finding Rome (2018)

Funny thing about Rome is that many of the iconic sites that most visitors flock to see are, effectively, a pile of stones …

The Forum, formed when a marshy valley was reclaimed at the end of the seventh century BC, was, in its hey day, at the centre of public life in Rome for over a millennium, with religious, political, commercial and social activities all taking place within its spectacular buildings and elaborate temples. And what remains today of the Colosseum tantalizingly hints at the magnificence of an oval amphitheatre which, holding over 50,000, was the largest ever built at the time.

The trick, they found, was to stop and for a moment, just stand still and imagine how these extraordinary ancient sites looked when they formed the epicentre of daily life.  She’d stood at the far end of the Forum, gazing down across its sprawling ruins, and imagined the chatter of the inhabitants of ancient Rome, wandering between the majestic pillars in elegant white togas.  And at the Colosseum, she’d planted her feet firmly on one of the few remaining pieces of original marble flooring, closed her eyes and imagined the roar of the baying crowd while the gladiator awaited his fate.

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Rome is a city where you really have to use your imagination … and when you do, there’s nowhere quite like it.  It’s also one of those cities that you can visit time and time again, and never tire of it, the kind of city where you stumble upon take-your-breath-away sites around every corner …. so much to take in that  a “top ten” list would barely cover it!

It was her second visit, his first, and she delighted in showing him all the must see’s … knowing that he’d be left speechless looking up for the first time at Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel masterpiece, knowing how much he’d love sipping a chianti classico whilst people watching in Piazza Novana just yards from Bernini’s exquisite marble fountain, knowing he’d marvel at the wonderous dome of the Pantheon, knowing he’d revel in exploring Rome’s maze of cobbled streets in the Ponte district just over the bridge from Vatican City … and of course, knowing he wouldn’t be able to resist a gelato. Even then, in early December, with a distinct chill in the air as the city readied itself for Christmas, there was nothing quite like an Italian gelato …

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New memories for her too … the highlight when they’d noticed by chance a glass lift running up the side of the Altare della Patria. Known affectionately locally as “the wedding cake” this magnificent homage to Victor Emmanuel II dominates the skyline by day, and at dusk, offers far-reaching views from its roof, of this wonderous city.  A special moment as hundreds of birds swooped into the trees surrounding bustling Piazza Venezia below them, as the sun disappeared behind the huge dome of St Peter’s Basilica in the distance … magical times in a magical city.

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