Saturday, 3 September 2011

Rome- My Favorite destination in Europe

Rome, my favorite destination in Europe

     Legend has it that if you throw three coins over your shoulder at the Trevi Fountain in Rome you will marry an Italian. I was not sure if I could handle a hot blooded Italian husband in Rome! So I threw just one. It meant that I would have a quick return to Rome! That was fine with me as there is so much to see in Rome that one visit to the ‘Eternal City’ is not enough. You have to keep going back to it again and again!

    While travelling through the subway from the airport to the city; I met Gabriella, a handsome Italian. He wanted to know why I was travelling on my own and advised me not to stay in a hotel; alone. May be he was right, because I had heard horror stories about friends getting robbed while shopping in Rome and an elderly relative of mine had lost her passport along with her money bag! But, it was too late to ‘chicken out’ as I was already there.

     It was dusk, when I came out of the subway station and hailed a taxi (a big mistake) to go to my hotel, the driver refused to allow me to keep my small suitcase in the rear seat with me. He insisted that I keep it in the luggage rack at the back.(Many tourists have lost their suitcases this way in Rome) I had the presence of mind to call the ‘polizia’ and he helped me get another taxi. More trouble was waiting for me at the hotel. The room I had booked (for 70 Euros) through a travel agent in Munich was smaller than my bath room at home and had no air-conditioning.  It was the height of summer in Italy! (35 degrees centigrade) I refused to enter the room and sat ‘dharna’ style in the reception. Finally, he got fed up and gave me a bigger room with an AC. 

     Early next morning, I checked into ‘The Grand Hotel Palatino’ which was very close to the Roman ruins. It was frightfully expensive but I liked it. From this hotel, I had to just stroll down to the ‘Flavian Amphitheatre’ or better known as the Colosseum. Inside the Colosseum, I stood at a secluded spot, in a corner; to marvel at it. In my mind’s eye (influenced by the movie Gladiator) I saw a crowd of 50,000 blood thirsty Romans cheering and urging the fierce Gladiators to fight each other to death! A must see.

     Early after noon; I went to see the Roman Forum or the Roman Ruins located in a valley between the Palatine hill and the Capitoline hill.  It was the centre of political and social activity in ancient Rome. It is so magnificent that is easy to imagine Roman emperors and senators walking grimly to the ‘Curia’ or the Senate hall paved with Egyptian marble! Of all the ruined monuments in Rome, the ‘Pantheon’ is the best preserved structure of the ancient world. The Byzantine emperor Phocas in 609 A.D. gave this temple to Pope Boniface IV who changed it into a church of Santa Maria dei Maritiri. A must see.

     On day two, I took the metro on line A and got out at Cipro-Musei Vatincani to see the Pope at the Vatican City. After standing for three hours in a line that stretched on for miles; I was disappointed to find the ‘Holy Pope’ not at home! He had gone to the mountains to escape the terrible heat of summer!  I had looked forward to receive the ‘Papal blessings.’ But, it was not be, instead; I consoled myself with a visit to St. Peter’s Basilica, a magnificent cathedral dedicated to the first Pope, St. Peter. I bought loads of souvenirs blessed and touched by the present Pope for friends back home and moved on to see the world famous ‘Sistine Chapel.’
     Once inside, I was jostled and elbowed to a corner by the crowd but felt enchanted as I looked up at the frescos painted on the ceiling and the walls of the chapel! I held on to my corner for a long time, to locate the fresco (Creation of Man) showing ‘God reaching out his hand to Adam.’ It took me a while to figure out the different frescos painted from the ‘Book of Genesis.’ Again my ‘mind’s eye’ was playing tricks  (reading too much Renaissance History) I saw  Pope Julius II mocking and urging  poor Michelangelo lying on a make-shift scaffolding; dangling only a few inches from the ceiling with a brush in his hand! It had taken the great painter several years to finish those master pieces!

      Finally, it was time to pack up and move on to my next destination. I want to visit Rome again, and stay there for a couple of weeks at least, to explore the ancient monuments leisurely, and to savor the details. But, on this trip, I couldn’t stay longer as it was too expensive. Early next morning, I took a flight to the city of my dreams, Paris.

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