Ruchira tells us of her visit to Rome, the eternal city, many moons ago, in the weekly column, exclusively in Different Truths.
Rome has as sobriquet: The Eternal City. It has carved a niche for itself as the cradle of several splendid civilisations-from pre-Christian to medieval times.
Today, it is a popular and much-sought-after tourist destination in Europe. So, exactly twenty-five years ago, when I learned that I was booked on a tour of Italy, I was on Cloud Nine. This would be my first brush with Europe! On a bright September morning, my plane landed at Leonardo Da Vinci Airport, Fiumicino, near Rome, Italy’s capital. Immigration formalities over, we clambered onto waiting buses and drove towards the city.
A 25-year-old then, I was enthralled by the vistas unfolding around me. How could an ancient city be so well maintained? I wondered, bemused. Rome is probably as old as Benares/Varanasi but Varanasi… oh well! Rome boasts of broad roads and avenues, and chaotic traffic. There is a popular saying, “If you can drive in Rome, you can drive anywhere in the world.”
There are neat apartment blocks dotted with tiny, built-in hanging gardens with a profusion of colourful blossoms, and pretty little balconies that could the perfect ambiance for romance; the numerous open-air cafeterias dotting the pavements; handsome looking men and stunning women (the word Roman is equivalent to classical beauty). All of these left an indelible imprint on my mind.
A sightseeing tour of Rome was indeed pages of history coming alive. Our first halt was at the Coll0seum, the mega-amphitheater, counted among the seven wonders of the ancient world. Aeon ago, as a hub of entertainment and recreation, it was a venue for keen contests between gladiators who were trained, professional warriors. At other times these valiant men also combated ferocious beasts-the duels invariably resulting in a mass of blood and gore! Though much of the magnificent edifice has been ravaged by time, yet the ruins still stand as a symbol of imperial Rome.
In the ancient world, all capital cities were located in the vicinity of a river. Likewise, the River Tiber quietly flows through Rome. It helped to recreate before the mind’s eye, images of Caesar, the legendary monarch, and his senators.
The next halt was the medieval Trevi Fountain, which has a cluster of impressive sculpture. An interesting practice takes place here. Tourists customarily toss three coins over the left shoulder into the fountain, to ensure (so the belief goes) another visit to Rome in future.
The crowning glory of a tour of Roma (its Latin name) is the Vatican City, which is actually a city-state in itself. The Vatican is Mecca to millions of devout Catholics across the world! At the center of the Vatican is situated St Peter’s Basilica – epitome of Renaissance art and architecture. It is also considered one of the holiest Catholic shrines in the world. The interiors of the Church are a visual treat. The murals, friezes and panels, the colourful, mullioned doors and windows create an atmosphere of elegance. The breathtaking art, architecture, and sculpture of the Basilica may be attributed to the noted Renaissance artists Michelangelo and Raphael among others. In fact, Michelangelo’s piece de resistance is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel -a mega canvas depicting brilliant scenes from the Book of Genesis of the Holy Bible
That’s Rome in a nutshell; exploring it further would be an unforgettable adventure!
©Ruchira Adhikari Ghosh
Photos sourced by the author from the Internet
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Born in Guwahati Assam, Ruchira grew up in Delhi and Punjab. A product of Sacred Heart Convent, Ludhiana, she holds a Master’s degree in English Literature from Punjab University, Chandigarh. Armed with a P.G diploma in journalism in Journalism, she has been a pen-pusher for nearly 25 years. Her chequered career encompasses print, web, as well as television. She has metamorphosed as a feature writer, her forte being women’s issues, food, travel and literature.