By SANDY IRLE (digitalBURG) – Not being a fan of big cities, I have to say that Rome is amazing. I could happily live in Rome.
We arrived at the end of December and the temperature was mild, jacket weather. We had rented a room online and, upon arrival, entered through a beautiful tiled driveway that led to a courtyard behind the building. The elevator with iron scrollwork took us to the third floor. The room, with its 10-foot ceilings and balcony felt open and airy.
In the morning, after our host delivered a continental breakfast, we were out the door to explore the city. The neighborhood has a variety of shops from a well-stocked stationery store to a shop full of Chinese whatnot with a surly lady behind the counter. The bank is a couple of blocks away with an armed guard stationed at the entrance. You can go inside a glass room and use an ATM, but to enter the bank you have to be buzzed in, and only when the previous patron is gone. It’s both intimidating and comforting at the same time.
The first day we walked for eight hours. It’s so exhilarating being in an ancient city. Trekking to the Colosseum was fun, as every block has some ancient ruin of some kind. We finally rounded a corner and there it was. It is a magnificent sight. Walking the Colosseum grounds with other tourists, people selling film and little souvenirs and “Gladiators” encouraging people to get in a photo with them is entertainment in itself.
Being inside the ancient ruin with all of its history, imaging the terrible and wonderful things that happened there – standing on the spot where a dignitary or gladiator stood is something that truly takes you outside of yourself.
Sitting outside, in view of the Colosseum, our first lunch in Rome began with a glass of Prosecco, a lightly bubbly wine that is typically given as an aperitivo before a meal. After lunch, it’s time for a glass of Limoncello, a yummy Italian lemon liqueur traditionally served chilled as an after-dinner digestivo. We thoroughly enjoyed the food in Rome and the service is welcoming.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” and plan to eat supper late because restaurants open around the 8 o’clock hour. You are encouraged to linger over the meal.
Just a couple of blocks from our room we found a great place with delicious savory pastries and pizzas, plus wine to take away with us. The girls working the counter didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Italian, but pointing and smiling did the trick. On one of our visits, after making a selection and paying the girl behind the counter, Mark indicated that she keep the change. It isn’t common to tip in Rome but it’s a hard habit to break, especially when everything is so good.
Sitting at one of the few tables and relishing our goodies, I looked up and a gentleman sitting nearby caught my eye. He looked at us and smiled and said, “We don’t like you,” and chuckled to himself. Maybe this was a joke about the tip, or he was just sick of tourists, but it startled us and we laugh about it still.
A few days later the morning was crisp. It was snowing for the first time in 20 years! The street was alive with smiling, laughing people acting like kids, trying to make snowballs, catching snowflakes on their tongues and dancing in circles. Even the surly shopkeeper was outside, all smiles and laughs. At the bank, the armed guard was grinning and had his video camera out to capture the scene. The palm trees were covered with snow, but it melted in a few hours and everything went back to normal, although, perhaps more cheerful.
We spent our days exploring, enjoying the Roman architecture, the countess sculptures and paintings in the Vatican and Sistine Chapel and the exciting fountains of the popular Piazza Navona. Even simple things like streetlights and water meter covers seem exotic. Looking for the Pantheon and getting a little lost turned into a T-shirt buying adventure.
Built for pagan gods, the Pantheon is awe-inspiring from the outside with its large granite columns and huge bronze doors, but nothing could have prepared me for what was within. The architecture of this magnificent round, domed temple is breathtaking. Legend says that when Michelangelo first saw the Pantheon in the early 1500s, he proclaimed it of “angelic and not human design.”
At the top of the famous dome is a 27-foot, round opening circled with bronze – the “oculus” which is the temple’s only source of light. It is open to the elements and when it rains, the beautiful marble floor has an almost imperceptible feature, explained on a sign that notes, “…with a concave center which is convex at the sides with a drainage system for the removal of water.” The interior is covered in fantastic carvings and sculpture, some of which are tombs for kings and artists.
I guess the funny part was how we finally found it. Rounding a corner we came upon a sign. The style fit into the ancient architecture near the Piazza della Rotonda, but what it advertised didn’t quite fit. It read, “Pantheon McDonalds.” Hmm.
Oh well. Amiamo Roma!
Sandy Irle lives on a Century Farm near Warrensburg and has so far visited 23 countries and 45 U.S. states.