Bursting with excitement to visit Rome in summertime I scoffed down some rubbery scrambled eggs for an early breakfast, and was ready to catch the 8am bus. The Hilton airport hotel offers a free bus service to the centre of the city every 2 hours, which I was taking full advantage of. After 45 minutes we were outside the Vittorio Emanuele II monument, a large white marble building. Very impressive architecturally, but apparently a large controversy in Rome, as it doesn’t fit the Roman style buildings of the city. It was built in honour of Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of a unified Italy.
After marvelling over the huge horse-like statues on top of the monument, a ten minute walk led me to the incredible Colosseum, one of the seven Wonders of the World. I paid the 12 euros entrance fee and followed the tour around the inside of the fascinating amphitheatre, the largest of the Roman Empire. It once held over 70,000 spectators who gathered to watch the gruesome brand of entertainment. The sheer size of the amphitheatre will take your breath away, and requires a few moments to digest the scale of it, especially when discovering how the building was made. Built from concrete and stone, it took over nine years to be built from 70 to 79 AD during the reign of Emperor Vespasian. The amphitheatre was used mostly for gladiatorial contests, executions and other public spectacles. It is said that during a 100 day celebration more than 10,000 gladiators were killed and 11,000 animals – a pretty sobering thought. One of the most fascinating parts of the amphitheatre, is what went on underneath the flooring – a huge underground chamber with tunnels leading off into the city, used as a holding area for the animals and gladiators before entering the arena.
After leaving the Colosseum I headed up the main high street ‘via del Corso’, to the Trevi Fountain. On arrival, I was once again greeted by hoards of tourists battling for space around the fountain in order to throw their coin into the fabled water – a tradition in Rome that is said to bring good luck. Something which I’m hoping my little one Euro coin will bring me on my upcoming adventures!
Next on the list – the Spanish steps, or ‘Scalinata’, which are the widest steps in Europe. By day, the steps are used by the thousands of tourists to shade themselves from the beating Roman sun (which today was out in full force!), and by night, the steps transform into a couple’s paradise, with star-gazed lovers positioning themselves to marvel at the views across one of the romantic cities in the world.
Sightseeing, as you well know, can be energy-sapping. Only one thing was going to cure this – Spaghetti, and lots of it. A lunchtime wander took me through the quaint backstreets until I came to the Piazza Navona – a large square filled with restaurants, art stalls and gelato shops. I managed to find a nice little spot overlooking the ‘fountain of four rivers’, and ordered myself a large bowl of Spaghetti Carbonara – a classic, sure, but a dish that I could quite easily eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner anywhere in the world, but always tastes better in Italy! For all you film lovers, the Piazza Navona was the location for several scenes in Dan Brown’s, Angels and Demons blockbuster!
After eating my body weight in pasta, I made my way (slowly!) to the famous Pantheon, an enormous temple, constructed during the reign of Emperor Augustus for all the gods of ancient Rome. Today it is used as a Roman Catholic Church and, as with most things in this amazing city, is a popular tourist hot spot. Its most impressive feature was the huge dome inside the temple, which measures a staggering 43 metres across – you have to see it to get a feel of just how big it is!
Sightseeing done, it was time for a not so quick visit to a local delicatessen to buy some Italian wine and a selection of local cheeses for my belated birthday evening back in Dubai – which, as you can see, worked out well!
I LOVE Rome, and most of Italy for that matter, and can’t wait to come back again one day.
Liberty’s Travel Tip: Take a lover and a loose pair of trousers!