“I was home, in Rome”
One of my close friends asked me to write about my trip to Rome so I told him, it was not a trip, it is an ‘unforgettable travel story’.
“Like all great travellers, I have seen more than I remember, and remember more than I have seen ~ Benjamin Disraeli”
My trip to Rome was an experience that goes aptly with the above mentioned quote. It was truly a dream come true, for so many reasons to begin with.
From early childhood, there was something about Rome, about few places from this city, which used to flash before my eyes. I used to wake up startled, sometimes in a dizzy and at times as though trying to reach out to something in my dreams, so vividly that I could almost feel the warmth of that city all around me. I used to dream about Rome, even before I knew what it really was!
I had never seen pictures of Rome as a kid except for the picture of the Colosseum in my high school text book among the ‘wonders of the world’. So, it was not until I was about 15 years old, that I actually got to go online and check out what Rome looked like, using the internet.
I was speechless, since I saw places and pictures that I had seen in many of my dreams. I had penned down quite a few stories about my dreams in prose format and now I was sure there was something more than meets the eye. I finally published a poetry book in 2007 in which I shared quite a few of these dreams and experiences about Rome.
In 2014, as fate would have it, I was invited to Vienna for an award ceremony and it was during this time when I realized that I was going to be in a place which will be just an hour and half from Rome. I decided to leave for Rome immediately on the day after the wonderful award ceremony.
And you know what?
The time at which I actually reached the heart of the city was at midnight as per India time and the date was exactly on my 33rd birthday. I just couldn’t believe my luck. I was starting my birthday by wandering in Rome.
I landed and instantaneously was energized when I entered the bus to take me from ROMA’s Fiumicino airport to Roma termini, which was Rome’s train station and I was in the heart of this glorious city, at Piazza della Repubblica by 8 pm as per their local time.
I soon checked into the hotel and hurried out to reach in time for my ‘Rome by Night tour’. I was told it would be amazing, but, no it wasn’t. It was much more magnificent. It was magical.
But it did not start so. As I headed towards the local travel agency office to help them guide me to my tour guide, I was welcomed by thunderstorms and rainfalls like I had rarely experienced, even in India. It was pouring all of a sudden, there were no vehicles in sight in less than few minutes and it was pitch dark in most of the places. I was about a mile away from reaching the travel agency and I had no clue how to get there. I couldn’t even read the road signs in that pouring rain on 15th November 2014 night and there was no one in sight to guide me on how to reach that place. I wandered the streets of Rome that night and was sure that I was about to miss out my first Rome by night tour. Then I saw a pair of headlights blaring towards me and I halted in a way that the car screeched just in front of me. The driver yelled something aloud but it was dimmed out in the piercing noise of the torrential rains. I tried asking him for direction to my tour place and he pointed to the skies saying “ROMA, ROMA will guide you now” and he left.
I was standing alone in that colossal city at night completely drenched and I had no clue what to do. I then reminded myself that I was in Rome. So I simply kept walking aimlessly and believe me, even in that drenched state, I loved everything about this spectacular city. The modern buildings out there were almost a hundred years old and the buildings and architecture that was actually considered old were, yeah, you guessed it right, over two to three centuries old.
Gradually the rains stopped and I found myself in front of the magnificent St.Regis hotels and I asked them for directions and the hotel manager simply guided me out the door and said, you are already here. I was standing right opposite to Carrani tours.
We started the tour and the night was now clear and the sight before my eyes was a true feast to my yearning soul. I halted and savored the moment. There were striking colours of bulbs that almost glistened with the colourful little plants and shrubs beautifully hanging from the windows of each patio across every home. There were ancient looking street lights in front of my eyes and the streets were paved with stones that I had only seen in the movies before. It was gorgeous.
I saw the Trevi fountain (which was under construction, but all of us could still go close enough, click pictures and toss the coins if we wanted to). We then saw the stunning Piazza, the breathtaking Colosseum from the outside that was dramatically illuminated against the beautiful rainy night and through the streets into the famous pathways that lead us to catch a glimpse of the most happening night clubs in Rome and then back to the city’s ancient beauty at the heart of this welcoming city.
We dined at the restaurants sitting outside (which is a privilege) and costs a little more than if you dine inside the restaurant, but the contiguous locations, spots and the life all around made that additional cost worthwhile. Myself being a vegetarian, I was a little concerned about the food, but the waitress was very friendly and even spoke in English and I reciprocated with a few phrases of Italian. Soon enough, I was enjoying a hot meal of dishes that had mushrooms, almond risotto and sourdough bread which I relished with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. There was flavored yoghurt with it too.
I then headed back to the hotel and I assure you, I did not sleep for even a minute as I was excitedly waiting for the early morning tour that was to follow which included visits to the Vatican, Vaticano Museum, St. Peter’s Basilica, St. Peter’s Square, Palatine Hill, Pantheon, Roman Forum and yes, a two hour detailed tour inside the Colosseum.
We started by touring the exterior section of the Colosseum and the tour guide was a very senior member, mild and soft spoken with fluent English. I was stunned looking at the mighty Colosseum in the brightness at the start of the day. No photograph can ever do justice to this outstanding architectural wonder. We walked towards the entrance from where an underground hallway was leading us through the corridors into the heart of this breathtaking amphitheater.
The interior architecture is built from that of two Roman theaters back to back thus forming into a circular structure. One can clearly see the hypogeum which was connected by underground tunnels to a number of points outside the Colosseum from where the animals etc were said to have been brought in for the games and fights. I mimicked Russel Crowe’s “are you not entertained?” while I was standing inside this historical landmark, I just couldn’t’ resist.
There is also a beautiful museum within the Colosseum which boasts of beautiful artifacts which includes an amazing collection of “ASTERIX AND OBELIX” comic books and merchandise. Being an admirer of this spectacular beauty and a huge fan of comic books, especially Asterix and Obelix (Yes, I have the complete Volume including the 50 years special edition collection of Asterix and Obelix) I was thrilled!
I never realized how those two hours passed by. If you visit the Colosseum (and I think everyone should, at least once in their lifetime) make sure to take the inside tour too. One does not understand whether to make use of digital and technology tools including the mobile phone to record videos and take pictures or simply stare and take in the beauty and this magical magnanimous structure offering you centuries of stories of the amazing Roman empire. In the 8th century, a famous epigram attributed to the Venerable Bede celebrated the symbolic significance of the statue in a prophecy that is variously quoted: ‘Quamdiu stat Colisæus, stat et Roma; quando cadet colisæus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus‘ (as long as the Colossus stands, so shall Rome; when the Colossus falls, Rome shall fall; when Rome falls, so falls the world). In Italy, this beautiful amphitheater is known as Colosseo.
I then headed for lunch with the group, after checking out the beautiful Roman Forum. After a scrumptious Vegan authentic Italian Calzone filled with cottage cheese, potato and spinach, I headed with them to see the other locations and each one of them left me spellbound. For art lovers and those who worship history, Rome is a must-see place. The artworks and murals inside the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and the Basilica are truly the work of gods. I was drooling the entire time.
This city is filled with the Masters artworks, from Leonardo da Vinci to Michelangelo to Raphael….the place brims with sculptures, murals, paintings and so much of sheer beauty!
I was there in ROME for three days and it was just not enough. I loved the streets, the architecture, the history, the culture. The people were very warm and caring who were always ready to help and guide me through each of my casual walks as I headed out to explore this wonderful place in this loving city. It was sheer beauty. The food, right from the authentic pizza to calzone and risotto were scrumptious. There is plenty of delicious food for everyone who love to eat and for both meat eaters and Vegetarians alike. There are fountains everywhere. You can feel the music in the air as you watch and hear the birds chirping, you can be one with nature as you see flowers, trees and nature in its glorious form.
I am not going to deny it, I did, I truly did fall in love with this beautiful city and the people out there.
Someplace within my heart, I felt it, at some point during my walks there, I wasn’t a tourist, I was home!