When it comes to the dozen or so historic cities of Europe, Rome without a doubt is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. No matter how many times you visit, there is always something new to discover. Of course this goes hand in hand with the abundance of history, art, architecture and treasures spanning thousands of years, jumping out at you with every turn. Beyond its age and great historical significance, the city will make your heart skip a beat as you discover such soul altering splendor and beauty.
Growing up, we can all agree that even before we plan a visit to Rome, we think we know what to expect when visiting. One thing I tell people is that when they visit Rome, they need to stop and stand still for a moment within the city; close their eyes and take a breath deep; and then just listen … Rome will actually talk to them. This city has its own heartbeat connecting visitors to more than just what they think they know from history, literature, movies, television and pop culture. Rome’s own emotion that will surge through you, overtaking you wherever you stop; you’ve come home, and Rome is glad you’ve come back.
First thing, remember when visiting Rome — walk. This is a great walking city, and to see all its abundance of treasures, it can only be experienced in this manner. In my previous post discussion on Rome, I hit a few of the more ancient locations that should be on your must see list when visiting Rome. Of course there are the standard tourist spots you should visit at least once, but again even these places will stop you in your tracks as they talk to your soul and close the deal on your own personal Roman love fest.
The Trevi Fountain. Throughout history, water is power, and you will find no other place in the world that celebrates this power. This massive Baroque art fountain embodies the mythology and fantasies of the ocean, bringing to life the wind, the waves and the constant movement andpower of water. You can’t but feel the sculptures are alive and can talk. Commissioned by Pope Clement XII, it took over twenty years to complete, and what also makes this fountain unique is it is the end point of the (still in use) Roman Aqua Virgo aqueduct. Originally commissioned by Emperor Augustus to provide water for the Roman thermal baths nearby, today it’s still a popular stop on any Rome Grand Tour. Tradition dictates that when you visit the Trevi Fountain, you must throw a coin over your shoulder into the water. By doing this you are assured a return to Rome. (Such a wonderful romantic tradition for visitors, but an even bigger piggy bank for the city. It is estimated that 3,000 Euros (about $4,058 US) in coins are thrown into the fountain every day. I’d do the math for you, but it’s beginning to hurt my head!)
The Spanish Steps. With its sweeping butterfly shaped ascending steps, the ‘Piazza di Sagna’ is one of the most famous images in the world. A popular gathering place for locals and tourists, this square attracts hundreds of ‘human characters’ offering them a majestic Roman Baroque style monument among the elegant hotels, inns, residences, restaurants and shops surrounding its urban location. Pope Urban VIII commissioned the steps as a main attraction of the square to create a staircase to the Trinità Church (now the Spanish Ambassador’s Residence) at the top of the square. Also at the stairs’ foot is the famous Barcaccio Fountain by Pietro Bernini and his son Gian Lorenzo commemorating the historic 1598 flood of the Tiber River.
Vatican City. As a city within a city, since 1929, this site 110 acre city with a population of 840 is one of the smallest internationally recognized independent states in the world. Ruled by the Bishop of Rome (the Pope), this small area as a sovereign territory sets the laws for the Catholic Church around the globe. Built on the site where St. Peter was martyredand buried, its borders include St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Apostolic Palace, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. It even has its border marked by a white line along the square’s edge to show you that all it takes is one step over the line and you are “back in another country – Italy, and another city – Rome.”
When visiting Vatican City, besides St. Peter’s Square, there are other spots you must tour. First stop should be St. Peter’s Basilica. One of the largest churches and holiest Catholic sites in the world, it’s the burial place of St. Peter, and many of the popes since its founding. Numerous works by Michelangelo (his famous Pieta of the Virgin Mary and Jesus), Bernini (his alter canopy is breathtaking), and other Renaissance artistic masters cover its massive walls, ceilings, floors, along with a gasp worthy reaction to its great dome. Make sure when you walk in the massive front doors that you look down at the floor. You’ll find marking showing you the Basilica’s size in comparison to the other ‘largest’ cathedrals and basilicas in the world (its amazing what can fit under one roof!).
Another must visits in Vatican City is the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel, which are luckily a combined tour at the entrance to the Museum. The Vatican’s Art Collection is vast and eclectic with a magnificence that’s hard to describe on numerous levels. It’s required that each Pope must contribute and expand the collection to hold those artistic and cultural treasures most important to people of the world. From ancient artifacts to modern 21st century art, all artistic tastes, eras and styles are in this permanent collection. Also as you tour, remember to look up as go in and out of rooms. There is even more amazing beauty watching over you as well.
Of course the true icing on the cake of the Vatican Museum Tour is the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s true life changing work of art. If youhaven’t believed in the truly gifted and being touched by the divine, you’ll sing a different tune once you see his masterpiece. Once the private chapel for the ruling Pope, the Chapel continues today as the gathering place for important papal business (the Papal Conclave). After the completion of its most recent cleaning and restoration in 1984, that cleared away hundreds of years of poor patching, roof leaks and the soot from burning of candles and incense, the true colorful and three dimensional skill of a Renaissance master was discovered, allowing visitors and art historians everywhere to see an new dimension an genius to Michelangelo’s skill as a painter was just as masterful as his skill as a sculptor. (It’s mind boggling to think one man laid on top of a scaffold for over five years and created something so exquisite). From The Creation of Adam, the Garden of Eden, Jonah and the Whale included in the nine stories from the Book of Genesis, this great work brings to life the stories we could only imagine and speculated on. Even Michelangelo’s later work, The Last Judgment painted behind the alter brings to live the graphic detail of the fear we will all face if we do not instill piety and respect to God’s almighty power.
So what are you waiting for? Isn’t it time you took a little time to experience Rome on your own? There is so much more waiting there for you to see and experience; I’ve only scratched the surface, so book your ticket and be off! As they say in Italian, Ciao Bella! Arrivederci!
Cafe © EuroCheapo — (Paragraph #1)
Trevi Fountain © artorusrex (Pargraph #4)
Spanish Steps © rickg (Paragraph #5)
St. Peters Square & Basilica © jacdupree (paragraph #6)
Vatican Museum © malouette (Paragraph #8)
Sistine Chapel © RamenStoppelenburg (Paragraph #9)
Juliet Martini is an aspiring romance writer in the contemporary and romantic suspense genres, seeking fame and publication (hopefully), in the near future. Currently, she is working on her second book, the first in a three book series centered on passion, wine and Italy. By day, she hides out as Margaret Hren, a marketing and fundraising consultant, and when time permits, she is building her author website and planning her next exotic travel get away. She also hopes to also launch her travel blog, The Travel Savvy Chick, later this year focusing on travel tips and personally acquired destination information.