Author : Andreas Batsilas
Rome was definitely not built in one day, but I didn’t have more than that to spend at the eternal city. Being an architect, I have studied so many things about the capital of the roman empire, about the architecture, the materials and the construction methods, so not having visited the city, before I get my bachelor, was unacceptable for me. Last week the timing was right because I had to attend a conference at Turin and I managed to squeeze at my program 40 hours in Rome and god was I right to do this. As I am writing this article on my browser there are multiple tabs aimed to find the next available time I can revisit and spend the right amount of time in that magical city.
I arrived at Rome late in the evening so my first experience was during night time. After I left my things at the hotel I found some friends to go grab a beer and they offered to give a short night tour of the city. First stop was the temple of Hadrian and then few minutes after the Pantheon. The night view of the monuments was just amazing, I couldn’t think that they would be any better in the day. The scale of those two, especially of the Pantheon, amazed me. People say that New York is not a human scale city, but a city built thousands of years before gave me the exact same feeling, human was not the focus point of design. On our way back we passed piazza Navona which was warm and friendly even at night and Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi caught my eye for quite some time.
After a good night’s sleep and an Italian breakfast it was time to start the city rally. I already had planned my route so I walked to the metro station and headed to the Vatican museum. On my way there I had a pleasant surprise in a corner, just before the museum, lied an invader ! It seems that my favorite street artist has paid a visit to Rome. After a few minutes walking along the castle walls I arrived at the museum. It was really worth the visit, many cultures and civilizations under one roof. On the different sections of the museum you could read which Pope was responsible for gathering and housing the exhibits. The museum was hosted in a classic Vatican building that had few modern (glass and steel) additions, but the long perpendicular corridors was the basic characteristic. After some time I found myself outside Capella Sistina. You were entering from a really narrow corridor that made me question the architecture and the layout of the museum but when I entered, my mind was automatically cleared of any other thoughts, the view was dominating. After the first shock I tried to find Adam touching fingers with God. It was right on the top. I really would have appreciated the feeling of the place more, if I was alone there, but that is only for the Pope I guess. It was time to move on. Few parts of the museum were left and I skipped through them in a hurry because I felt the rush to visit St. Peter Basilica. On my way out I noticed a second spiral stair case, the first one was at the entrance. They probably have been built in different phases of the museum. Did it mean something that you had to go in and out of the museum through a spiral stair? Maybe the way to heavens above is meant to be spiral.
After a couple of minutes walking I made it to saint Peter Cathedral. I walked around the square, where thousands of people gather to pay respect to the Pope, for some minutes and then it was time to head to the Basilica. Again, the scale was not human. Huge columns and a level of detail that was almost intimidating to the visitor. I didn’t have more than couple of minutes and I decided I should head outside. I had to follow the axis of the street to reach Castel Saint Angelo. there was a huge Christmas tree at the Vatican square I didn’t notice before, maybe I was way too focused at the basilica and trying to locate the three different architects of the complex.
It was about to rain so I decided to just get a glimpse outside of the Castle and move on to my personal favorite monument of the Roman empire, The Pantheon. On my way there I had to cross the river from St. Angelo bridge, another of Hadrian’s creations. The marble facade, the three big arches and the numerous sculptures caught my eye and had me looking for some time. It is so well preserved through the ages, Hadrian left his stamp forever. Piazza Navona was close to Pantheon so I paid a visit to get the feeling during the day time. The experience was different, the place seemed to be so alive , and the fountain for a strange reason was even more exiting during the day time and stood out so much better.
It was finally time for the monument that has been such a great inspiration for many architects around the world. It was time to visit the biggest achievement of Roman architecture and the jewel of Hadrian. The temple was built as a reminder of a great naval victory of the roman fleet and also to honor all the roman gods. The emperor, that is supposed to be the architect also, wanted to make the biggest dome in history, and with the help of Roman concrete and couple of techniques that aimed to lighten the structure he made that possible. Pantheon’s dome is the biggest dome without reinforced steel made in human history. The top has a hole aimed to lighten the structure even more and the roof is the first “Zoellner slab” in history. Massive and impressive, I imagine that when a roman, who has not seen any high-rise and steel buildings, visited the place at the time, would be intimidated and a feeling of fear for the empire would conquer him. When I went outside the rain had already started. I practically run to Hadrian temple just to see the place from outside. I had to find time for piazza Venezia, Colosseum and the Agora.
I was already soaked to the bone so I could not spent more than couple of minutes to each site. I tried to locate the place where Mussolini gave the famous speech that cause massive bloodshed in Europe. Really a dark time for Italy. And then it was time to see the so called ugliest building in the city. Vittorio Emanuele Monument, a huge structure made only from marble. Time was not something I had so I can’t say I have formed an opinion towards that. I started running once again. It was raining cats and dogs. I remember only noticing the roman concrete and few arches at the Agora. Colosseum was been renovated, so most of the building was covered. I had to grab the metro and go to dry-up at the hotel. I couldn’t help but wonder how does this city even have metro. In Thessaloniki everywhere they try to dig the find a remnant of the civilizations past, imagine in Rome how hard it would be to find a route that is able to serve the tourists and public needs but also not have to destroy a monument hidden underneath.
At the hotel I tried to estimate my walking distance, it was close to 15 kilometers. I had a quick shower and a 30minute nap. the rain had stopped. It was time again to go out. Near to my place was Quattro Fontane. I was unlucky again though, all the fountains were covered up for renovation. I entered the church and spent couple of minutes there. I had to go meet my friends again, they would show me around the Politecnico of Rome. Again I headed to the metro and stopped at Colosseum station. But I had arrived earlier at the place. I decided to take a walk to the river, I strongly believed there would be more than many places to visit in my way there and I was so right! The thing that stood out the most was a Castle in between the river banks. I was late. When I arrived at the metro station of Colosseum I was told that the school is really close, but I would have never imagined though, that classes have view of the monument! I was excited once again! After that we went to a pizzeria, tasted some true Italian flavors and unfortunately it was time to go sleep since I had at 4:00 a.m. train to Turin.
Turin was great, but the taste of Rome was still fresh and I could not be excited any more by a city. In Rome, even when I got lost there was a monument or a church to visit, at any place. No wonder why they call the city a live museum. The idea to visit a city for only few hours is not flawless, but you get a taste of the city. For Rome a day, dare I to say a week, is not enough but I really enjoyed my stay and I believe I am full of new experiences and images. Visiting a city as a transit for a final destination is something that I would definitely do again!
Till the next time.
About this Author : Andreas Batsilas