Rome’s Most Historic District
Imagine a week of sumptuous food and lodging… lavish coffee houses… and one-of-a-kind cultural exposure in one of the world’s most fascinating cities. Imaging again, where you’re booked in one of your favorite hotels, one built like a regal palace, where only loving and caring human beings who are so passionate about many of the same things you care about, are available there to serve you. And just for you, your special service is one that includes breakfast of freshly-baked croissant, a sesame bun still respiring pleasant aroma, and pancakes served with a garlicky sauce for dipping. Okay, enough. The next time, this is how I would want to spend any vacation in Rome, instead of being a buck, and just sitting there at home all day, watching… ho…how they call it, TV? Oh well, I would call it the ultimate idiot-box.
It was 8:21 a.m. in Rome, Italy, and my stay thus far, near the Rome Fiumicino Airport, about 27 kilometers from the site of the Colosseum and the famous San Benedetto Oligominerale Naturale, one of the oldest historical spots in the city, was ready to begin. Though Rome is relatively still a small city, I was about to find out how difficult it can be for anyone who wants to cover all the important points in one single day. I didn’t know that it would take several hours to complete Centro Storico, which includes some of the most puzzling architectural marvel still on the continent. But I felt very lucky though, for being there, because I could easily access important historical sites and the Altare della Patria- also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II- the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier,” built under the statue of goddess Roma, with the eternal flame on one side. The huge marble building itself stands majestically against Rome’s skyline, and it outshines all the nearby mansions in the area, and the Piazza Venezia. In short, the Altare della Patria is strikingly very attractive and easy to locate amidst the city’s many Church domes and rooftops.
I managed to get passed a female who stood guard at the entrance, cautioning impatient tourists about what and what not to do once they were on the premises. The first thing I did when I entered was by making sure that I was near at the top of the stairs to get a better view of the building’s magnificent designs and the many carefully carved statues which, I suspect are latter additions. Once I was up there, I leaned my backpack against one leg to grab my notebook– a Bible-size, brown writing pad I paid for back in Kolkata. I began to hastily write down notes, ignoring the stares of a uniformed guard who stood very nearby. It took me about fifteen laboring minutes to scrabble down the notes for this blog. A lot of my attention also went towards the fine outlines I saw in between the smaller statues. Statues of manor goddesses– those that are attached to the front of the great hall. When I was all done, I returned dear diary back to its favorite spot, the exercise was over. I was now ready to close that chapter. I have just been transfixed by one of Europe’s late 19th century Neoclassical architectural marvel!
After successfully taking and completing a visual art class, my appreciation for the Fine Art has transcended that of any culture or place. And this new sensibility only gets better with constant exposures to Hindu and pre-Buddhist temple architectures and Pagodas. The habit which began first briefly in Sri Lanka, as a mere admiration of temple designs–and then to a considerable degree in northern India, and Nepal, may very well explain this broad appreciation I now have for structures.
But it’s Rome’s rich history and the lay back lifestyle with its coffee houses and walk-in cafes which still fascinate me even more. The large, fancy street gatherings, solo street artists and coffee -houses have created a kind of stimuli that will keep Rome always as an intellectual and artistic society. No wonder why the country is so well known today for being home to some of Europe’s best artists. The “coffee house culture” has flourished here so much that residents may see them as “extended living rooms” to spend portion of their day. This makes city- life in Rome to remind me of ancient Greek philosophers spending much of their day socializing at the public gatherings. Athenians enjoyed the same lifestyle- organizing political meetings, performances, and lively discussions. Socrates was known to stroll through the Agora and question his fellow market-goers about life and philosophy.
On my way going food hunting I passed several street painters and street musicians on Via Dei Fori Imperiali– a principal street in the center of the city of Rome—. This street runs in a straight line from the Piazza Venezia to the Colosseum. I followed the course towards parts of the Forum of Trajan, Forum of Augustus and Forum of Nerva, parts of which can be seen on both sides of the road. I stopped halfway in the street to buy myself a bottle of San Benedetto mineral water for 1.50 Pounds. An hour earlier, I remember turning down the same battle of water right under the shadow of the colosseum for fifty Pound less.
Next, I crossed over a one way street to reach a mobile Food -Vendor. The guy behind the counter charged four pounds for a vegetarian sandwich. But I noticed there wasn’t much of anything– apart from a piece of slice tomato hanging out– to call it a sandwich. I grabbed my food and walked nearby to a bench and sat down to watch the traffic moving several feet away, along the grand Piazza di Campitelli. This place has a special significance in Rome’s history. One local resident who I stopped to ask a few questions, was kind enough to give me a short lesson into Rome’s medieval past. He explained to me that the location was important to many Italians because it has witnessed the birth of Rome.
While trying to find my way back to the metro, I stopped over at the Basilica of San Clemente al Laterano. I later learned that the site is a burial ground for Saint Cyril, Saint Methodius of Byzantine Thessalonica. I approached the building carefully at first but soon found out that there were people inside taking selfies. I stood around in there for a while and at some point, I even sat down on one of its long, wooden benches. I got up and joined the team and took me some holy-selfies.
The best part of my journey came almost at the end. I was heading for the airport and didn’t know which subway train to catch. I have just passed the Colosseum and had secured for me a subway- metro pass and was already on a train before realizing that I was on the wrong train. I quickly got off at the next stop. A lot of people were either too busy or were simply reluctant to help because of the language barrier. I was trying to find someone for help at this point when I ran into Gabriella, a professionally dressed, selfless young lady who helped me to find my way back into the metro and on the right train. I found her standing just at the top of the stairs, perhaps waiting for the light to turn green to cross the street. Gabriella, who is in the middle of her study to become a medical doctor, had no trouble abandoning her own duty to help me out. She followed me underground, and when my metro pass failed to work, she gladly passed on her own card, and even did so as if she runs into people like myself every day. Because of her art of kindness, I was able to arrive on time at the airport and was able to change my flight to an earlier one which was on its way to the Netherlands. Gabriella’s effort is a classic example of how to be a Visible Helper.
I arrived back here in Eugene several days before I was finally able to re-organize my cloudy brain to send a “Thank You” email to Gabriella. Her art of kindness really was a teaching moment for me.… Of course, I Love Rome and I am looking forward to going back there….
Video credit: Youtube Video: