St Augustin

The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only one page.
Who lives sees much, who travels sees more.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A - Z Challenge - R is for ROMA (ROME)

I love Italy nearly as much as I love France so I got to thinking, woh, you'd better do at least one post on the glorious, chaotic country, so I saved R for Roma.

Rome (hereafter called by its proper name, Roma, to get me in the vibe)  you either love or hate. I'm somewhere in between. It's Italy's madness encapsulated in a central position. When I first visited Italy in 2004 I drove down from Paris through various tunnels. I can still remember driving through Tuscany and just about pinching myself - boy, it was just like in the films and books. What glory! What majesty! I was transported.

The first book (but certainly not the last) I'd ever read on Tuscany was by Feranc Mate, who with his wife Catherine, an artist, travelled the world looking for their Utopia. They found it in Montepulciano, a medieval hill town in Tuscany. Their trip set me off on a wild Tuscan chase, where I inhaled the rich red wines of the region - Vino Nobile di Montepulciano ...oh, but that's another story. Like Hannibal, let's get to Roma!

Being warned of the dire consequences of driving in Roma, we perched the hire car on a little precipice in a gorgeous medieval hill town, Soriano nel Cimino, 70 ks north of Roma. We were staying in a Palazzo once belonging to an ancient king, so we banded together with some friends we'd just met from Fort Lauderdale Florida and took the train to Roma. Now we'd been told to look out for pickpockets on the metro. Sure enough, one of our party got robbed of her wallet.

Chugging into Roma we had our faces out the window rhapsodising over all the old bits and pieces of bricks and aquaducts and ancient tunnels the Italians casually ignore, and stood up ready to hit Roma's soil, well, as soon as we could escape StazioneTermini. What a place!

'Do you wanna buy?' 'Here! Here!' For a quiet Aussie this was a bit of culture shock. How do you get rid of the pesky hawkers shoving cheap tacky Colosseums in your face?

'Buya this elephant and you'll have besta luck for many many year,' cried one. 'Buy or I'll set the Mafia onta you,' was the subtext.

Swatting hawkers like flies, we finally emerged into the ancient city and hit the tourist spots - The Spanish Steps, Victor Emmaneul monument, the Pantheon...All were amazing. (See at the end of post for the tourist trail.) Then we had to try the tucker, which wasn't half bad. Everything was loads of yeasty bread, thick melted cheese and tangy tomato paste/sauce/puree.

Victor Emmanuel Monument

Vatican City, St Peter's, (I never want to leave that St Pieta), buy a few Michaelangelo prints, more tucker. The piazzas, which one is this? Oh, this is where my Pat Conroy favourite novel Beach Music is set - Piazza Farnese - what are all these torched vespas doing here? When did that happen? Let's follow the da Vinci Code trail..,

Piazza Farnese, bathtub fountain (one of two)

The Trevi Fountain - 'Canna I taka your pitcher miss?' the urchin asks trying to snatch my camera from around my throat. 'Urk. Uhk. Lemme go little fella or I'll point the bone at ya,' I hiss. 'Here, I taka you pitcher with my camera. Then you can buy,' he says, trying to distract me while he tugged my trusty camera strap as hard as he could. 'Bugger off,' I say. 'Lemme go throw a coin in the fountain so I can come back one day.'  Give me the peace and quiet of the Australian Outback, I'm thinking...

Stazione Termini

(Rome's main railway station)

This is the center of railway system of Roma, as well as the cross roads of all public transportation in the city. The name ‘termini’ comes from the popular denomination of the word ‘terme’ meaning ‘baths’, from the nearest Baths of Diocletian. The architecture is characterized by the extremely long, modernist facade in travertine stone, and by the gravity-defying double curve of the roof. There is a Non-Stop train Service for the transport from the Fiumicino Airport to the Roma Termini and back. Located in the center of Italian peninsular, the Roman railway station was conceived as the center of all the railway junctions coming from north and south.

Spanish Steps

Designed between 1723-1726, these magnificent double steps combine straight lines, curves and terraces creating one of Rome's most distinctive landmarks. The steps lead up to the 16th-century church of Trinita dei Monti. Spectacular views over the city rooftops opening in front of your eyes more than warrant the steep climb (steep climb? Ever done the Cinque Terre?) The Spanish Steps acquired their name from the neighbouring Spanish Embassy. At the foot of the steps lies the boat-shaped Barcaccia fountain, designed in 1627 by Bernini.

The best-preserved ancient Roman structure in the city, built as a temple to the gods around 125AD and converted to a Christian church in AD608. It is marvelled at its domed interior with the oculus (9 meter hole in the center of the dome) which allows light and rain into the building. Inside you will find the tomb of the world-famous artist Raphael.
Colosseo (Colosseum)

Commissioned in AD 72 by Emperor Vespasian the Colosseum is the most impressive and majestic amphitheater of Roman times. It was the scene for the Emperor and wealthy citizens entertainment where gladiatorial conquests between men (specially trained soldiers, slaves and prisoners), lions and wild beasts were held till the fifth century. The stadium has been pillaged over the centuries. Its rich marble facing stripped away to build palaces and churches and finaly it was rocked by an earthquakes. Now a mere skeletal framework of the former grandeur return us in time of ancient civilisations.
Trevi Fountain

Magnificent, mellifluous fountain, designed by Nicola Salvi and Leon Battista Alberti. In the middle of the scene is Neptune flanking by two tritons; one trying to tame an unruly seahorse and the other leads a docile animal, thus depicting the two contrasting moods of the sea. It’s said that if you throw a coin and make a wish, it will be fulfilled. It looks beautiful day or night.
Vatican City - oh my, why is there poverty in the world?

The Vatican is much more than the sum of its parts: It’s an organism that inspires and produces the very art and faith that then enrich it further—like a circular galaxy in a process of continuous expansion. —Gianluigi Colalucci
Well, I repeated the experience in Roma in 2008 and nothing much had changed. This time we travelled by train and organised a hotel behind a massive steel studded door 7 feet high and thick about 5 minutes from the craziness of StazioneTermini.  'Here, miss, buy this. Buy that!' They'd been waiting for me for 3 years! Why oh why did I throw that coin in Trevi Fountain?


Gujjari said...

I am 100th follower of your blog.
Lovely posting about the ROMA/ROME and wonderful pics. And brief info about the visiting places.

Please do stop by my blog and if your like, please follow my blog.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

I have never been to Italy but I would love to go one day. It looks so beautiful. Diane

Duncan D. Horne said...

I love Italy for all of it's history and beauty. Amazing place!

Duncan In Kuantan

Francine Howarth said...


Gutted, simply gutted: I felt for sure you'd have a Utube of Dean Martin in full voice with Arrivederci Roma... ;)

Fab post, but Tuscany is full of ex pats. No escape from the pommies. :)


Aishah said...

Thank you for posting on Roma, it brought home fond memories of Roma, and Italy.

notesfromnadir said...

Excellent post about Rome. If I went there I'd need at least a month to see all the sights. So much history! So much wonderful food! & so many pictures to take! :)

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Thanks for the tour! I wish I could go there personally ;)


Laura Eno said...

Roma is my favorite city (so far), although I didn't brave the trains! What struck me was standing in the same dirt that Julius Ceasar walked on. (I threw 3 coins in the fountain!)
You did a beautiful job of bringing back fond memories for me!

J.L. Campbell said...

Loved this post. The hawkers sounds like the higglers in Jamaica, some of whom will pester you to death to buy their craft items. I'd love to see the Vatican and the Colisseum one day.

Anonymous said...

Awesome, awesome, awesome. I felt transported into a world that I've only read about, and seen in pictures, as here. It's probably the only way I ever will. But this is definitely a "tour" I enjoyed very much. The majesty of ROMA. Wow!
Ann Carbine Best’s Long Journey Home

M Pax said...

I would love to visit someday. :)

That first photo reminded me so much of a Van Gogh painting, I clicked on it to make sure it was a photo and not a painting. I must see that someday. It's breathtaking.

kmckendry said...

Oh it looks so beautiful! Do you ever feel there are too many places to see and not enough time?

Dawn Embers said...

Excellent choice. Italy is on my list of places to go, thought not at the top. I almost went there once for art. It would have been awesome to do a summer program with art history and a studio class. I think it was drawing but painting in Italy would have been even better. I just couldn't afford the trip, unfortunately.

My grandfather's family was from Greece but my Grandmother's family was Italian and Bohemian. It would be interesting to go to Italy with my mom.

L'Aussie said...

Definitely too many places to see in one lifetime. Glad you like my little tour of Roma.


Red Nomad OZ said...

Haha! Here was I thinking you'd save 'Vatican' for that tricky letter 'V'!!

Have a great Easter break!!

L'Aussie said...

Oh I want to get back to Rome now seeing all the reactions.


Red Nomad, I have my V picked out, if you like Rome, you'll love it.


Michael Di Gesu said...

I can't begin to tell you how many time I've been up and down those Spanish steps... And TREVI... Glorious!