Rome is a living museum, but no ticket is needed to explore around and appreciate its vast cultural heritages. On the first night of our stay in the city, we were struck by the mélange of the ancient and the modern; the city itself encapsulates remnants of the Roman culture since its birth. We had the sensation as though we could picture Rome in its ancient glory. Everywhere we turned to, the vestiges of a mighty civilization lay before us, and it’s as if we could hear Roman Legions marching through the streets, and the people cheering as Julius Caesar appeared before Curia Cornelia. One can easily feel overwhelmed by the charisma of this city, especially for a tourist. Sitting in a tour bus and occasionally getting off for pictures is definitely a way to go, but as they say, “when in Rome, do as the Romans do”, this entails walking the streets and taking in all that Rome has to offer. If you really want to explore the city in depth in a limited timeframe, then we would suggest taking a Segway tour, which is what we did.
Our excursion began in the Foro Romano (Roman Forum), the center of the ancient Roman civilization. It was the center of the political, economical, social, and religious life and took 900 years to complete. It was later abandoned with the decline of the Roman Empire and all that’s left today are broken pillars and partially reconstructed buildings, a mere peek into its formal grandeur; it is absolutely breathtaking. We were walking on paths where the epitome of the Roman civilization happened between the 10th and 7th century BC!
Our next stop was at the Fontana di Trevi designed by Nicola Salvi who built it with the same material used to build the Colosseum. A domineering statue of the Roman god Neptune stands proud and straight at the center of the display, expressing feeling of majesty and strength. Beautiful sculptures of mythical sea creatures lay at his feet, moving like water flowing down from the hands of the sea god. Each day, around eighty million liters of water flow through the fountain but then are reused by numerous of the surrounding fountains. A popular tradition is to toss a coin into the fountain with the right hand over the left shoulder, facing away from the fountain. Legend goes that throwing one coin means a return to the city, a second one results in a new romance, and a third coin leads to marriage. We were astonished by the number of coins that sat on the white marble pool and later decided to add two of them. It is estimated that around 3000 Euros worth of coins are added each day, and the coins are collected by the local government to fund a supermarket for the needy.
Vatican City is an Independent State recognized as another breath-taking attraction within the city of Rome. The wonders this state hols marvelled us. The innumerable amount of churches, paintings and sculptures that this small state possesses could have kept our family captive of this city for decades. Centuries would not have sufficed for our family to explore all of the artworks bought by the Popes governing the Vatican City in the past.
Navigating through the endless halls of the Capitoline Museums located at the heart of the state, we tried to observe as many statues as we could. Yet, the never ending halls filled with marble heads and bodies frightened us because we feared we might never come out in time before the museum would close. A few days later, we visited the internationally acclaimed Sistine Chapel. Oftentimes we had to massage our neck muscles after spending interminable minutes staring at the frescoes filling the ceiling and walls of the Chapel.
Cruising around Rome on our way to the Vittoriano was incredible. We gladly enjoyed the vitality and spontaneous excitement of our fellow citizens. The Vittoriano was named in honor of the first king of Italy, Vittorio Emanuele II, and symbolizes the unification of Italy in 1861. In addition to the museum of unification, the memorial holds the Tomb of the ‘Unknown Soldier’ chosen in 1921 that stands to commemorate all the soldiers who died during the First World War. Guards from the marine, air divisions, and infantry stand next to a fire day and night taking turns to remember all those people who fought during the Great War.
The last stop of our Segway tour was the Colosseo (Colosseum), probably the most distinguished icon of Rome. Used as a space for public events such as bloody gladiator fightings and theater production, the renowned amphitheater was built in 72 BC and still retains the title of the largest amphitheater in the world. We were surprised when our tour guide explained that on various occasions the amphitheater was flooded in order to have miniature naval battles inside.
What struck us the most at the end was that we were able to observe parts of the beauties that the Romans created without having to spend a single penny. For instance, just by riding on the Taxi the day we arrived we could observe the actual house in which people lived thousands of years ago just simply by peeking through our window screens. No tickets were needed. Rome has such an enormous amount of archeological sites that have been dug up in the past centuries and that show how Romans used to live thousands of years ago. In fact, we have often heard that if the government decided to dig up a dozen of yards into the earth they would certainly find additional relics of the Roman Empire or of other eras. The only aspect missing in Rome is the money to finance excavations, but definitely not ancient architecture or art.