Here we are, Rome. Where the grand Roman Empire started. The capital of Italy. The eternal city. We are lucky to be here, and sadly our days here will be very packed with things to do and places to go, much like in London. In London we were almost spending every single afternoon seeing the British Museum, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, and the Churchill war museum. Almost each morning in London was packed with schoolwork, and each afternoon was a special trip out of the house to see different aspects of “The City” (London).
Rome is grand. It was our first full day here, and we were planning to see some historical sights of Rome, including the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain and the Spanish Steps. Our 4 days in Rome were packed, and today we took the first bite out of our Rome sandwich.
In the morning we started with the usual normal schoolwork, as we do on pretty much every day that we have not decided to take the day off, or are too busy seeing the world. And so we set off. Today would be the Pantheon, tomorrow the Vatican, the third day the Colosseum, and finally the Roman forum and the Roman port on the fourth day.
We started by walking out into the streets of Rome. At the beginning it was nothing like Rome. It looked like any other European city, with the streets of cars, shops, graffiti. It could have been Fuengirola, for all it was worth. But as we moved closer and closer to the Pantheon, the scene changed. It kind of felt more like the grand city of Rome. We walked through wide, open, squares, up staircases, and imagined what it would have been like, being a Roman, walking through this city 2000 whopping years ago.
At last, we turned a corner, and in front us was the magnificently well-preserved, powerful building of the Pantheon. The building was magnificent. We walked under the massive overhang and past rows of pillars. The Pantheon’s front has this style that is very much like the front of the White House.
The inside was just amazing. It was one big chamber, with a beautiful marble floor (probably added later), which I could barely see through all the legs of other swarming tourists. Speaking of tourists, the whole place was crammed. I could barely see anything, for I was constantly being pushed around and squeezing between other people.
The huge chamber had a domed ceiling. The dome was huge, and it had little indents in it to take off some extra weight so the top wouldn’t be too heavy. But I mean, can you imagine trying build something so spectacular 2000 years ago, and without cranes? The Romans did many amazing things, that after the empire fell, people didn’t do again until much later in history.
As you can tell from the name, the Pantheon was a temple dedicated to the Roman Pantheon of Gods. We still aren’t 100% sure which gods were worshiped there, but if you go inside, you can see spaces where statues of the gods would have been. The Pantheon is actually currently a Christian church, and has been for centuries. After the rise of Christianity in the Roman empire, in 609 CE the once Pagan temple was converted into a Christian Church. It is still used as a church today, and you can go to Mass there on Sundays. The pantheon dome overhead inside is interestingly the single largest, unreinforced concrete dome in the entire world.
After seeing that, it strengthened my passion for Roman architecture and awe for what the Romans built and did all those years ago. They were way ahead of their time on technology (not the electronic technology), which is part of why they prospered and succeeded for such a long time.
The sun was beggining to set as we got an evening treat of some gelato. It was one thing that was necessary in our time in Italy: eat a lot of gelato. We had already had some in our time staying in Venice and San Giovanni, but we could never get enough of it.
As the sun dipped below the horizon, we arrived at the Trevi fountain. It was a marvelous fountain, with elegantly carved statues, and it was very beautiful the way the water poured over the shining rock, and into the pool below. Even though the Trevi fountain really wasn’t that old, it was still a major tourist attraction. Swaths of people were all around the fountain, snapping pictures, chatting, and classically throwing coins over their shoulders into the glowing pool of the Trevi fountian.
We did what every person had to do at the Trevi fountain. Make a wish, and toss the coin over your shoulder. It was part of the experience. We each sat down next to each other, the fountain to our backs. On the count of three, we tossed them back while wishing for our deepest, most valuable wishes.
We moved on to the Spanish Steps. The steps consist of 135 steps, and were built in 1723-1725 by French diplomat Etienne Gueffier, to ascend a steep slope, and link the Piazza (plaza) Trinita dei Monti at the base, to the Trinita dei Monti church at the top. It was just a special monument, and there wasn’t a whole lot to see. We climbed up the endless stream of steps, to the top, where I looked up at the sky and saw blackness, as well as many new stars popping out. I could also look out at the expanse of Rome, from my high vantage point at the top of that hill.
Rome does not have a very reliable public transportation system, and that came into play as we arrived to the top of the hill. Jasper was practically moaning, and we were all a little worn out from the long day and walk around Rome. Today had a lot of walking, so we decided to take the metro back to our airbnb. As we came around to the entrance, the gate was barred shut. This station was aparently closed, with absolutely nothing that told us so. The bad news made us walk extra distances to another metro station. Luckily, this one had not been shut down without further notice, and we could take a train back to our airbnb.
Rome has many problems, and I think that it would probably be very tough to run this city. Trash pickup is kind of scattered and uneven, which, combined with the public transportation and the degradation under the populist five-star movement, doesn’t make for the happiest city. This makes people mad. There have been several protests, meaning that the Eternal city might not be working so well.
Before we arrived, Rome was pelted by ferocious hailstorms, and the forecasts say that during our time here, there might be rain all day long. Today we were lucky. Today was the Pantheon day. Tomorrow is the Vatican, where there might be some rain, but then, on our last 2 days here, with the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, we might have to be out in the heavy rain.
Below: Pictures from our walk in Rome
Below: Crew boats!
Below: Trevi fountain