Roman Splendor

Few cities in the world have as many stupendous sights as Roma. And seeing them in person, for me, is surreal.

It’s not just the historical age of things, although that is hard to wrap your brain around. It is the scale. The monuments are huge. The fountains are turbulent geysers. The bridges and buildings are mammoth – and they’re everywhere!

There was a time when just the word “Rome” meant civilization itself. All lands were either part of the Roman Empire and thus civilized, or they were barbarian. That reign of power lasted about 1,000 years – from 500 BC to 500 AD or so. Even now, Rome is still the center of that ancient world and you can see the evidence of it.


The Pantheon and Della Rotunda Fountain

Today I walked to the Pantheon neighborhood which is considered the heart of Rome. The Pantheon is one of the best-preserved structures in Rome and the only one that has been in continuous use since it was built. The one-piece granite columns are the biggest in Italy and were shipped in from Egypt.

The style of this building has been copied so often for public and government buildings around the world that it is known as the most influential design in western architecture.

The building itself sits below street level today which shows how the rest of the city has been built up on 20 centuries of rubble. It’s easy to imagine the early Romans congregating here.

From there I went in search of the Trevi Fountain. Fontana di Trevi is the largest baroque fountain in Rome and one of the most famous in the world. I remember the song and the movie, 3 Coins In the Fountain from the 1950s.

It’s interesting that no streets actually open right out on to the fountain. You kind of have to sneak up on it, which is fun because I could hear the water before I got in sight of it and it added to the excitement. Then suddenly you turn the corner and there it is…

ImageIt is spectacular. The god of water, called either Oceanus or Neptune, is the central figure. Horses and Tritons (sea gods of half man, half fish) convey all the motion of the theme of the fountain, taming of the waters.

But then it was a bit tricky to actually get close to the fountain! It was packed with tourists all the way around. I fought my way in and down one level, but it wasn’t worth trying to get closer. People were jostling shoulder to shoulder and taking turns photographing each other – which was hard to do because other people were constantly squeezing by and getting in the picture. Those who tried to stand back while someone took a photo just clogged up the whole works, so it was a mess…

ImageTradition has it that if you throw a coin over your shoulder into the fountain your wish to return to Rome again will be granted. So lots of people do – the fountain takes in about 3,000 euro a day, which the city uses to fund a food program for the poor. But I didn’t get close enough to toss a coin and I’m not much for superstitions anyway. Plus I throw like a girl even on a good day with a clear shot, so me flinging small missiles through that kind of crowd would probably just cause an incident…

The crowds at the fountain were stifling and there was no where to sit and enjoy the view so I moved on to find the Spanish Steps. About halfway there was where I stopped for my expensive glass of wine I mentioned in the last post. And even though I got ripped off, it was a nice break and part of the whole Rome experience.

The wine and advil stop renewed my energy and I looked forward to seeing another of Europe’s most iconic sights. Again, you just sort of come up on this sight and suddenly you’re looking right at it! This was my first glimpse…

Once more, this famous destination was filled with people – who become part of the attraction. There’s someone sitting on almost every one of the 138 steps that make up the largest stairway in Europe. I made my way to the next to highest level to enjoy the view.


At the top of the Spanish Steps

I always wondered why these famous steps would be named “Spanish” when they are in Rome, but now I know. This square, the Piazza di Spagna, was named for the Spanish Embassy to the Vatican. Ah ha… And it is a popular hangout both day and night. Here’s a view of the crowd below…

ImageI got back to the bottom of the steps and sat for a while. Great spot for more people-watching! I studied my map to plan my route back and a young man came over to ask for directions. I actually knew where he wanted to go and showed him on the map. He and his wife waved gaily at me as they took off down the street with their rolly bags and I thought to myself, of everyone in Rome to ask directions of… if they only knew!

There were a lot of horse-drawn carriages in the center of the square and for the first time I saw costumed gladiators walking around. I wanted to get a photo of one but I noticed they stayed behind the horses unless someone was engaging them and paying them. I read that they don’t take kindly to having their pictures taken unless you pay. And I certainly didn’t need another confrontation for the day. Especially from some bruiser wearing a big fake muscular torso!

Finally I headed back to the room and for once made a straight beeline to it. When I came back out at the Tiber River I had made a giant loop and I knew right where I was! Glory be, I never got turned around at all. And my feet and legs were holding up quite well. In this sprawling city, that is quite an achievement!

And that’s just some of the splendor of Rome. I still have several more days and lots to see. How exciting!

3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. bdauby
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 07:20:00

    Talk about the “greatest hits” of sight seeing! And you haven’t even made it to the Colosseum or the Forum! Thankfully you didn’t buy gelato in the little piazza in front the the Pantheon. Talk about a rip off! If I would have invested that money in Ben and Jerry’s back in the day, I could probably buy the Pantheon now!

    And glad that you are not throwing things; keeping public safety in mind. It’s the same reason I don’t enter arm wrestling contests.

    Have fun exploring the rest of the city!


  2. MaryBeth
    Nov 02, 2012 @ 08:47:11

    I am happy to hear you found the Trevi, Pantheon and Spanish Steps. All enjoyable sites from our visit last year. There were costume gladiators at the Pantheon, and one poked me in the stomach and asked me if I eat! I do not like being touched by strangers, especially poked. Courtney had one grab her into an embrace and wanted his picture with her. I told him, “No, thank you”, he persisted, and then momma had to get angry and demand he let her go immediately. From that point on, we avoided all costume gladiators at all costs. We weren’t bombarded with umbrella men since it only rained lightly a couple days of our entire trip, and I think we only encountered 1 gypsy on Florence. I think our long legs and brisk walking pace kept street vendors from tormenting us, and I think your blonde hair and blue eyes are attention grabbers, like an exotic bird! Nonetheless, they are part of the Italian experience, maybe more so this year than last because of their continual economic decline.

    As for picking wineries, Advil stops and eateries: try looking at the clientele to determine if it is more locals or tourists. Avoid the places that appear too conveniently placed and pop into a local shop and get a recommendation.

    Also, I bought our Vatican Museum tickets on line the day before to avoid the ticket line. It was easy and I bet Sweet Stay will help you.




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