|The Temple of Antonius and Faustina, part of the Roman Forum|
From our base in Soriano Nel Cimino, Suzanne and her family and Bill and I took the bus to Orte (16 minutes) and then the train to Rome (1 hour 10 minutes). The bus was full of high school students going to school, and the train packed with people traveling to work in the city. Bill and I were flying to Spain the following day, so we had our luggage with us. Mine became my seat from which I pondered about the birthplace of Western civilization. We quickly deposited our luggage at our hotel and walked to Rome’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
|the Trajan Forum, beside the Roman Forum|
Rome is the capital of Italy and with 2.9 million residents (4.3 million in the metropolitan area), the country's largest and most populated comune. Roman mythology dates the founding of the city to 753 BC. After the fall of the Empire and the beginning of the Middle Ages, Rome slowly fell under the political control of the Papacy until 1870. Almost all the popes focused on making it the world's cultural center, creating masterpieces throughout the city. Rome became a center of the Renaissance.
|Basilica di Santa Matia Maggiore|
Both Bill and I had been to Rome before when we focused on the glory of the Vatican. During this visit, Suzanne led us to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. It is a Papal Major Basilica, only five blocks southwest of Stazione Termini where our hotel was located. It is within the Italian territory but is owned by the Holy See, one of only five that hold the title of "major basilica", like St. Peter's plus the title of "Papal Basilica." It is one of the traditional Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome.
|mosaic on triumphal arch|
|Pope Sixtus V's wax body|
The fifth-century mosaics of the triumphal arch and nave are incredibly beautiful and feature one of the oldest representations of the Virgin Mary in Christian Late Antiquity. They became the definition of impressionistic art during the period, also providing a model for future depictions of the Blessed Mother. Six Popes and two Saints are buried in the Basilica: Pope Clement VIII, Pope Honorius III, Pope Clement IX, Saint Jerome, Pope Nicholas IV, Saint Pope Pius V, and Pope Sixtus V.
|where Caesar was publicly burned at the Roman Forum|
Rome has the status of a global city, the 18th-most-visited city in the world, and the 3rd most visited in the European Union. One of the most visited attractions is the Roman Forum, a rectangular plaza between the Palatine and Capitoline Hills. For centuries, it was the venue for triumphal processions, public speeches, and criminal trials. In 44 BC, perhaps the most famous event ever to transpire there was Marc Antony's funeral oration for Caesar (immortalized in Shakespeare's famous play) and the public burning of Caesar's body. The Temple to the Deified Caesar was subsequently built on the site.
|the grandeur of the Colosseum inside|
|Bill, outside the Colosseum|
Other important ancient government buildings surround the Forum; the Colosseum is just to the east. Built of concrete and stone, it is still the largest amphitheater in the world, one of the greatest works of architecture and engineering. Construction was in two decades, beginning in 72 AD under the Flavian Dynasty of Vespasian, Titus, and Domitian. It is estimated that the Colosseum could hold between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators. It was used for gladiatorial contests and other public spectacles re-enacting dramas of Classical mythology. We saw a huge cross and people with crosses; the Colosseum will be the start of the Pope's annual "Way of the Cross" on Good Friday.
|Arch of Constantine as seen from the Colosseum|
Between the Colosseum and the Palatine Hill is the triumphal Arch of Constantine, erected by the Roman Senate to commemorate Constantine I's victory over Maxentius in 312. It spans the Via Triumphalis, the way taken by the emperors when they entered the city in triumph. To the west of the Forum are other Forums, like the Trajan Forum and the marketplace, and other important ancient buildings. The National Monument to Victor Emmanuel II occupies a site between the Piazza Venezia and the Capitoline Hill. It is a monument built in honor of the first king of a unified Italy, completed in 1925.
|the Marketplace, part of the Trajan Forum|
|National Monument to Emmanuel|
Of course, we had a hearty Italian lunch and threw in gelatos and pizzas for snacks, too, completing the whole splendid experience! At the end of a glorious day, Suzanne and her family took the train back to Soriano Nel Cimino. Bill and I walked back to our hotel, encountering the statue of Pope Paul II near the Spanish Steps and the Stazione Termini. A rainbow was shining over it, eclipsing the controversy of its being placed in a not so edifying place. We then relished our last Italian meal and rested for the night. It was all we could fit into a day, but it was a good peek at the glory that was Rome.
|the controversial statue of Pope John Paul II|