Serendipity in Rainy Rome

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“With every street explored and cobbled-stone alley walked, a fairy-tale like place emerges”

Every once a while, during my travel, I wish for an experience which would blow away my mind. An experience which would make me rethink my life philosophies, my priorities and push my boundaries. ‘Serendipity’, that’s what I ask my universe. So when I decided to pack my bags for my three city tour of Europe, I knew I would find it. It was difficult, obviously, to point out which moment would it be. But I was sure, it would come to me.

Out of all the cities of Europe, Paris is high on my romance list. May be the images of a sparkling Eiffel Tower,  sprawling vast space of greens and romanticized stories of city of lights by the mass media are to be blamed. So, I was really expecting the little package of surprise to be coming in from the city of love. But that, didn’t happen and I was disappointed. On the last leg of my trip, the last few days, however, I came upon that perfect place in an Italian city, Rome!

Since the time,  I set my feet on the roads of the Italian capital, Rome was full of surprises. The somber grey skies set the mood for the lovely Beethoven symphony. Little cobbled stone alleys, gave the city, the look of a medieval era. I closed my eyes to imagine myself in the roman empire, an era f Black & White, narrow and unpaved streets. Carpenters, Artisans, merchants and labors would have roamed. The city would have been busier with the trade schedules throughout the day. The king’s men would have strode the little alleys on their horse, overseeing peace and security of the city. At night, there would have been no street lights. The city would have been hard, dark and dangerous. People who roamed at night would have been accompanied by a workman along with a bright lantern.

As I reached my hostel, I was transported back to the reality. Suddenly all my romance with the Roman past faded away. As wonderful were my hostel stays in Paris and Barcelona were, Rome turned out to be a dampener. I checked into Alessandro Palace. While the overall hostel vibe was decent, some how the place never put me at ease. Just before that, I had also seen a co-traveler being mugged by a fake cop. So to that effect, Rome did not seem welcoming. Eventually, I made peace with myself and came down to taste the authentic Italian Pizza and Pastaaa, with some wine off course 🙂

A MINI GUIDE TO ROME:

AccommodationWith tiny alleys, bohemian vibes and a sprawling ruins of history, Rome is quite a place to stay. In fact to my surprise, I can’t wait to return to Rome some-day. The cheapest way to crash in Rome, I would say is the hostels. There are many pretty boutique styled hostels, apt for solo travelers and budget backpackers. The hostel we stayed at was at an upmarket diplomat area, doting with Embassies on different countries. One of the best ways to choose a hostel is to read reviews of them on sites like hostelworld.com. Also, while zeroing on a hostel, try and see if they offer opportunities to mingle with other co-travelers. Some of the hostels also offer a pub crawl and it is definitely recommended to take one, if you are a party person and like to drink! 😉

Cafes: There is no dearth of eating, drinking and partying scenes in Rome. Almost at every turn, there is a grand eating affair. Authentic Pastas, Pizzas, dressed with the traditional Italian cheese! Out of all the 3 cities, I visited in Europe, I left the most satiated from Rome. It was absolutely amazing – I had no idea that there were so many different kinds of mozzarella (ooh, ah). They bring out a massive platter of all the varieties, along with some tomatoes, bread, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Who’s hungry baby? I was definitely! I can’t get over my dining experience in Rome.

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When in Rome, eat, drink and repeat

Transport: We had stayed at a hostel, just 5 minutes away from the main city center. The best way to travel in Rome is the Metro transit. 2/3/5 day metro passes are available at any metro station. If you have ample time, (in our case, we didn’t as just stayed  there for a couple of days), I would recommend cycling down through the streets of Rome, like a true bohemian spirit. Usually cycles are available at the hostels at an affordable rate.

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Walking on the streets of Rome is a good idea for photo geeks

THINGS TO DO:

Explore the Roman Forum-  

The Roman Forum is a rectangular forum (plaza) surrounded by the ruins of several important ancient government buildings at the center of the city of Rome. Citizens of the ancient city referred to this space, originally a marketplace, as the Forum Magnum, or simply the Forum. It was for centuries the center of Roman public life: the site of triumphal processions and elections; the venue for public speeches, criminal trials, and gladiatorial matches; and the nucleus of commercial affairs. Here statues and monuments commemorated the city’s great men. The teeming heart of ancient Rome, it has been called the most celebrated meeting place in the world, and in all history. Located in the small valley between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills, the Forum today is a sprawling ruin of architectural fragments and intermittent archaeological excavations attracting 4.5 million sightseers yearly. Many of the oldest and most important structures of the ancient city were located on or near the Forum. The Roman kingdom’s earliest shrines and temples. These included the ancient former royal residence, the Regia, and the Temple of Vesta, as well as the surrounding complex of the Vestal Virgins, all of which were rebuilt after the rise of imperial Rome.

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The Roman Forum

Colosseum-

Is that even a suggestion? Heck no!  Built in 70 A.D., Rome’s Colosseum has been the site of celebrations, sporting events and bloodshed. Today, it’s a major tourist attraction, playing host to 3.9 million visitors each year. Located around the Roman Forum, the massive stone amphitheater known as the Colosseum, is just outside the Colosso metro station. It was commissioned around A.D. 70-72 by Emperor Vespasian of the Flavian dynasty as a gift to the Roman people. In A.D. 80, Vespasian’s son Titus opened the Colosseum–officially known as the Flavian Amphitheater–with 100 days of games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights. After four centuries of active use, the magnificent arena fell into neglect, and up until the 18th century it was used as a source of building materials. Though two-thirds of the original Colosseum has been destroyed over time, the amphitheater remains a popular tourist destination, as well as an iconic symbol of Rome and its long, tumultuous history.

Tip: Club the Roman Forum and Colosseum visit together. Ticket to Roman Colosseum, ensure a visit inside the Colosseum too. Plus, it is recommended to explore the Roman ruins first, as it takes more than half a day to finish a decent tour. Colosseum can be finished within an hour!

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At the Colosseum

Fontana Di Trevi:

Rome’s trademark place to visit, without a trip to Fontan Di Trevi, nobody can guarantee you a second visit to Rome. As per the local legend, travelers who visit the fountain and spin a coin, inside the waters, are guaranteed of a second trip to Rome! Unfortunately, I couldn’t visit the fountain as it was covered by a facade, owing to maintenance construction. Hey, but I can return to Florence in Italy and then may be take a train to Rome. Nobody said anything about not returning to Italy! Right? 🙂

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Image source: Walks of Italy

Pantheon: 

If you visit Pantheon, I recommend visiting it twice. Once in the broad day-light and once in the evening, when the monument is lit, people are out cheering, playing, fooling around and the smells of cheese and wine flare your nostrils up!  The Roman Pantheon is the most preserved and influential building of ancient Rome. It is a Roman temple dedicated to all the gods of pagan Rome. As the brick stamps on the side of the building reveal it was built and dedicated between A.D 118 and 125. The original use of the Pantheon is somewhat unknown, except that is was classified as a temple. However, it is unknown as to how the people worshiped in the building, because the structure of the temple is so different from other traditional Roman temples such as in the Roman Forum.  The Pantheon exists today in such amazing form because the Byzantine emperor Phocas gave it to Pope Boniface the IV in A.D 608 and it was used as a church ever since. The Pantheon has been in use since the time it was built. Probably one of the most fascinating features of the Pantheon is the Architecture. The structure of the Pantheon is comprised of a series of intersecting arches. The arches rest on eight piers which support eight round-headed arches which run through the drum from its inner to its outer face. The arches correspond to the eight bays on the floor level that house statues. The dome itself is supported by a series of arches that run horizontally round. It is a wonderful example of second century Roman architecture. It boasts mathematical genius and simple geometry that today still impresses architects and amazes the eyes of casual visitors.

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Dome of Pantheon (Image Source- Walks of Italy)

A day’s visit to the world’s tiniest country: The Vatican

What is a trip to Rome, without the blessings of the Pope? Even if you don’t get to meet the Pope himself, you cannot escape a small visit to the Vaticano, the holy place of Christians! St. Peter’s Basilica , the center of Christianity, is a Late Renaissance church located within Vatican City. The church is built on Vatican Hill, across the Tiber river from the historic center of Rome. The location is highly symbolic: this was the site where Saint Peter, the chief apostle, died a martyr and where he was buried in 64 AD. St. Peter is considered the first pope, so it made perfect sense for the papacy to build the principal shrine of the Catholic church here. Honestly, if you ask me a highlight of my trip to Rome, the architecture of Vatican, makes right up on the top of my awe-struck moments!

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The exteriors of St. Peter’s Basillica

 

FYI: WHEN IN ROME, DO AS ROMANS DO!

  • Start your day early- Most Romans start their day early. Even at 6 AM in the morning, I saw a lot of people out on the streets rushing to catch a metro, sitting in a cafe, catching up with their daily news, enjoying a quick shot of espresso and a croissant. Moreover, Rome being the center spot for tourism, a lot of tourists are already out to explore. So rush early, if you want to have a best experience of Rome.
  • Visit the Colosseum after late afternoon-Most of the crowds head straight to Colosseum, without exploring the Roman Forum. To avoid, the crowds, do the exact opposite. Plus, as I mentioned before, Roman Forum takes, a minimum half of a day. So make a smart choice!
  • Explore Rome by night-Having a belly full of cheesy delights can make you groggy and sleepy, but don’t head straight to bed. Do as the locals do. Soak in the vibes of Rome, under the starry skies. Rome in lights is beautiful!
  • Carry your own bottle, wear sunscreen and dress light- Long day of touring awaits you 🙂
  • Beware of pick pocketers. Rome is full of scammers!

 

HIGHLIGHT OF MY TRIP:

It rained and rained! But roaming Rome in rains is once in a lifetime experience and I was blessed in the experience. Don’t believe me? Check this out!

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Rainy Rome

Have you been to Rome? What’s your favorite experience been like?

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