A few weeks back I traveled to Rome, Italy on a school trip with students. My impressions of the city? I enjoyed its rich culture and history – and, of course, loved the food! Pizza, pasta, gelato galore. 🙂 But in all of my traveling (and I think I have traveled a somewhat decent amount), I have never seen so many tourists packed into one place! It was a bit much. But, inevitably, there is a reason SO MANY PEOPLE flock to this city and subject themselves to hours of lines and crowded spaces, so I did my best to tune out the tourists and take in the history surrounding me. Here’s an overview of some of the must-see sites my students and I had the opportunity to visit!
Here are the ancient ruins of what used to hold the horse-and-chariot races of the ancient Romans. Today it is a public space where you find people walking or finding a spot to stop and read a book. Concerts are sometimes held in this space as well.
Diocletian Baths & Piazza di Republicca
Next, the ruins of the Diocletian Baths which, like a modern recreation center, included a gymnasium, library, and hot and cool pools for ancient Romans to enjoy. The white buildings in the picture just below the ruins of the Baths is the Piazza di Republicca, which was built much later in the Baroque period (1600s to 1700s) to mimic and recreate the round shape of how the original entrance to the ancient Diocletian Baths were constructed. It’s worth noticing here the contrast between the ancient orange-red brick of the Baths and the bright white of the “modern” Piazza di Republicca buildings.
Called the Spanish Steps because, before Italy became a republic, the Spanish occupied the region of land at the bottom of this set of steps, while the French occupied the land at the top of the steps. The Spanish and French spent years fighting with one another, but when Italy became a unified state this entire region became Italian, not Spanish nor French, and these steps became known as the “Spanish Steps.”
A fountain built in the Baroque period to celebrate water and its necessity for life. Legend is that if you throw a coin from the right hand over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain, you will be sure to return again to Rome!
Continue walking the streets of Rome you encounter these kinds of ancient pillars…
Which eventually led to the Pantheon, a once Roman pagan temple, which is now a church.
Piazza di Navona
Next is this square, beneath which are the remains of where the ancient Roman olympic games were, which mimicked the original Greek olympic games.
Constantine’s Gate & The Colosseum
Two of my students, standing in front of Constantine’s Gate, are below and next is the Colosseum. This ancient Roman amphitheatre, which accommodated 80,000 people, was where public spectacles were held, such as gladiator contests, executions, and dramas. The bit of stage that you see in the pictures has been recreated for visitors to imagine what the stage of the amphitheatre would have looked like – and the original amphitheatre would have been completely covered as well. The bit of recreated stage would have encompassed the entire bottom stage area of the amphitheatre, and the sort of room spaces that you see uncovered would have been underneath the stage housing slaves and animals used for show. The stage would have been covered in sand, to allow it to be easily cleaned after often bloody and violent “performances.” Entrance to the Colosseum for Romans was, actually, free of charge, but tickets did have to be acquired in advance. Romans were seated according to social class, with the elite seated close to the stage, and the poor in standing-only areas at the very top.
These are the ruins of the “downtown” of ancient Rome where people gathered for community and socializing.
Piazza di Venezia
And below, a monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of unified Italy. Apparently, the monument has been nicknamed the “wedding cake” by Americans because, supposedly, this is how it was described by Audrey Hepburn when she saw it while filming Roman Holiday.
Home of the pope! Vatican City is an official country, the smallest country in the world, but visitors can enter the Vatican without a passport due to an agreement made between the Vatican and Italy when the country was established in the 1920s. Michelangelo’s artwork in the Sistine Chapel was remarkable to see, in spite of the hoards of tourists that came with it. And if you want to see the pope in Vatican Square, he makes his appearances on Sundays at noon. The colorful guards below the picture of St. Peter’s Basilica here are the Swiss Guards who protect the pope. These Guards must be citizens of Switzerland. They stand in this position, surrounding the Vatican, and change guards every 2 hours.
And while I wish I would have spent more time in this neighborhood of Rome, with its charming streets brimming with shops, restaurants, and lots of Italian life and livelihood, unfortunately with the packed sightseeing schedule I endured with my students, I had little time to explore it! Here’s my one photo opp of Trastevere. The rest is up to your imagination!
And this concludes my whereabouts just “roaming around Rome.” I am certainly no expert on the city’s history and sites, but was fortunate to learn from 3 days of guided tours of the city for my students, so I have shared those tidbits here!
In other news, when I returned home from my Roman “holiday”…
Marc was in Leysin to greet me! Yay! More of our bit of time together (before he had to leave again) on the blog very soon.