Take a real Roman holiday by catching the must-see sights of the ancient city. SAMVITHA RAM
It’s been featured in many romantic comedies (think the evergreen “Roman Holiday” or the more recent “When in Rome”), its cuisine is well-known (count the number of Italian restaurants in any metropolitan city), and it’s the *in’ place for fashion and style (heard of Armani, Prada or Fendi?). But what really sets apart this magnificent metro apart is the historical and cultural significance. Sure, New York and Mumbai are important metros too, but are their streets lined with quaint little pizzerias and cobblestones? Can one see beautiful sculptures along major crossroads and piazzas? No, it is only in Rome where these are daily sights.
Since there’s so much to see, here are a few do-not-miss sights:
About 1900 years ago, Emperor Nero, the much hated monarch, built an artificial lake of about 300,000 square feet. After his death, the pool was covered up and in its place was built the large amphitheatre we now call the Colosseum. At its peak (during the time of gladiators), it could seat about 75,000 spectators (about 1.5 times the capacity of Chennai’s cricket stadium). But what really strikes the viewer is the aging grace of the structure. Even after having been half-broken down by the invaders, it serves as a symbol of the grandeur once associated with the Roman Empire.
Food and Fashion
Rome contains the headquarters of fashion brands like Valentino and Bulgari and has the distinction of being the hometown of pasta!For food, stick to the small pizzerias by the street sides. They may seem a bit cramped as everything seems to be in Rome, where lack of space is a huge issue, but the mouth watering food makes up for it. Pizza, traditionally associated with Italy, first originated in Naples. When the citizens of Naples showed their invention to the city-dwellers of Rome, they were laughed upon… Guess the joke is on them, now! Don’t miss out on Roman specialities: Pomodori con riso (Baked tomatoes filled with rice and potatoes) and Gnocchi alla Romana (potato dumplings doused in butter and melted cheese).
Fashion-wise, things might be expensive, but don’t be afraid to splurge a little. The Via de Condotti is home to top designer stores such as Armani, Prada, Versace, Dolce and Gabbana, Gucci and other global brands. Once upon a time, store-owners used to charge up to €10 for customers to just walk through the doors! Thankfully, now we can window shop and dream about these luxurious products without having to pay a penny.
St. Peter’s Basilica
It’s true that the most famous structure in the Vatican City is the Sistine Chapel, but the St. Peter’s Basilica is not something you can miss! The interiors are just as impressive as its exteriors. St. Peter’s is vast and spacious, leaving a lot of room for visitors to wander and explore different parts of the church. Inside, one can see statues by artists such as Michelangelo of popes and figures who played a crucial role in the construction and maintenance of the basilica.
Fountain of four rivers
Rome boasts of a collection of public fountains unmatched by any other city. They were once used as a way of distributing drinking water to the poor. Rome’s greatest fountain, the “Fountain of Four Rivers” is found in Piazza Navon and depicts Gods of the four great rivers in the four continents then known to geographers: the Nile in Africa, the Ganga in Asia, the Danube in Europe and the Río de la Plata in America. Each sculpture is enhanced by decorations of flora and fauna of the respective regions. To top it all, a giant Egyptian-style obelisk towers over the whole piece. People were originally worried that the obelisk would cause the whole structure to tip over, but it has held strong.
Varalakshmi Sarathkumar, actor
Last August, I visited Rome for the first time. It was one of my best trips. It is the food that really made my trip great. I ate everywhere possible, from street food joints to luxury hotels and I wasn’t disappointed anywhere. The gelatos were particularly special. Also, a discussion about Rome would be incomplete without a mention about its splendid architecture. Vatican City is beautiful. What I feel is that we may take photographs to relive moments but witnessing the breathtaking landscapes there in real is a different experience altogether.
As told to Payal Chhabria
Samvitha is a student of American International School.
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