Quando in Roma- When in Rome.
I spent this previous weekend with my friend in Rome, staying with a few of her friends from college. I am going to start off by saying that I was pleasantly surprised by Rome. For some reason, I always pictured it as a big, dirty city. But I was wrong, it is so much more.
At first, I thought of it as a larger Florence. It has wider streets and more people. But then I realized it has a personality of its own. People are friendly and the people are moving. There is a distinct mixture of old and new. As a city, it needs to keep up with the modern times. Yet, there are multiple monuments that mark it with its history. The Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain were constructed in the 18th century, Palazzo Farnese was designed in the 16th century (with contributions from Michelangelo), and the Bocca della Verita in the 17th century. And of course, there are the ancient Roman ruins that date back to the B.C. era. The Colosseum’s construction began in 72 A.D.
When I looked at the Colosseum and the ancient ruins, I tried to visualize it being intact and full of people (wearing togas of course) using the area. It is amazing that these ruins are still around, some untouched, despite the thousands of years on them. There are so many events, such as wars, that could have completely demolished them, but they are still around and act as a priority to so many people.
Friday and Sunday consisted of mainly exploring the sites (and pizza) of Rome, but on Saturday we went to the Vatican. First, we went to St. Peter’s Basilica and learned about the history of the many of pieces of art within the church. I was happy to see Michelangelo’s Pieta, which is unfortunately behind a glass wall because of someone trying to destroy it in the 70’s. The tour guide was very informative and actually able to work us through the crowds and fit everything in- the first time I saw an Italian rush since I arrived here.
We also saw a wedding at St. Peter’s, which the guide informed us that the honor is reserved for Swiss Guards. The guards are from Switzerland because of their neutrality in war and have a reputation for loyalty and discipline. Their uniforms, the somewhat comic looking blue, red, and yellow outfits, were designed by Michelangelo during the Renaissance. The Vatican likes to keep to their history.
We also learned that St. Peter’s Square is actually shaped as if arms were embracing the center, in order to make it more welcoming and inviting to others.
After St. Peter’s, we went into the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. It was a very moving experience to see all the art in front of me, in full form, as opposed to on paper or on a computer screen. It was surprising to see how tremendous paintings, such as “The School of Athens,” are and how they offer a much more powerful feeling in person. It makes one appreciate the work more, being able to see the detail and size of it.
The Sistine Chapel was astounding. There was nothing simple about it. The detail, the movement, the placement, and the beauty- it is non comparable. I wish I could just grab a pillow and lay on the floor by myself, staring up at the artwork all day, pulling out each specific detail and listing what makes the artwork so special.
I would love to go back to Rome and spend a few weeks there. There is so much more to explore that I feel like the Romans themselves do not know of. I would also like to learn more about the Romans today and their mentality. I believe Rome can offer so much to those who open themselves to it.