La-Dolce-Vita (part IV) – Of Ruins and Roma

The most wondrous and the greatest Italian city  is by far Rome. It was certainly not built in a day, not commissioned by one emperor and certainly not envisioned by one architect. All roads lead to Rome the say, it’s hard to imagine why not. Our road led to Rome as I sat transfixed taking in the architecture piece by piece from the fringes to the centre. The architecture of Rome as is their art is impeccable, it speaks of Vinci’s proportions, stone by stone. There is enough, the scale, the proportions, the illusions, enough to take one’s breath away, at every turn, at every cross.

Like in Paris none of the streets cross perpendicularly, I wonder why? Heading right into Rome, into the city centre one stumbles into the Trevi fountain. The fountain is one of the examples of the very Roman feature of the “Aquaduct”. Water was carried through this Acqua Vergine into the Baths of Agrippa for about 400 years. The Trevi Fountain is an end to the aquaduct, a practice that the Romans employed for all their aquaducts. Its just that this fountain is the grandest, and whats better it grants three wishes. For a price ofcourse. Throw a coin into the clear pool of water from your right hand and over your left shoulder. One for coming back to Rome, one for luck and one for love. I threw mine earnestly. The crowd at the fountain are not baffling, nor are the cents, pence, paisas, that rest on the base of the cryctal clear water. The fountain is sparkling just like the water. The Trevi fountain I just realised was only a brief of what was to follow.

The Romans are a different set of people. Very different from their Italian counterparts. *wink*

The trees that flank the streets are called umbrella pines. And clearly thats beacause the pines are shaped to look like umbrellas. They make for pretty foregrounds with the Roman Ruins in the back. No matter where in Rome one is sure to bump into a sprinkle of ruins here and there. The ancient buildings seem so natural in the Roman settings and the the air so sublime, that it spells bounds the viewer as the city narrates a tale. Remus and Romanus two brothers were set to sail as infants in a basket by their father who feared that like said in their fate, they would turn quarrelsome, and split the empire. Found and raised by a sheppard, they grew up only to seal their fate. Together they built the city of Rome, sculpture by sculpture and paver by paver, yet they fought. Romanus killed Remus and named the city after himself. Someone once said that well-behaved people hardly make history. The statement clearly fits the bill here.

Rome is located on the River Tiber and encircles the holy city-state of the Vatican. The seat of Catholic power, the home of the Pope and the host to the most incredible square in the world. Though named such the St Peters Square that hosts the Pope, the Basilica and the Catholic greats is not a square. It is infact an oval. The Basilica on the east is much like the usual Basilicas except for the fact that its much larger, much grander and houses the greatest talents that any building could have ever boasted of. Bernini envisioned and drew the plans, the construction process passed through several other hands before reaching Michelangelo. Who then finished the dome, and painted the Sistine Chapel. The Swiss guards, guard the compound in 1 hr shifts. Their dressing reminded me of jokers in a circus, but they should straight and still, valiant and strong. The Pope gets nothing but the best I gather. Inside the Basilica among all other Pope’s lay the Pope John Paul II waiting to attain sainthood. The church is a display of the greatest Baroque art on its ceiling. Adorned with the usual Rose windows, they let in light and fill the place with Godliness.

After our religious encounters it was time to see what Rome was all about. The Colosseum. If you ever get past the numerous ruins of the citadel the shopping quarters, the commercial quarters and the old streets you walk into the Wonder called the Colosseum. While all the other ruins stand half-sunk into the ground, the Colosseum stands on the ground. Two earthquakes have dismembered the building quite a bit but even with whats left of it, it takes the cake. All of it. Romans loved to watch fights when they were not fighting I gathered. The complex structure of the Colosseum in its underground channels is exciting. Well I must say if wasnt for the motion picture, Gladiator I wouldve have so completely been blown over by visiting the Colosseum. In this age, we had to make do with costumed warriors who took victory pictures with us and gladly accepted a sum, that was a bomb! Its hard for me to believe that the Colosseum was once covered in white Carrara Marble. Its better this way I think. Atleast its mystyfying if not elusive. The large iron clamps that held the marble onto the stone and brick structure were removed making deep holes in the building. But the Colosseum as it stands today is warm, inspiring and gratifying. It doesnt speak of riches, nor does it speak of rags. Its simply above all that. Thats all.

The Colosseum is flanked by an Arc, it certainly was the father of the Arc de Triumph and the India-Gate as the resemblence is uncanny. The cobbled streets are very wide, considering the century they were built in. Ahead of the Arc is a hill. Rome is a city built on seven hills. The hill by the Colosseum is the most important one, the Palatine hill, from where Roma had her humble beginnings.

Finally for the architects, art-lovers I have one suggestion. The pantheon. Dont go by the surface. This building, the temple to the Gods, has been my personal favorite in Rome. It is the most perfectly proportioned building. Proportioned not with the human scale in mind, but the scale of God. Think of all the basic shapes we were taught in architecture school? Well they are all found here, in perfect balance and order. Unfortunately it hasnt been conserved in the most deserved manner, but it showcases a peak, in the world of architecture. Built by Hadrian in 126 AD it is old, 43.3 m tall and round. With an occulus of light and a dome to match it is inspiring. Centuries old, this building, piece of architecture does not tell a tale, unlike its contemporaries, it sings an epic.

Many centuries later one thing about Rome is the Vespa and the other thing is the movie the Roman Holiday. Both do great justice to this delible city. Youve got to drive a Vespa and watch Ms Hepburn atleast once to truly delect this city. With a scalding nose and burnt hair I suggest a scarf and sunblock in addition. Lest Roma turns you into what the painters call, burnt sienna.


  1. Rome sounds fantastic for an archtect. Travel writings in its full form…must say you do have an alternate career option!!!!


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