In my first year of primary school (aged 7), we spent what seemed like an awfully long time studying the Romans. I can recall – though hazily – a trip to a Roman museum where we got to see swords, shields, helmets…the works. I need to mention here that what stood out for me at the time was an ostrich egg. No, I have no idea why it was there, I was seven. Big eggs were obviously much cooler than Romans.
However, despite the egg, the trip ignited somewhat of a passion for ancient history within me. The Romans, Greeks and Egyptians have fascinated me for so long – the superhero nut in me thoroughly enjoys the mythology and tales of valour and heroism from so long ago. Consequently, when my Step-Dad asked me if I wanted to visit Rome with him for a day, I jumped at the chance!
And so yesterday we spent a fair amount of the day traversing Rome’s scraggled mess of roads. We knew that today (Wednesday) would be the day to see the Vatican and Colosseum, two of the key sights we had travelled to see, so we wondered through countless side-streets and cobbles free from the burden of a set destination. I have to be honest – I was particularly unimpressed. Whilst moderately attractive in parts, I couldn’t shake the distaste that I felt for the feel of the city…it felt like all bustle and no substance – a mutated, lost version of the glorious city it had once been. I’m sure that matters weren’t helped by the fact that we seemed to be nothing more than drops in a sea of ravenous tourists making the place feel more like a zoo than a functioning city and memorial to what once was. But after much walking and poor map reading, we accidentally stumbled upon a gigantic monument to what we gathered was the ‘lost soldier’, where my opinions were put to the test a little bit.
I’m not going to pretend that I fully understood the purpose for the building, or when it was built and so on. There were very few signs in English and practically nothing in the map / guide combination that we had with us. However, that didn’t change the scale, beauty and sheer magnificence of the building – unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. After walking around the building in awe, we noticed a lift to the top of the building, boasting shamelessly about how it was the best view of Rome around. Naturally we took it. The view was…breathtaking. Rome from the rooftops is something very special indeed.
We then saw the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, among a few other less known parts of Rome and at this point in time, I’m very confused in my opinion of the city. Rome is so unlike any other city I’ve been to. Because of its long and sprawling past, it has grown into a conglomeration of periods, making it closer (in my opinion) to London than any other city, and yet the two cities are still so far removed from each other. I don’t feel like it’s a particularly friendly place like I did in Albania’s capital last week and there isn’t quite the sense of nostalgia that I’d hoped for. I guess the city has to move on – it is, after all, a city and not simply one giant monument to previous generations.
Don’t get me wrong, I really like the city. It just feels like something is…well, missing. As I mentioned earlier, we’re tackling the Vatican and Colosseum today – two things that I’m very, very excited about. I really hope that this will change my opinion of the place. Regardless, it’s an absolute privilege to be able to experience it with my own eyes. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity!
Let’s be honest, the title of this post was never going to be anything different was it?!