Travelogue: ROME & VATICAN CITY

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Unlike Spain and other European countries where I have stretched almost length & breadth across the cities, in case of Italy, it was mostly for work, exhibitions, meetings and more.

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Unlike Spain and other European countries where I have stretched almost length & breadth across the cities, in case of Italy, it was mostly for work, exhibitions, meetings and more. Though I had taken out time for some architectural visits yet could not touch upon Rome until this time. Being a writer and photographer with strong architectural interest, Rome was in my travel radar for long. Deliberately, I included 3-4 days extra in my itinerary for a satisfying experience. For the next few days, there was just nothing between me and Rome. – Vertica Dvivedi

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Visiting Rome was a stimulating experience not only for being one of the most architecturally rich cities in the world, but also because, there is something most intriguing about the city, its heritage, culture, that caressed and took me in its arms to experience & explore the realms of history. While the Roman mythology dates the founding of Rome at only around 753 BC, the site has been inhabited for much longer, making it one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe. With a history spanning almost two thousand years, I was very excited for my rendezvous with the city that has seen from development to destruction numerous times and is still standing strong.

One thing that I could sense almost immediately after landing in the city was the warm hospitable nature of people. “That’s a trait of every popular tourist place,” I thought, and continued to explore. Despite being the Fourth most populous city of the European Union, Rome has still not really caught up with the hustle & bustle of a metropolitan city. There is calm and contentment in the countenance of people which, I bet, you will not find in most of the other bigger cities of the world. For me, it was amazing to be in this City of Moderation, after spending couple of days in the restless Milan and about a week in the restful Bologna.

I wanted to see everything in the little time I had, so my day started quite early next day. I took a morning train to visit the Colosseum, just a few stations away. My first encounter with the famed Roman Colosseum was a bit unusual. It was halted by a captivating procession happening just outside the Colosseum. It looked beautiful with people wearing Galea, a traditional Roman headgear adorned with feathers. The view kept me hooked for nearly 30-40 minutes and I was enjoying the beauty, the people surrounding the historical building, talking, giggling and photographing. There were around thousand people around and I could see groups from Japan, Europe, America, other South Asian countries, from Middle East and more, as people were queuing up to get the guide who speak their language.

Since I wanted to know as much as I could, I decided to hire a guide. Then joined a group of English-speaking people whose guide, a smart old guy was speaking the language in an understandable manner. He shared some very interesting facts about the structure.

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Colosseum is located in the center of the Roman city. For those who haven’t seen it, it is a massive Stone Amphitheatre commissioned by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty in AD 70-72 and took 10 years to complete. Known as the Flavian Amphitheater, during its glory, it was known for the ‘Blood games’ that carried out here with humans and animals. The moment we stepped into the building, I started imagining the victory, glory and horrors altogether. As if I could even listen to the screams; my eyes could see the bloodshed and my heart could feel the pain of those who were once enslaved here. The Dungeons were telling many stories together. The giant structure could hold 80,000 spectators. Entire building was surfaces with graceful Travertino marble. Such was the charm!

The movie Gladiator came to my mind while roaming around them place. Though the movie was not shot at this real Colosseum but I could comprehend how perfectly it has captured the era. Since I was too slow to catch up with the group, entwined in my own thoughts and mesmerized by what I was seeing around, I decided to free myself from the group to see the surroundings in my own way. Different stories were popping in my mind that kept me travel back and forth in time. The writer in me urged to talk to people around and understand their experiences.

My day ended with a visit to the Roman Forum. The sprawl of ruins tells the story of once glorified past. During the ancient times, the Roman Forum used to be the social, cultural and political hub of the Roman Empire with features like temples, basilicas and vibrant public spaces adorning its every corner. The site was once an Etruscan burial ground and was first developed in the 7th century BC.

My next day started with a visit to the legendary Trevi Fountain. Designed in 1762 by Italian architect Nicola Salvi and completed by Pietro Bracci, the fountain stands 26.3 metres (86 ft) high and 49.15 metres (161.3 ft) wide. The Fountain’s façade depicted the story of Aqua Virgo, one of the Aquaducts that supplied water to the city for nearly 400 years and is revived off late to its old glory. Currently under renovation, it is the largest Baroque fountain in the city and one of the most famous fountains in the world, and made its appearance in many movies.

After breaking free from the spell of Trevi, I visited the famed Santi Vincenzo e Anastasio a Trevi, the Baroque church. Again I was mesmerized by the façade, paintings, murals everything in and around the church. Stubbornly sitting in the church, I was enjoying the view with my eyes open and closed.

Again my thoughts distracted me enough to not let me keep with the guided tour. I decided to break free and see the Pantheon all by myself. Outside the Pantheon, I found beautiful horse carts waiting in queue. I enjoyed the ride like a bird and savoured every moment seeing the area around the Pantheon. Built between AD 118 & 125, Pantheon is a Temple dedicated to the Pagan Gods of Rome. Its original use is till date unknown; it is only mentioned that it was used as temple while it doesn’t look like one. The structure is comprised of a series of intersecting arches resting on eight piers. While the building appears rectangular from outside, it is completely round from inside. However, I could see the architecture, the corners, and the meticulous approach with which it was created standing amidst the crowd.

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My next stoppage was the Vatican City. A country inside the city! Seeing the skyline, one could feel, that the city has frozen in the time with every building so well preserved; it seems like stepping into the medieval era where Michelangelo used to chisel stone, Bernini casting a spell on marble and Da Vinci painting his revolutionary ideas. Saint Peters Basilica is one of the calmest sites I have ever visited. There are strict dress codes for visiting the Holiest site of Christianty which they strictly adhere to. Another important sight was that of Swiss Guards who are known for their ferocity and valour. The guards normally wear blue doublets and blue berets (are among the oldest uniforms in continuous use), but on ceremonial occasions they don the colourful Renaissance-era uniforms for which they are famous.

With a promise to come back again, I concluded the architectural trip. The best thing I noticed about Rome is how well they have preserved their art and culture together, keeping their heritage intact, while embracing modernity. Having spent the last evening in this city enjoying local food and moving around places and talking to people, I remember saying to myself, “Rome is more than just a tourist city with immense architectural and artistic charm. It is city with a heart,” while I strolled down through the streets, back to hotel for a satisfying sleep.

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