07.01.2014

TRACING THE HISTORY OF ROME

TRACING THE HISTORY OF ROME, Nazlı Tezcan | 07.01.2014

For most people who love history and travel, Rome is at the top of their list of places to see. This capital city is both an ancient and modern capital and inspires an awe unmatched by any other city in the world.

Even though it was March, the weather was sunny and warm. Without wasting any time we took a bus from the airport to our hotel in the city center, arriving there after about an hour's journey. As soon as we got to our hotel we dropped off our bags and set off for Rome's history-steeped streets. Even though it's very easy to get around using the public transportation of the city's tram and metro system, we decided to walk since the weather was lovely and besides I prefer to walk and take millions of pictures the whole way.

Our first stop was the famed arena of gladiator combat, the Coliseum. This is one of the more touristic places in Rome, and at the same time it's one of the 7 modern wonders of the world. In order to get inside, you have to wait in an awfully long line but frankly the arena itself and its surroundings are so amazing that even waiting in line isn't a hardship. On the one side you look at tourists taking photos with men in gladiator costumes, on the other you see street musicians. For us at least waiting in line was a pleasure. If you buy your tickets online you can wait in a separate line, and this is probably the best option.

The Coliseum is so well preserved that when you enter inside, you can almost see the gruesome spectacles performed inside, and it's impossible not to feel its emotional weight.

Right next to the Coliseum is the Arch of Constantine. This was built in honor of Constantine's victory over Maxentius and is preserved as if it had been built just yesterday.

At the end of day, you can fit all of Rome into two days. But since our time was even more limited we were forced to do a quick tour and if you have the time I recommend you also see what we went to next, namely Piazza Venezia, which is right next to the Roman Forum. This square is made beautiful by the huge National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II (Altare della Patria). It was built out of white marble and some say it looks like "a wedding cake."

You can get a lovely view of the whole city from its balconies and top floor.

We continued our tour along one of the most important streets in Rome, the Via del Corso. We planned on walking past all the expensive and lovely shops along this avenue until we got to Pizza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps. The steps were named such because it was where the Spanish Embassy was. Now this square is one of the city's busiest and is where the city's youths mingle.

If you can find a single spot to sit on the steps consider yourself lucky. Either way we found a place to relax for a bit before scaling all 138 of the stairs.

Before the end of the day we'd decided we really wanted to see the Trevi Fountain so we headed that way. We followed the various streets and signs towards it and ended up in a square that was significantly smaller than we'd been expecting. The small size of the square only amplifies the size of the fountain. As tradition requires, we threw a few coins into the fountain and made our wishes before finding a small little pizzeria and enjoying some delicious shrimp-arugula pizza.

We walked back to our hotel and went straight to sleep, knowing that the following day was going to be equally busy.

We woke up early and got started immediately the next morning. We had planned on seeing many of the things mentioned in Dan Brown's bestseller Angels and Demons. The first of these was the Pantheon, which means "temple for all the gods."

This amazing feat of engineering was built by the Romans for their gods. Now the tomb of the famous artist Raphael is there, and it’s still the best preserved building of its period.

Our next stop was Piazza Navona. The square was really busy with its street artists, painters, cafes, and in the middle of all of this was Bernini's Four Rivers Sculpture of 4 different rivers from 4 different continents. Unfortunately, we didn't have the time to sip a cup of coffee in this lovely square, so we continued on walking to the Tiber River.

We planned on heading all the way along the river to Castel Sant’Angelo. You can get to the castle by crossing a bridge adorned with two large angel sculptures. As far as we know, Mehmet the Conqueror's son Cem Sultan was one of the many famous prisoners housed in this castle. The secret passage between the castle and the Vatican described in Angels and Demons is, apparently, real. Even though we didn't have time to go into the museums, we still walked towards the Vatican.

This was our last stop, the smallest country in the world in terms of surface area: The Vatican. I don't know if the nice weather played a part, but it seemed as if it was even more crowded than usual. St. Peter's square is the first thing that greets you, with its elliptical walls designed by Bernini. As with many of the squares in Rome, an obelisk from Egypt greets you at its center. St. Peter's basilica, named after Jesus' disciple and first pope, is the biggest catholic church in the world. The interior of the church is completely indescribable. The number of things inside is endless. Likewise, The Sistine Chapel inside the Vatican Museums is wonderful.

But our time to leave had come. On our way back to the hotel we walked through Piazza del Popolo before picking up our bags and heading to our bus, which left from the Termini Train Station. We left the station with all of the city's magnificent history still flashing before our eyes.

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