Having cracked that one a millionth time, lets go to Rome. The Rome of antiquity is buried deep below the city, what we see as the ground level lies above not bare grounds but pillars, columns and terraces of old city. Rome’s history can be defined in five parts – soon after founding of city by Romulus and Remus, as per the legend to 37 BC it remained a republic. Augustus brought the empire in being in 37 BC which lasted in 5th century AD by after Sack of Rome and subsequent decline. It lost its stature to Constantinople, which was made Capital when power shifted east. From 5th century onwards control over Rome shifted between Byzantine and Germans. This whole period was the worst for Rome, population declined from 500,000 in 3rd Century AD to about 40,000 in early middle ages. Continuous flood and declining power & wealth left city in shambles.
Martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul, both were identified to Mons Vaticanus and that has made the place important for Christianity. Though during Roman rule Christianity could not set foot, with Byzantium succession it became legal and later withdrawal of Byzantium control, handed the power of city over to Bishop of Rome, The Pope. Rome once again rose as a capital, this time of Christianity. In later 15th century, the centre of renaissance shifted to Rome from Florence.<
There are two major monuments of early roman era still on ground level in their full majesty, the Colosseum and the Pantheon. In the areas nearby excavations have been done and we see more of the earlier city discovered. Walking through streets of Rome one can see many monuments, fountains and Villas which belong to early renaissance and later period. Most of it famously attributed to Bernini, the founding father of famous Baroque style. Rome has always been a centre of great artist and all of them saw the city as their canvas. Walking about the city you would realize there is a common Scenography on which all monuments are built, as if someone was setting characters on the stage.
Crossing the Tiber with second century foot bridge Pont Saint Angelo, one reaches the Castle of Saint Angelo (earlier a mausoleum, converted in to castle by papacy as a protection measure). Walk left to reach another state within a state, Vatican City. While walking on your right you could see a wall running parallel to street, it might look like an aqueduct, but it actually served as a secret passageway to the castle to frisk away pope in case of attacks. The basilica of St. Peter, the current building is built over the old basilica built by the order of Constantine and Pope Paul. The Plaza is beautifully designed by Bernini in a form which looks to be embracing all the people. The Cupola is the last work commissioned by Michelangelo. One can buy a ticket to inside the Sistine Chapel and Vatican museum. Entry inside the Basilica is free; one can also go to a part of Vatican Grotto.
And since we are talking about Vatican, how do you make holy water? I spare you the try and take a go myself; Take water, and blow the hell out of it!
If you are with a lot of Stamina and in lot of rush, a couple of days spent walking a lot around the city can be enough to see the city. There are free walking tours starting from Piazza De Spagna. At 10 AM starts the Vatican tour and at 4 PM Colosseum and Early Rome tour. When you are in Rome, you must try Gelato and Pizza. There are a lot of food places all over. Avoid eating close to any major touristic place – they are expensive and use trick sell strategy. On that, see below.
There are many hostels and hotels near station – they are slightly cheaper than those in the city. My stay was a three bedroom apartment converted in to a hostel apartment with common area having a fully functioning kitchen and dining room with TV, fridge, computer, vending machine and unlimited supply of free tea and coffee. It was just five minutes’ walk from railway station.
11:45 AM – Pisa Central (Italy) – R 2339 to Roma Termini (Italy) at 03:42 PM
Trick Sell near Trevi Fountain:
Around the time for dinner I was stopped by a restaurant waiter offering a menu deal – A pizza and a drink for €8. It is common in here to be stopped by men from food joints on street asking you to come in. It seemed a good deal for me so I settled down in the restaurant, and since it was a fixed menu I was not needed to look through the menu & order. They immediately made a receipt of €8 and put it on my table. When the time came to serve, they asked for my choice of drink – sparkling water or still water. Apparently those were the only options I had. When the time came to pay, they made another receipt of €10 and gave it to me, saying €2 is their service charge. This was mentioned in fine prints on the last page of their menu card, which I never saw since I was ordering a fixed menu mentioned on a poster put on the walls. Later walking back I noticed a lot of places explicitly mentioning that they don’t have any hidden charges, which affirms that hidden service charge is a common trick they play. The same meal or better would not cost more than €6 near railway station.