When in Rome
Caitlyn Callahan (Kent State University)
Me standing in front of the Colosseum
I’ve known and learned about Rome and the ancient Romans for many of the years I’ve been in school. Never did I imagine I would one day be standing in Rome, looking up at the Colosseum, tossing a coin in the Trevi Fountain, entering the Pantheon or being mesmerized by the ancient sculpture and architecture that littered the city.
Last weekend for a trip with school, all of that happened. After spending Friday doing tours for our class, we woke up Saturday to meet our Italian Art professor to take a trip to the smallest independent state in the world, the Vatican.
Saint Peter’s Square and Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City
Vatican City is about 110 acres and home to around 800 people. We were a part of history last weekend as we visited the Vatican the day after Pope Benedict XVI resigned, the second time in history and the first time in more than 700 years. Although there wasn’t much of a difference, besides the huge structures housing news crews and cameras, it was still strange to be in the city during such a historical time.
The Vatican Museum is home to many ancient sculptures and works of art, however the best and my favorite is the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is known for the artwork on the ceiling, done by Michelangelo around 1510. Running along the center of the ceiling are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis. Upon entering the chapel, it was difficult to hold back a tear, and I couldn’t believe I was staring up at what I believe is the greatest piece of artwork known to man. The colors and detail of the paintings are incredible, and it is a must-see for visitors of Rome.
After visiting the Vatican Museum, we wandered through Saint Peter’s square and into Saint Peter’s Basilica, not realizing how massive the church was. Two football fields could be fit inside the nave. The Basilica housed my favorite sculpture, the Pieta by Michelangelo, and more importantly the tomb of Saint Peter. Thousands flock to Saint Peter’s to pray before his tomb, which several years ago were proven to be Saint Peter’s actual remains. Above his tomb stands a baldachin, created by Lorenzo Bernini in 1623, that is 66 feet high and is made of bronze.
Inside of the Colosseum
The Colosseum, another of Rome’s most famous places, was built in 70 AD. At 188 meters long and 156 meters wide, it could hold 55,000 spectators who would gather to watch the gladiators fight. The gladiators would fight to the death with other gladiators or vicious animals while the city of Rome watched, and it was a regular happening in ancient times.
Today, visitors can view both the outside and the inside of the Colosseum for around 10 euro. Standing inside, where ancient Romans sat and watched these fights, was breathtaking. The fact that the building is still standing after thousands of years is such an accomplishment in itself, while climbing the stairs the ancient Romans built and climbed and looking out over the central fighting area like they once did, it was difficult for me to wrap my head around.
The Roman Forum
With the ticket to the Colosseum, visitors can also access the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The Roman Forum was the central area of the city that Rome was developed around. Today, pieces of architecture can be seen, some still standing, including the Arch of Titus, Temple of Saturn, Temple of Vesta, as well as other sculptures and architecture. Palatine Hill is another area with ancient ruins.
The Pantheon is another structure that is still standing even though it was built in the 100s AD. Today architects still model buildings after the façade of the Pantheon, and the dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, standing at 142 feet high. The Pantheon is still used today as a place of worship, and although it has been redecorated, there are still parts of the ancient Roman decorations that stand untouched.
The Trevi Fountain, standing 86 feet high and 161 feet wide, is another popular spot for tourists and also several movies. The fountain spot was found in 19 BC when Romans located a source to pure water. In 1629, Pope Urban VIII decided to renovate the project, although it wasn’t finished until the 1760s after the project was taken over by Pope Clement XII. The subject of the fountain is “Taming of the Waters,” and although the water in the fountain is re-circulated, it is said that any natural flowing water in Rome is as fresh as it gets.
My roommates and I tossing coins into the Trevi Fountain
Legend holds that if visitors toss a coin in the fountain, they will be sure to return to Rome. Some believe that throwing a coin will grant a wish. More than 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain every day, and the money has been used to create a supermarket for needy families in Rome.
Even with three days in Rome, my roommates and I did not have enough time to see everything we wanted to and we are going to try to schedule another trip back. The history, architecture and beauty of the city are too much to see in a few days, but definitely something that has to be done in one’s lifetime. Yet another trip during this study abroad experience that seems to have been a dream.