All Roads Lead to Rome

10 03 2013
Castel Sant'Angelo

Castel Sant’Angelo

All roads lead to Rome. That was what a young girl was told. “But why then have we not reach Rome yet?”, the girl asked her parents. “Soon my dear”, her parents answered. To the girl, Rome sounded so far away but she could already see Rome in her dreams and waited patiently for her to arrive in Rome. As the girl grew, she was still thousands of miles away from Rome. At last, after travelling on the roads for so many years and now no longer a little girl but a carefree traveller, the roads indeed led her to Rome.I believed by now you would have guessed that the little girl is none other than me lol. From the moment that I stepped foot in Rome, I was overwhelmed with emotions that at last, I AM HERE! I fell in love with the city right away, nothing surprising since I have been thinking and dreaming about this place since young.

Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

The city is like a big art and architecture museum, with its famous Piazzas (city’s squares) located the city, some majestic and adorned with interesting feautres like a fountain or obelisks, while others are small and picturesque. I roamed around the city, stopping at various interesting Piazzas mostly exhibiting works from the Baroque and Renaissance period such as Piazza del Campidoglio (with a copy of the Equestrian Statue of Marcus Aureliu), Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps), Campo de’ Fiori, Piazza Venezia, Piazza Farnese, Piazza della Rotonda and Piazza della Minerv and many others.

Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain

One of the most famous one is the Fontana di Trevi (Trevi Fountain) which was immortalised in La Dolce Vita, one of Fellinio’s film. Desgined by Nicola Salvi and one of the most emblematic examples of Baroque art, the fountain shows Neptune riding in his shell shaped chariot pulled by two sea horses with two female deities beside the Neptune (representing weatlh and health). An interesting legend added to the charm and mysetery of this fountain. It is believed that if visitors tossed a coin into the fountain (with his/her back facing the fountain), they are sure to return to Rome one day and brings good luck! So all, remember to try when you are there 🙂

Colosseum

Colosseum

The Colosseum and the nearby Palatine Hill and the Forum are also must see in Rome. As I stepped into the Colosseum, I felt as if I was transformed back in time to scenes from the movie Gladiator. This used to be the place where the public gained entertainment with the games that were held, with displays of exotic animals and of course, the climax being the cruel fights between the animals and gladiators (usually slaves, prisoners or criminals) where it will only end with the death of one side.

The Forum

The Forum

Oh yes, to add on some excitement to my visit, as a fan of Dan Brown’s Angels an Demon novel whereby the main story took place in Rome, I traced the footsteps of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon in his attempt to stop Illumati from destroying Vatican City. Dashing from Pantheon and St Maria del Popolo for the “Demon’s hole” in search of the Earth Element, and then to St Peter’s Square (West Ponente for the Air element), St. Maria della Vittoria (with Ecstasy of St Teresa for the Fire element), Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (Fountain of the Four Rivers) at Piazza Navona for the Water element, and then to Castel Sant’Angelo, “Il Passetto” and finally arriving at the smallest state in the world – the Vatican, my “mission” was accomplished.

Vatican CIty - St Peter's Square

Vatican CIty – St Peter’s Square

Of course, it was an interesting visit to the “smallest independent state” aka Vatican with its amazing museums (especially the mysterious Sistine Chapel where the papal conclave is held and the beautiful Last Judgment painting by Michelangelo) and the holy St Peter’s Basilica where St Peter was buried right below the basilica, with the top of the dome saying in Latin “…you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. … I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven… ” (Matthew 16:18-19).

Inside St Peter Basilica

Inside St Peter Basilica

Sistine Chapel - Last Judgement

Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s Last Judgement

Rome has just so much to offer and for the history geeks or anyone who has some fantasy over the Roman empire, it is a city that will surely captivate you from Day 1. For me, as I was flying out of Rome to my next destination, I was whispering to this beautiful city, “Wait for me, I will be back”.

Tips:
– Beware of pickpockets. You may have heard about this warning many times but this is real. I got a first hand experience while boarding the metro and by people whom I least expected – 3 young teenage girls. As the train arrived, the girls were super helpful to press open the door and asked us to board the train. As we were boarding, two of them tried to block my dad’s way. Sensing that things were not that right, my dad immediately looked down at his poach and saw a hand in the midst of unzipping his poach. My dad immediately grabbed hold of the person’s hand and gave her a stare. She then tried to free herself and afterwhich ran away together with the other 2 girls.

– The metro is an effective and efficient way of commuting around the city. The sights are spreaded out across the city and thus not within walking distance so you will surely need the metro 🙂

– Pre-book your tickets to Vatican and Colosseum to skip the queue. I know many tours just drop tourists at the outside of the Colosseum for a photo stop and then leave but I feel since you travel all the way to Rome, the inside of the Colosseum is worth a visit. The ticket to the Colosseum includes entry to the Forum and Palatine Hill just opposite the Colosseum as well which are nice attractions.

– For Vatican, avoid bringing a big bag or backpack else you will be asked to leave it in the locker at the entrance. This will create inconvenience as the museum tour will end at St Peter’s square and you will need to walk all the way back to the museum entrance at the other side (which is quite a walk)! So just bring a small handbag with you and nothing more.

– Food in Rome is yummy! I am not so much of a fan of cream based pasta and thus food in Rome suits me real well with all its non-cream based food. One of the nice place where we ate was a restaurant called Fortunato al Pantheon and I highly recommend this place. However, avoid eating at the Italian restaurant right along the road that leads to St Peter’s Square (can’t remember the name). The service was really poor (waited half an hour before they attended to me to get my food order) and the food was not even fantastic! What’s worst is that when I passed a 100 euro bill for a 51 euro mean, the waiter has the guts to tell me that he will only return me 40 euros and the remaining 9 euros will be regarded as tips for him. I was telling him that service charge has already been included in the bill (and bearing in mind that unlike in the United States, there is no practice of tipping), he insisted that service charge is not tips and refused to give me back the 9 euros. As I was rushing for time to the go for my Vatican tour, I don’t have time to quibble with him and stormed out of the restaurant. Definitely not going back there ever again!

– Shopping: No one will miss the Spanish Steps, what’s more shopacholics. Italian biggest fashion names like Prada, Fendi-Valentino, Bulgari, Ferragamo, Gucci, and many others can be found along the streets near the Spanish Steps. You can start with Via Condotti which is well-known as the place for “aspirational window shopping” and then venture into the nearby streets to ahem… shop till you drop (yes literally!). Of course, for shopacholics, you will never be limited an area to shop. Any shops that see even outside the Spanish Steps area, do take the opportunity to go in there and you never know that you may possibly be finding some good deals 🙂

– For self-guided Angels and Demons tour, you can refer to the following link http://www.italylogue.com/featured-articles/a-self-guided-angels-demons-tour-of-rome.html

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