11 September 2018

Roman Holiday

 
Altari di Patria

Sculpture at Piazza Navona

Sculpture at Capitoline Museum

Painted Ceiling at Capitoline Museum

Romulus Wolf

Sculptue of Medusa at Capitoline Museum

Legend  of Romulus Wolf painting

Trevi Fountain

Spanish Steps

Narrow streets of Rome
The fountain of seven rivers at Piazza Navona

Rome, a lifetime is not enough (to see its sights)!
So when we got another day at Rome, thanks to our flight being rescheduled late night, we decided to make good use of it. Only this time we were on our own, un-chaperoned by the venerable tour manager of the package tour. We paid heed to another of the aphorisms, 'When in Rome do as the Romans do'. We planned to take a bus near our hotel to the nearest metro station. The Google app showed a waiting time of 7 minutes for the bus. We waited patiently. The minutes ticked by. Fifteen minutes. And then twenty minutes. As we waited, I noticed the drain covers. They had SPQR inscribed on them. Being an avid reader, I immediately recognised it as the abbreviation of the Roman Empire. Senate Peoplesque Romanus! This was curious, carrying on with the abbreviation twenty centuries down the line with a virtually nonexistent Empire to boast of. By now, our patience running thin, I ordered a cab using the taxi-hailing app. It dutifully arrived in 3 minutes. A short ride of 12 minutes later, we were at EUR Fermi. The ride cost us €17. By now, I had trained my mind not to automatically convert the Euros into rupees. The shock and guilt are too much! Outside the metro station, there was a tabaccaio (Tobacconist). I went in and asked for tickets to Colosseo. The shopkeeper answered in Hindi, 'Don't take it for your younger kid. Children below ten years travel for free!' It was then I noticed the very South Asian features of the shopkeeper. I asked him in Hindi, 'Where are you from?' 'Bangladesh!' He answered. I pondered over this as I boarded the train. A Bangladeshi shopkeeper in a Rome suburb speaking in Hindi.
Rome has a remarkably uncomplicated metro network, consisting of just two lines crossing each other at Termini. And a fast airport line. Two stops short of Termini, we got off the metro. Above us was the mighty Colosseum. But we’re not here for the Colosseum, that we had already seen the previous day as part of the guided tour. We headed to Capitoline Museum on the hill of the same name over a narrow lane guided by the venerable Google Maps. The narrow lane led us to the top of the hill over a grand open piazza. There was a conspicuously tall statue of an evidently Roman hero riding a horse. There were lion sculptures. We entered the massive building with shiny marble floors. Soon we realised why Roman cannot be seen even in a lifetime. Even though this museum was not as big as the Vatican Muse that we had seen the previous day, it was still massive. Artworks, sculptures, calligraphy, earthenware’s all seemed to fill gallery after gallery. The rooms were massive and very ornately painted with medieval age murals. The art section has oil paintings by nearly all the Italian masters. The fable of Romulus and founding of the city of Rome was depicted through sculptures and paintings in various halls. The Romulus twins suckling the wolf. After walking for two hours in the various galleries of the museum, we gave up. Enough for this visit, if not for this lifetime! We were tired. So we exited the museum and made our way to the Pantheon. But despite Google Maps, we got lost. We landed up in front of the massive stairs of the Altari di Patria. This massive building is a memorial for the war dead and also houses the Defence Ministry. Massive Italian flags flew over multiple grandiose structures. We stopped to catch our breath. And then again guided by the Google Maps walked to Pantheon. It had a long serpentine queue. So we decided to skip it and hunted down the nearest McDonalds. The surest way to calm the frayed nerves of a tired child is to feed him. And what easier way than McDonald's! We finished our lunch and then coaxed the kids again to walk to the Piazza Novona which was right next to the McDonalds. This large enclosed space houses multiple fountains, sculptures and is lined by cafes. It’s a typical holiday atmosphere here. There is a fountain which has got sculptures depicting seven ancient rivers, including the Ganges. We threw a coin each (a few Rappen of the Swiss francs that were now un-exchangeable for Euros) in the fountain. The square is full of people - tourists and performers and artists. Lot of painters, sketchers and photographers are there. We move on to the next stop in our itinerary. We walk the narrow cobblestoned paths led by Google Maps. On the way, we see brightly coloured buildings on both the sides. There are street sellers of knick-knacks all along. Most of them are perhaps Bangladeshis and spotting a brown skin, they speak in Hindi. There are other types of performers here on the street side. Dressed as perhaps a fakir, one person is apparently levitating ... A very clever trick ... As he has balanced his entire body through a stout stick fixed to the grounds. There are Africans who are dancing. But everyone is looking for your Euros. We have been warned that such streets are full of pickpockets. So we walk undaunted, with only a singular determination to reach Trevi Fountain. This is a massive fountain with terrific marble sculptures. If one wishes to come back to Rome, one needs to throw a coin here. Having got rid of our Swiss Francs and mindful of not giving up our precious Euros, we throw Indian Rupee coins in the fountain! We walk to the Spanish Steps. We sit on the steps soaking up the atmosphere. The harsh Midday June sun of Rome is beating down on us, but we are used to the much harsher Indian summer. This is practically the last stop in our two-week sojourn in Europe. We have travelled nearly 3000 kilometres. And today we have walked over five kilometres, two kids in tow. I guess we should be proud. We take the metro from the Spagna station, change at Termini and go to EUR Termini. A quick cab ride to the hotel and then even quicker ride to the nearby Fiumicino Airport. There are lots to see in Rome in this lifetime, hopefully, we shall have several more opportunities to come back. 
Addio Roma!
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