One day affair: Pompous Rome!


Rome and I, we had a very brief affair in the summer of 2011. An affair that involves only sleeping and eating together. I barely got to know him but the few hours that I spent in his cradle left me with very strong impressions which would be hard to compare with any other city.

At a glance Rome is imposing and intimidating but during our short rendezvous, I realized that it is a city that must have experienced both tears and victory at their most extreme.

A view from a hop-on hop-off 110

Using a hop on/hop off bus to get around a city is the last thing I’d do when travelling. I’ve always felt that these buses are just tourist traps and doesn’t give you a real travel experience. But I was dead tired from my long trip to Umbria, suffering an excruciating migraine and have an appointment in two hours, so that was the only option I had to see as much in so little time. I stepped into the first double-Decker I saw, the red Bus 110. It has 13 stops which cover the most famous landmarks in the city of Rome. I paid 15euros for a non-stop ticket because I have no plans to step out.

Despite the warm summer weather, sitting on the top deck gives a whiff of breeze that’s quite relaxing despite the noise of the city. The moment I settled on my seat, I immediately felt my tensed muscles loosen up and I almost wanted to nap but that would be such a waste of opportunity to have at least a glimpse of this historical city.

As the bus inched its way to Rome’s afternoon traffic, we passed by the nearest attraction to the Stazione Termini – the Baths of Diocletian. It was housed in an ancient building – like many of Rome’s landmarks – but when I tried the headphone to understand what I was looking at, one of the earplugs did not work. That’s when I decided not to bother myself with historical facts and just enjoy the architecture.

The bus moved on to Piazza della Repubblica, to the many basilicas, more piazzas and churches and by the time we got to the Vittoriano there was only one thought running to my mind – how pompous the old Rome was!

The old Roman buildings are enormous, not just in size but especially in design and the grandeur that was put into it. Some of these building were made with marble which during those times when modern lifting machines were not available, must have broken a lot of human backs. Surely these monuments were made for grand purposes but I can’t help but think that a lot of them were built only to demonstrate might, power and fortune. More than the famous figures who commissioned these buildings and the talented architects who designed these eternal pieces of history, my admiration goes to the workers who offered sweat, blood, tears and probably their lives to erect such gigantic tribute to the great Roman empire.

The sun was starting to set when the Bus 110 passed by the Colosseum – sunlight gives the walls inside the ruins a sad, soft glow. It made me think of the time when Rome’s power started to crumble and all that remained were these monuments. It must have been a nightmare for the powerful and a heartbreak for their mothers and wives because for such a mighty empire to collapse must have been very tragic.

I did not complete the bus tour. Thoughts surely make you forget the passage of time and when I looked at my watch, it was already half past 7pm. I just missed my appointment. I got out in front of the first building that I recognized from my previous trips to Italy – La Rinascente at the beautiful Palazzo della Rinascente, one of Rome’s most stylish shopping mall. Luckily my dinner dates were still on their way to the restaurant so I stole a few minutes to look around – precious 10 minutes of admiring beautiful things and when you finally decided to buy one perfect piece, they tell you that the store has already closed.

I quickly hailed a cab and rushed to the most delicious steak dinner I’ve had in my life.

Travel tip:
If you only have a few hours to visit Rome, try the hop on/hop off bus but get the 48-hour ticket. It will give you an opportunity to get out of the bus and visit the landmarks. It cost around 20euros. More information can be found here