Temporary Home: Rome

A city of history, ancient ruins and remnants of the past, yet a surprisingly modern city also, Rome is a truly unique location. Nowhere else can one find stunning gelato on every corner, whilst bumping into gladiators when looking at a centuries-old church. It is a city I had visited once previously, and only for a day, before a friend offered for me to stay with him for a few days over the Easter break. This was, of course, an offer I could not refuse, and before I knew it, I was on a classy Ryanair flight headed to Rome Ciampino.

My first day in Rome began with doing what the locals do, riding the Metro to the centre of the city. With single tickets costing €1.90 and stops in all the main locations, this is a cheap and easy way to see the sights. As the stops are mostly named after the main attraction nearby (no prizes for guessing Colosseo), it is nearly impossible to get lost, and a lot easier than London’s Tube service to navigate.

“One of my must-see places in Rome, the Keats-Shelley Museum”

I then decided to have a stroll around the city, taking in on my walk the exterior of the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, before finishing up at the Spanish Steps. Unfortunately, it seemed that I had taken the British weather with me, as despite it being hot weather in the days previous to my arrival, within five seconds of exiting the Metro station I closely resembled a drowned Roman rat. Despite this, I decided to tick off one of my must-see places in Rome, the Keats-Shelley Museum, which is located in the building to the right of the base of the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna).

This is the house where Romantic poet John Keats, of Ode to a Nightingale fame, took his last breaths after living here and being nursed by his friend Joseph Severn during his final months. The room where Keats died is recreated to represent his bedroom as faithfully as possible, as the original features are few and far between. This is due to the fact that Vatican law decreed its destruction by burning furniture and possessions of a tubercular patient at the time of death in order to prevent the disease from spreading. The rest of the museum is a shrine for these two poets, Shelley and Keats, who both died in Italy. Locks of hair, letters and a huge library collection offer much for one interested in these two personalities and their works.

“Entering the Colosseum itself soon left me feeling breathless”

Day two called for a trip to the most famous Roman relic of all, the Colosseum. With a queue time of one hour and fourty minutes, I considered myself lucky but just missed out on the timed tour of the building, for which I was slightly miffed. Entering the Colosseum itself however soon left me feeling breathless, with the two levels open to the general public offering remarkably different experiences. The upper level gives you the vantage point of the common Roman but makes you feel godlike, looking down on the amphitheatre below like an all-seeing Jupiter. The thought of the many deaths – human and animal, with one animal killed every ten seconds in the opening of the Colosseum alone – was a shocking statistic. This was brought into perspective when I ventured down to the lower level. With the steep sides banking sharply upwards, it was easy to imagine the thousands of onlookers that once packed out this structure and cheered on the gladiatorial battles below, and it left me feeling very in the open and vulnerable, despite being amongst crowds of tourists (potentially worse than the gladiators, but who knows). A trip to the Roman Forum, included in the ticket price, rounded off the day nicely, a majestic sight, despite being mainly ruins and piles of stone.

On the third day my friend and I planned a road trip to escape the hustle and bustle of the inner city (Roman drivers are insane and parking is a nightmare). We decided to venture to the lakeside Nemi, a russet-bricked town famed for its strawberries, and where I bought a bag of authentic Italian penis pasta (as a gift of course). After a wander around the quaint little shops and a look at the lake far below, we stopped for dessert, the tiniest, slightly bitter strawberries which came in a variety of forms, mine topping a tart, which was perhaps the tastiest and certainly the healthiest food I ate in this land of carbohydrates. A trip to one of the largest shopping malls in Europe followed – because when in Rome, why not?

“…an Egyptian pyramid painstakingly moved brick by brick and rebuilt in Rome”

My final day led to a roam around Rome once again, to some of the sights I thought I had missed the first time around. I visited the Pyramid of Cestius, an Egyptian pyramid painstakingly moved brick by brick and rebuilt in Rome, before locating the Protestant Cemetery, of which the Pyramid makes up part of its outer wall. Inside this cemetery were the graves of many non-Catholics who have lived and died in Rome. Ever the literature-nut, I made my way to the graves of John Keats and Percy Shelley to pay my respects to these icons of Romanticism. This was an incredibly peaceful place and surprisingly busy, alongside tourist and visitors, there are many cats who live within its walls, which were found curled up in the oddest poses on graves, sunbathing by the pyramid and mewling on the paths.

After regretting my decision not to bring a multipack of Felix on my trip, I headed across the River Tiber to see the Basilica of Our Lady in Trastevere, one of Rome’s oldest churches. After all, in this most religious of cities, it would be a travesty not to visit a church. Built-in 340 and re-erected in 1140, this was beautiful, with its array of stunning gold mosaics dating from the twelfth century and a heavily decorated, ornate ceiling. I spent a while wandering before I went in search of one final slice of pizza before my flight home.

As a temporary home, even for the brief period of four days, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rome. It is indeed the Eternal City, with every corner revealing ancient and modern side by side. Staying with my friend also allowed me to see a different side of Rome, that of Italian supermarkets (strange), driving (dangerous) and birthday meals (all-you-can-eat, carb-loaded and some of the tastiest items I have ever put into my mouth). I would go back in a heartbeat, as I don’t feel that you could ever see everything in this city, which is well worth a visit and a slice of typical Italy.

Amy Wilcockson

Featured image courtesy of Kosala Bandara via Flickr. License here.

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