In Italian, Rome is “Roma”. Reversed, “amor” is Latin for love. Rome is love, and we loved Rome. One of the world’s greatest and oldest cities, Rome is at once immense and intimate. The week we spent there flew by and we want to go back again on future trips – in fact, we made sure of it.
Looking at a map doesn’t quite convey the size of, well, everything. Put plainly, Romans built on a scale that simply doesn’t exist in today’s world. The ancient tree-lined streets, ornate temples, legendary statues, gigantic marble monuments, beautiful fountains, sprawling plazas, massive entertainment complexes – their sheer size is just hard to comprehend without seeing them in person. Above all others, Romans knew how to convey their power and prominence. Looking around Rome you have no doubt that Rome was once, and rightfully still is, a place of great significance.
One of the great things about Rome is that in spite of its largeness, it has many traits normally associated with small towns and villages. Individual sections of the city, sometimes only a few blocks in size, will have their own unique culture and style. Take Trastevere, which is where Romans go to be among other Romans. During the day it’s not unlike any other touristy areas of the city, although it’s thankfully slightly less busy. Hang around until the sun starts to go down and the scene changes slowly from one of street vendors hawking their wares to sunscreen-smelling tourists to that of small trattorias with candle-lit tables, open doorways spilling music into the street, bars serving aperitivo, and more than anything else, local Romans greeting their friends and family for an evening out. Everywhere there are couples holding hands, kissing, dancing, and being close to each other. In Italian, there is no word for privacy, and it’s no matter because most Romans would have no need for one. As I’ve said already, Rome is love.
From a sightseeing perspective, Rome stands alone in both number and diversity of things to see. If you are like me and you enjoy visiting a place that has stood the test of time and survived, Rome delivers like no other. A particular favorite of mine is one of the world’s most recognized structures, the Colosseum. Actually, its original name was Amphitheatrum Flavium, which over time morphed into the Colisæus which in turn led to its modern name, the Colosseum. It once held between 50,000 and 87,000 Romans at a time distributed between 4 levels of seating. Your social status and political prominence determined where you sat, however you were never that far from politicians wealthy landowners, lawmakers, vestal virgins, and even the emperor himself. Even by today’s standard it is large, but just try to image what it felt like then! Walking through its halls you can almost hear the crowd’s gasps and cheers, the animal’s roar, the gladiator’s shouts and yells, and the dying’s cry for mercy.
Rome has a dark side too. Their civilization was one of war and conquest. Taking over other cities and ultimately other civilizations was a way of life. Every new victory provided new wealth in the form of stolen goods and resources, and new workers in the form of slaves. This constant conquering made death a very common occurrence in Roman life. Instead of the taboo that it has today, especially in American culture, back in Rome’s day death was not only honorable if suffered in service to Rome, but entertaining if put on public display.
And oh, was it ever on public display. To celebrate the opening of the Colosseum in 80 CE., the gladiatorial combats resulted in the deaths – in one day – of five thousand beasts. If the event lasted 24 hours, that would be more than 3 deaths a minute. Historians tell us that workers sprayed perfume into the stands to mask the smell of death and decay. Rome was a bloody, bloody place.
Our Rome adventure started with a
bang rumble – one provided by a gang of Harley-Davidson bikers from all over Europe. It just so happened that our Rome visit coincided with Harley-Davidson’s 110th Anniversary Celebration. The campground we selected for our stay was also the temporary home to 30+ bikers, all dressed in typical black leather biking gear adorned with flags and patches commemorating their past rides. I saw several Route 66 patches and spoke with a few bikers who said it was a good ride.
The campground was a playground for young backpackers. Ciao Bella, the on-site restaurant served good, cheap food which took advantage of right after arrival. Along with our first dinner there Angela had a massive bucket-sized drink that was comically low in alcohol content. We avoided their bar after the first night once we compared prices with other drinking establishments and found better bargains elsewhere. Their breakfast buffet, while not free, was both tasty and filling and came with unlimited coffee drinks from a push-button coffee machine. The attached bar had several drink specials written on the walls in chalk and on at least one night during our stay turned into a throbbing dance club complete with strobe lights and a live DJ. The party lasted until at least 2 am. If only I had known of this place when I was
There was also a general store stocked with fresh fruit, dry goods, clothes, camping supplies, souvenirs, and a full assortment of beer, wine, and liquor. There was a huge laundromat, an information desk with free Wi-Fi and lots of travel aids, as well as a huge pool with two hot tubs! The hot tubs called to us from the moment we arrived, but unfortunately everything closed minutes before we arrived. We later learned that they were both broken anyway. Throughout our stay you would still see people sitting in the bubbling cold water, determined to enjoy the jacuzzi experience however lacking. We enjoyed the pool and lounge chairs after our days exploring Rome.
That’s it for now. I’ll write more about Rome in a few days. Ciao!