“Andiamo, andiamo, dai!” (“Come on, come on, let´s go“) A cacophony of sounds bombards your senses. There are roars, shrieks, human yells. The strong and sweet scent of sweat jostles you out of your floating state. All around you, you can taste, hear, and feel the essence of adrenaline, urgency, and danger – intermingled with a kinda cruel notion of fun that many in these years of Roman glory and Roman power are accustomed to. This IS the Colosseo, after all, the largest ancient amphitheater ever created, built on the blood, sweat, and tears of Roman Empire slaves between the years 72 and 80 AD.
But back to this frozen moment in time, in which you, yes you, are merging with history by becoming a part of it. All of you is prepared: from your dust-covered feet in those itchy sandals to your intimidatingly shiny silver armor, your wrapped leather and cloth strips over your arms and wrists, to your dark, tightly curled hair and your fiery eyes. You are fully aware of the fact that you could easily die here. But you would at least die for honor, and with bravery- what more could an intimidatingly strong and well-built gladiator like yourself want? Apart from, obviously, freedom and at least one decently sized and delicious “gelato”, ice-cream, at pretty-picturesque Piazza Navona in that world´s best gelateria that you had heard so much about…
The Eternal City cloaks itself in images of artistic divinity and endless stories of passion, compassion, and cruelty, just like the one you just caught glimpses of by morphing into a striking gladiator of days long past. Rome is haunted by tales of human trials and human errors, and by memories of fascinating individuals such as the many valiant gladiators, who were usually slaves brought in from outside of Italy but who stemmed from within the borders of the Roman Empire. These braver-than-brave humans fought for their lives and the amusement of the masses in the Colloseo, which remains one of the iconic symbols of Imperial Rome up to this day.
Through its many neighborhoods, its hidden alleyways, charming piazzas, and its small and big and holy churches, Rome quietly tells the tales of its myriad of former citizens whose legacy remains buried in the forgotten part of its history. And through its imposing architectural feats, like the Pantheon, the Castel Sant´Angelo, or the imposing St. Peter´s Basilica, it reminds everyone blessed enough to lay eyes on Rome´s glory of its undeniable importance in world – and art history. From legendary emperors such as Marcus Aurelius to the crème de la crème of art-defining creative mavericks such as Michelangelo, Rome is like an oasis to the Spirit of those who yearn for endless inspiration and passion.
It´s a place that immediately lures you in, a place that makes you feel alive- deeply, undeniably, passionately alive! To hear the honking of the Vespas, to feel the warm sunshine on your skin, to see and observe people who seem to have emerged straight out of Aphrodite´s drawing book of immaculate beauty adorning the streets, their gazes briefly merging with yours – to lose yourself in a maze of impossible artistic magnificence, of ethereal and eternally live-giving aesthetics unsurpassed by any other city in the world.
The eternal city truly touches visitors in a way no other place can – or at least that´s what Bella Roma did for me, when I spent a month there back in 2007 to visit friends and to take part in a fantastic two-week- Italian language course in Rome. Those weeks filled my veins with so much ispirazione meravigliosa (marvellous inspiration) that I cannot help but turn to these memories whenever I need to recharge my in-awe-with-life-batteries. I recall contently meandering through Rome´s art-filled streets at night and almost being able to feel the presence of Venus aka Aphrodite incarnate in the air. The Roman counterpart to the Greek goddess Aphrodite, who symbolizes love, passion, procreation, beauty, and pleasure, seems to be palpable wherever you find yourself in Italy´s capital.
You´ll catch a glimpse of her when strolling through impossibly charming, funky and bohemian Trastevere and admire the countless trattorias and artisan shops in the neighborhood. You´ll encounter Aphrodite by exchanging glances with the impossibly stylish Roman ragazzi e ragazze, all of whom seem to ooze sensuality and a sense of composed pride, as if they were very aware of how intricately the fabric of this exceptional place is woven into the very depth of their being.
You´ll most definitely feel touched by Aphrodite´s eternal beauty while eating yourself through heavenly dishes such as supplì, a fried rice-ball mixed with ragù and mozzarella and cooked to perfection or artichokes alla romana, braised artichokes stuffed with herbs and sprinkled with lemon. These might just be the only artichokes that know how to caress your palate and that subsequently melt in your mouth like little forbidden bites of heaven. Also, of course, try all different types of Pizza available – I promise, you´ll never want to go back to eating frozen Pizzas from your local supermarket aisle ever again!
And let me just chip in from my personal experience – I still recall the sheer mind-blowingly delicious taste of a humble Roman panini from my first visit to Rome 19 years later on! Yes, that´s how mind-boggingly exquisite Italian food in Italy is! Sigh, Sigh, Sigh.
By the way, you´ll also feel Aphrodite´s gentle a-muse-ment when taking in the sublime art and architecture of the city – from Bernini´s statue “Apollo and Daphne” in the Galleria Borghese to Michelangelo´s Moses in the Basilicia di San Pietro in Vincoli. And those are only a few of countless priceless pieces of art in this city that literally breathes and exemplifies classical art in its many forms: from paintings and sculptures to frescoes, architecture and food-art.
Wait! Aphrodite just whispered something into my ear… she has a beautiful message and announcement for you! Yes, just you! – She wants you to know that there will be another post on Rome´s delights in the future and that there is a special treat in the works for all the ladies who would like to reclaim their inner Goddess! What about that?
A Gypsy at Heart will be offering a 6-week- Goddess Yoga + Healing arts course for women on Saturdays starting in about a month´s time (specific date to be announced)! Feel free to let me know in the comments if you would like to participate or would like to have more information on this, ladies:)
Back to you, dear reader: Have you ever been to Rome, and if so, what were your absolute highlights? As always, I would love to hear from you:) A presto, cari amici!