In Rome, Past is Present

Rome is enormous, and that’s why I love it.

It’s not just that it’s a big city (although it is), or that it has an unmistakable frenetic energy. Rome is one of those European capitals that is truly epic. It’s history stretches two and a half thousand years back, far past the time of Jesus Christ. It was the eponymous capital of the Roman Empire, Even now, long after the empire fell, it is still the capital of Italy and one of the most visited cities in Europe.

As my travel blogger friends would say, Rome is a Big Effin’ Deal.

Rome wears it’s history like a badge of honor, with impractically old buildings set imperiously among bustling hordes. Above is the Pantheon- a temple for the gods turned Roman Catholic church built by Emperor Hadrian around 126 AD. It has the world’s largest un-reinforced concrete dome- even 2000 years later! (Incidentally, as a native Washingtonian I was impressed by how directly our classical architecture pulls from this- this exact building could exist in DC no problem).

Ancient ruins are literally everywhere, like this minor excavation which sat largely unnoticed on near a traffic circle:

Of course the most famous reminder of Rome’s ancient greatness is the Colosseum, an epic building in it’s own right. While some iconic sites can disappoint  in person, I can assure you the Colosseum does not:

It’s worth the price of admission to wander inside this remarkably well preserved Roman amphitheater. Even now you can easily imagine the 50,000 spectators cheering the gladiators on in the arena. On an uncrowded day it’s a transcendent experience.

The ancient Romans thoughtfully built the Colosseum right across the street from the equally impressive remains of the Roman Forum. This was the heart of Ancient Rome, where all of the most important temples and structures were built. Many of the temples here were constructed hundreds of years BC. What remains now is ruins, but my goodness, they are beautiful ruins:

The Forum is free to visit, and the nearby Palatine is free with admission to the Colosseum, making the entire area pretty easy on the budget. Palatine Hill is one of the very oldest parts of Rome- supposedly Romulus was born and decided to found Rome on this ancient hill. Later on it evolved into an upper class neighborhood where many of the emperors built their palaces.  It’s now a sprawling open air museum of palace ruins. It gets less traffic than the forum and has a quiet, garden-like beauty to it.

I only spent four days in Rome and left feeling like I’d seen everything and nothing. The many layers of history, art and culture give Rome a rich texture I only associate with a few other cities I’ve visited (London is one). This is why Rome was my favorite part of Italy and why I can’t wait to return and explore it deeper.

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18 thoughts on “In Rome, Past is Present”

  1. I can’t wait to return to Rome–and would love to spend 7-10 days there. Been there twice for 3 days and it’s never long enough. SO much to explore.

    P.S. Beautiful photographs!

  2. Augh, you’re killing me! I was supposed to go to Rome this fall, but had to knock it off the trip due to lack of cash. I can’t wait to see all these things in person, though.

  3. The only time we can travel is the month of Sept. We would like to go to Italy. Rome and places below Rome. We have already been to Florence and some areas around there. But the big question is that I am not sure about travel in Sept. any thoughts?

  4. I spent a weekend there before and must agree with you, it’s a great city and one I hope doesn’t change. There is too much history there!

    Candice – Greek history is linked with Italian quite well, A vast chunk of the marble in Rome was taken from Greece (and even more lost in the waters in between), which is why Greek buildings aren’t as preserved on the whole.

  5. I’ve always been way more interested in ancient Greek history, but damn, Rome just got a whole lot more appealing.

  6. Sigh, these photos remind me of my honeymoon.

    I loved the juxtaposition of Zara by a Renaissance piazza, the reuse of buildings (like 1 church over an older church over an older church over a cult room-San Clemente), and the fact that you know for a fact that you’re walking where incredibly famous people lived and breathed.

    The food’s not bad either 🙂 I’ll take a jug of house wine and a plate of prosciutto any day.

  7. I love Rome, too. I only spent a few days there, and, like you, feel like I saw so much and so little at the same time. I love how the ancient is simply integrated into the modern. You can walk down a very 21st-century-looking street, and then round a corner and be looking at ancient ruins. I think this makes Rome really unique and interesting.

    I can’t wait to go back some day.

  8. I’m not usually a big fan of cities but I quite like Rome too. I loved walking around a corner and seeing some grand historic building sitting there unregarded. Strangely, another reason why I liked it is because I didn’t get the frenetic energy vibe from it. I found it kinda laid back as far as big cities go. Both times I’ve been it was out of high season though so maybe that’s why.

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