever have.
We spent the rest of the time in Rome bouncing between museums and other incredible landmarks, including the Spanish Steps, Vatican Museum and a cat sanctuary. But above all that, I saw the Pantheon. Being in the Pantheon made me realize two things. First, it is so cool to be able to stand in a place that you have studied for so long and didn’t really ever think you’d get to see in real life. The second is that there was no way that the Romans were able to build the pantheon without help. My theory is aliens…it’s the only logical explanation! No, but seriously, Rome was really cool, even though it wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I don’t plan on going back for a while, but I definitely think it is a good starting place for people who haven’t traveled. See you in two weeks! Ciao!