As Virgiliu said “it’s the most beautiful thing”, Aristide named it “the capital of all nations”; Atheneu made a “summary of the world”, Ptolemeu the sofist called it “The city of all cities”, most of the people named it “The Eternal city”.
In a lifetime, the human being is continuously trying to find its own purpose on this Earth. Very few of us can truly say they found their own intent in this life. Our own hobbies, various jobs we go through, the books we read, the places we visit are the real proof we continue to search until the final moment.
This is how I felt when my own fate took my steps through Rome, feeling like I was born again. I could see how the modern life, present at every corner, is blending with the ancient ruins, making me thinking where we came from, and what we’re looking for. I realized that almost 3000 past years means almost nothing, I realized how ephemeral the life is, I knew there was no healing time, but then was the time for me to see, feel, and touch the beginning of this world, to feel how the birth of this civilization has become contemporarily with us, how we have emerged from a modern world in the middle of creation.
Some might say it’s just a pile of ruins, but I have learned to see more than that. The ruins that hold the world itself on top of it, the inscriptions that show us the story of their own accomplishment, the statues that seem they’ve come from a parallel life, they are only the real proof of our own life, of our own ancestors, the written history remained real as it can be – and one of the best preserved example is the Trajan’s Column, where the sculpted reliefs are depicting entirely the Dacian campaign, while funded by the rich spoils from the same campaign.
When going to a new city, I always wonder if a city pass is worth, and debate with myself what I should start with. Especially in such a big city, as Rome, where as a first time visitor I wanted to catch as much as possible. So my decision was to choose Archaeologia Card, which helped us to skip the huge lines from the Coliseum while buying the pass from across the street at the Roman Forum, where people were not crowding at all.
This epicentre of the Roman Republic, this legendary city that was built by one of the famous brothers suckled by the she-wolf is the place we can feel reborn from our own ash, we can feel like we’ve been sleeping for years and now it’s our time to wake up like a newborn, with a new vision and a new perspective.
Same as The Coliseum is the symbol of Rome, the Roman Forum is another place full of historical ruins, where we could still find the legacy of this great empire.
Even though not many would expect these places to be in good shape after so many hundreds of years, I was still sad to see how these great constructions have been turned into ruins, especially after I learned that many places have been destroyed due to the sacking over the years by various attackers, or the stones and marbles have been taken away to build some other houses, or palaces by the rich or ruling class.
Staying close to Piazza Navona gave us the privilege to stop by several times, when we enjoyed every single time the wonderful views during the day or the night of this beautiful piazza.
Also, a close place we took the bus from a couple of times was The Altare della Patria also known as the Monument of Victor Emmanuel II who had unified Italy in 1861. The largest monument from Italy, it holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier with an eternal flame, and the 2 chariots from the top with their winged victories can be seen from far away.
Once we started walking on Via Appia Antica from the centre of this ancient capital, we had to continue our journey up to the outside of the city walls and to find the opportunity to once again let the history tell us its own story through the stones, ruins, and catacombs that waited for our visit.
Witness to so many events, I was sure that each rock at the edge of each curb could tell us thousands of stories from the old or from the new. No wonder this is one of the most famous ancient roads!
We all know that all big empires are built on blood; all new civilizations follow big battles, wars or repressions. Same as Romulus built Rome, shedding his own brother Remus’ blood, humanity can find hundreds if not thousands other examples of great achievements with red marks behind the scene. And Rome is one of the greatest in this matter, not only on the political stage, but religious as well.
We could feel this very well on our visit to St Sebastian Catacombs, one of the many catacombs found around Rome. As many as other catacombs around Rome, this was originally built by the Christians as a place for underground burial, and later has become a hiding place from the religious oppression also. The basilica above the catacombs is named after the former roman soldier Sebastian, who was martyred for his faith. Important relics are here: the arrow that allegedly killed Sebastiano, and a set of marble footprints attributed to Jesus, during his walk to Rome on Via Appia. Also we could see an inscription of the famous question “Quo vadis?” asked by St Peter on the same famous Via Appia, when he meets the risen Jesus.
On our way back we had to have a stop at Termae di Caracalla. Grandiose place, again: ruins, I was actually a little bit shocked (in the good way) to see the concept this tyrant Caracalla (or rather his father) actually had to build such place, not only a place for body, but also for mind.
Even though the romans were very well known for their buildings, roads, and aqueducts what it did strike me was the fact that almost 2000 years ago, such a big complex was really built, with several rooms for bathing (cold, medium and hot), swimming pool, gyms, and libraries, along with their gardens. More like a leisure community centre, this complex of buildings, also a great source of inspiration for modern structures, was an important place for social life, health and culture. Still used for culture today, the main area is used as a concert venue by the Rome Opera.
And as the history is full of contradictions and interpretations, the only thing for me to do was to walk through the ruins, to feel the millions of souls that have passed by or perished in these lands, to see whatever is left to be seen, to wonder by the actual magnitude of the place, and to juggle between the greatness and the nothingness.