A legend says that “if the Coliseum falls, Rome and indeed the world, will soon follow.” Thank goodness, the Coliseum is still standing or I might never have glimpsed the glory that is Rome. I wanted to visit Rome from the moment I saw Audrey Hepburn try to drive a scooter in “Roman Holiday”, if there is another valentine to Roman life it would have to be the saccharine and highly unlikely romantic movie , “Three Coins in the Fountain.”
Eventually, I would find myself walking on these video-familiar streets. I did toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, and indeed, I did return, I climbed the Spanish Steps seeking the same sights that might have inspired, Byron, Shelley and Keats, and instead found the only inspiration was to have a coffee and watch the world go by. The steps are one of the best places to catch a sunset in Rome.
The ultimate Roman street scene must be Piazza Navone, where cafes filled with crowded tables jostle for position beside Bernini’s spectacular fountain of the four rivers. This part of the city if frequently referred to as “Rome’s living room’ and it would be harder to find a spot more lively. The Piazza even had a moment in Chevy Chase’s “European Vacation”.
And, then there is the Coliseum, this mammoth amphitheatre was begun by the Emperor Vespasian and inaugurated by his son, Titus, in the year 80 AD. Today the coliseum no longer stages brutal sporting events, but has become home to a large number of feral cats and an even larger number of toga or centurion clad young men, ready to pose as A Roman warrior in your photo, for a fee, of course.
The coliseum is open daily from 9 am to one hour before sunset and it would be hard to find an easier way to immerse yourself in the “glory that was Rome.’
This time, with only a free morning at my disposal before joining our ship, the Noordam of Holland America Line, at the port of Civitavecchia, there was only one place on my list -- a quick trip to St. Peter’s Basilica. Fortunately, our hotel, the Visconti Palace was within an easy walk of the Vatican City, so energized with a potent Cappuccino we were off to view the Rome of the Popes, the Vatican.
St. Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica di San Pietro is the largest church in Christendom. It covers more than 18,000 square feet, extends 208 yards in length, and has a dome that rises 435 fee and measures 138 feet across. No fewer than five architects, including, Michelangelo worked to create this masterpiece. Its story began with the Emperor Constantine, who decided to build a basilica over the site believed to be the tomb of St. Peter. This building would stand for more than 1,000 years until Pope Julius II decided to construct a new and greater basilica. \it would take more than 120 years to create and would not be consecrated until 1626. The building is a masterpiece, but it is the treasures inside that hold my attention. The sculptures of Bernini, Michelangelo’s Pieta, and, my favorite, the small plaque on the floor that commemorates the crowning of Charlemagne. I just adore being in the places were figures in history have walked.
And that could include almost anywhere in Rome. From Popes to Pagans, Byron to Dan Brown, it would seem that eventually all roads do lead to Rome. But before you dash off to the eternal city then run, don’t walk to your nearsest video store or download these movies before departure, it will provide you with a better understanding of the Italian lifestyle. The recently released “Nine” strarring Daniel Day Lewis as a felliniesque character sums up the 1950’s era of Fellini quite succinctly. Or try the original, Federico Fellini films such as La Dolce Vita or Roma. In a pinch even Eat, Pray, Love with Julia Roberts will have you longing to see more of the eternal city.