Rome, Sweet Rome

Rome was my favorite city before I even first arrived. I've been obsessed with maps and different countries since elementary school. Rome was at the top of my destination list even back then. No matter where I am in the city, I love to stop and just think about where I'm standing and how much history took place right around me from BC times until the present day. It's the city that keeps on giving as quickly or as slowly as you want it to. By that I mean that you can make a whirlwind of a trip to Rome or take it leisurely at all the relaxing, tranquil spots that seem like settings from a fantasy film of the past. You don't have to be a history buff to enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of Rome, The Eternal City.

Obviously the most famous building in Rome is the Colosseum (my favorite man-made creation in the world). It held gladiator shows, executions, and gory battles. The Romans used it for entertainment for almost 400 years. Now it is one of the best preserved Roman arenas. Going inside allows you to picture the arena's former glory: the stands filled with 50,000 people, the emperor showing off the glory of his empire, and the notorious warriors. You can see the intricacies that were once underneath the stage as well, a testament to the Romans' highly advanced engineering. All of this makes it hard to believe that the Colosseum was built in 81 AD.

A visit to the Colosseum puts you in the midst of the most iconic Roman ruins that the city has to offer. Next to the Colosseum is the Arch of Constantine built in honor of emperor Constantine. The Arc du Carroussel, the Arc de Triomphe, and the Marble Arch in London are based on the design of Constantine's arch. The arch is in the area known as the Roman Forum. In the Roman Empire, a forum was the heart of the city, serving as government headquarters, meeting points, and religious centers. Notable structures visible in the Roman Forum include the Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, the Arch of Titus, and the Arch of Severus. The forum and the Colosseum are walking distance from Capitoline Hill, a major site for the founding of Rome. The top of the hill's steps was designed by Michelangelo. The museums to either side of the statue of emperor Marcus Aurelius on horseback are not free but the views of the Roman Forum behind the Palazzo Senatorio (the front facing building behind Marcus) are free and expansive. This is one of the reasons why I don't see the need to pay to go inside of the Forum itself unless you want to really get up close to the buildings inside. You can see the whole forum without going inside of the gates. Behind Capitoline Hill is just one of those ways to do so.

Rome has multiple forums all near the Colosseum. Some are right next to each other. This string of forums include that of Nerva, Augustus, and Trajan in that order from the Colosseum. Across from them is Julius Caesar's Forum. Each one is named after the emperor that commissioned its construction. Today, the Forum of Augustus and the Forum of Caesar are across from each other. Further up at Trajan's Market (Trajan's Forum) is Trajan's Column. Across the street from Trajan's Market is the Altare della Patria at the Piazza Venezia. This large white building is not so affectionately called the "wedding cake" or "the typewriter." Many Italians do not like the monument. However, it is immaculate with huge statues and views of the surrounding ruins. It honors Italy's first king and WWI soldiers.

The Castel Sant'Angelo is an example of Roman constructions being re-purposed as history went on in Rome. It began as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian in 139 AD. Centuries later it became a fortress for popes during threatening times, including the monumental sack or Rome in 1527. Today the Castel displays the living quarters of these popes and the history of its military use, which lasted until the 20th century. The location of the Castel makes it a perfect place to get beautiful views of Rome and the Vatican from multiple parts of the monument as you make your way to the top. Visiting the Castel was one of my favorite parts of my last visit to Rome.

One of the things that makes Rome unique to me is the fact that this ancient city which seems incredibly complex (and sometimes a bit crowded) also has tranquil, chilled out areas. One of these places is not far from the Circus Maximus (Circo Massimo). Up around winding pathways is the Giardino degli Aranci, aka the Orange Garden. It is next to a large basilica from 422 AD, has shade from large trees, places to sit or picnic, and offers a view of the city for free. I like big views if you can't tell, especially when they're cheap.

A larger park area is the Villa Borghese. To get here, take the stairs leading to the balcony that over looks the Piazza del Popolo. This area has fountains, recreational space, a lake, gardens, and tons of trees. It comes as a surprise given that Rome is a big city with 3 million people and is known for being a metropolitan area since something BC. Walking around both Giardino Degli Aranci and Villa Borghese makes you feel like you're not even in one of the world's most well-known cities anymore. These places are great ways to balance the hustle and bustle that comes with trying to see all of Rome's iconic locations with beautiful, peaceful areas for relaxation as well.

As the Roman Empire was the first civilization to have running water, Rome is known for being dotted with famous fountains. The most popular is the Trevi Fountain. Here is where everyone throws a coin over their shoulder to make a wish. The coins are donated to charities. The famous Piazza Navona is home to the Fountain of Four Rivers (Fiumi Fountain) crafted by the world-renowned artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Nearby is the Museo di Roma (museum) as well. A third lovely fountain is located in the chic, classic Italian neighborhood area called Trastevere. This part of Rome is on the west side of the Tiber River, opposite of the Circus Maximus and the Colosseum. The fountain is called Fontana dell'Acqua Paola and is much less crowded than the Trevi. Also in the area is the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere with golden mosaics from the 12th century. Like most of Rome, Trastevere is best explored on foot.

Like most major cities of Europe, Rome is the setting for Hollywood movies like Gladiator, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Ben Hur, and When in Rome. Audrey Hepburn's classic film Roman Holiday, made her an icon for Rome and made her an Academy Award winner. Famous sites in Roman Holiday are all over the city, especially at the Spanish Steps. This area gets pretty crowded, but you can have your Audrey Hepburn moment here.

Vatican City is one of the most popular places to visit while in Rome as it is located inside of Rome itself. It is the smallest country in the world and the only inhabitants are those who work for the buildings within its borders. The main figure here is of course the Pope, the leader of the Catholic Church worldwide. Mass is held in the gigantic St. Peter's Basilica. The dome of this structure highlights the Rome skyline from multiple locations, including Giardino Degli Aranci, Castel Sant'Angelo, and Piazza del Popolo. The basilica houses Michelangelo's Pieta, a sculpture of Mary holding the bead body of Jesus. There ain't a dry eye in the house with this one. At the time that Michelangelo lived all artwork was for the church. Therefore, no artist was allowed to sign their artwork. However, Michelangelo overheard people talking about his Pieta attributing it to a different artist. So Michelangelo secretly signed his sculpture. The basilica is free to go inside, but the this is only part of what Vatican City offers. The Vatican Museums include statues of ancient Roman gods, goddesses, and historical leaders. After the museums, enter the Sistine Chapel for some of the most powerful paintings ever created, and possibly Michelangelo's most famous work. The chapel includes a scene of The Last Judgement and The Creation of Adam on the ceiling. To go inside of the chapel and the basilica, everyone must cover their shoulders and knees. Also, taking photos is not allowed inside the Sistine Chapel.

Rome's color is orange. It fits the archetypal description perfectly. Orange is attributed to creating a cheerful mood, happiness, and warmth. It also elicits hunger. You can't think of Italy without thinking about Italian cuisine. The monuments all around the city that remind visitors of Rome's historic power and glory add to that theme of hunger. Like the conquering rulers of the ancient empire, Rome leaves you hungry for more of what it offers. Orange is also the color of quite a few cheeses that are as cheesy as my musings about Rome.

Not everyone I've met who has previously visited Rome has liked it. As with any city, Rome has its imperfections. There are homeless people, pushy salespeople trying to sell souvenirs, selfie sticks, or bags whether you show interest or not, and sometimes its pretty crowded. However, Rome is my favorite city in the world. I describe how I feel about Rome by comparing to having more than one child and one is a little weird, but secretly that child is your favorite and you don't like it when other people say negative things about him/her. If you've been to Rome before and enjoyed it, I hope that this article brought back wonderful memories of your time there. If you have been and did not enjoy it, I hope that I've made you rethink your opinions and see Rome with a different perspective. And if you have never been to Rome, I hope that this article has encouraged you to go at the nearest opportunity. I find myself thinking about Rome nearly every day, trying to remember every detail. When it is impossible to do so, I come close to putting Rome back on the top of my list of places to visit as soon as I can.

Transportation Tips:
  • Rome is currently expanding their metro subway system, but it has been difficult because of underground ancient ruins. Walking is the best way to see the city as the cutest corners of it are not easily accessible by car. 
  • Open-top bus tours are nice for cities like Paris, London, or even Los Angeles. However, because Rome has so many areas of ancient ruins and narrow streets, large buses cannot go in close to the colorful neighborhoods or even some major tourist attractions like the Spanish Steps and the Trevi. Put on your walking shoes and let yourself get lost in another world.

The view of the Roman Imperial Forum from Capitoline Hill
Arch of Constantine as seen from the Colosseum
Steps leading to Capitoline Hill
Forum of Augustus
Trajan's Market
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column as seen from Altare della Patria
Altare della Patria
Castel Sant'Angelo
View of Rome and Vatican City from Castel Sant'Angelo
View of Rome from Giardino degli Aranci
Giardino degli Aranci
Villa Borghese

Trevi Fountain
Piazza Navona and Bernini's Fountain
Bernini's Fountain

Cute corners of Trastevere
Fontana dell'Acqua Paola
Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere (interior)
The Spanish Steps
St. Peter's Basilica - Vatican City