Friday, June 26, 2009

Rome, Italy

Rome, the “eternal city” was originally not on my itinerary. I had visited with my family 13 years ago for 1 day and had remembered it being chaotic and polluted. However, that visit was so long ago that I had forgotten the city’s ambience. Plus, having thrown a coin into the Trevi Fountain then, I was ready to come back!

I found Rome to be surprisingly pleasant. Yes, there are those crazy drivers and hordes of tourists (almost half of the people walking around were), but there are pockets where you can savor alone. For example, plenty of churches can be enjoyed without the maddening crowds. Plus, many parks and hills are available for one to enjoy views and calmness.

Rome is the probably the quintessential “open-air museum”. History in the form of churches, monuments, obelisks and ruins abound in every corner. The must-sees, including the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museum (which is the “zoo” of all “zoos”), Palantine, Forum, Spanish Steps, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, can be enjoyed relatively crowd-free in the early morning. I found it fascinating that ruins and structures from thousands of years ago could stand right in the heart of the city.

One part of Rome that I personally did not enjoy was walking along the Via Appia Antica, a 2,000-year-old road leading out of the city that is surrounded by catacombs, churches, ruins and villas. This is the road of “all roads lead to Rome”. My disappointment stems from the fact that most of the sites were shielded from the road by walls. Furthermore, the road was so narrow that sometimes, cars whizzed by a few inches from me. I felt like I was fighting for my life the entire trek!

For me though, the positives in Rome far outweigh its negatives. I will definitely be back and spend at least one week for my next visit. Three days was not enough!

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