I’ve been trawling the memory bank as well as the photograph albums for this one since I saw the topic listed on the #BEDM calendar. I realised that I turned 13 in October of 1999, meaning that the majority of my first teenage year fell neatly alongside the turn of the new millennium- giving me a nice point of reference to remember what happened when I was thirteen. Trip to the Millennium Dome, anyone?
I travelled quite a lot in 2000, it would seem. Not only did I spend my fourteenth birthday on Rhodes, but I had already travelled to Rome, Egypt and a host of other Greek Islands by then- thanks for the travel Mum and Dad! I came across this photograph in a memory album my sister (left, below) made me for my 21st birthday (which thankfully contains relatively few photos of my awkward teenage years) and it sparked off an idea for this post.
That’s my lovely sister, Millie, and I on the tiny balcony of the flat we were staying in when we visited Rome in January 2000. We were lucky enough to stay with my Mum’s Australian god-daughter, and my second-cousin-once-removed, Delia when she and her then boyfriend now husband Mark lived right in the centre of Rome. From what I remember, her apartment was a short stroll from Piazza Navona and with an amazing Gelateria en route. My over-riding memory of this trip is somehow managing to accidentally time a trip to the Vatican with epiphany. Millennium epiphany. Needless to say, we were a little bemused strolling into St Peter’s Square which was filled to the brim with people, but once the penny dropped and we made the connection, we decided to hang around for a while, and saw Il Papa drive past in his pope-mobile. Not something you see everyday.
Whilst I have been to Rome, pretty much since I was at university I’ve felt that now I have more of an understanding of Roman architecture, I would like to go back as an adult and see the sights properly, so here’s a whistle-stop tour of my then and now Roma hit list.
I have quite a vivid memory of my sister and I posing for a photograph by the Barcaccia at the bottom of the Spanish Steps, but this isn’t really a memory connected to the steps at all, but I remember it because we then went on to visit a labyrinth of a stationery shop somewhere close by. At thirteen, I was (and still am) a real stationery junkie and couldn’t wait to take home an armful of new notebooks and other treats. Actually, I do this on pretty much all foreign trips- I’ve lost count of the number of Agatha Ruiz Della Prada notebooks from Mallorca that I built up- just give me a nice quality, square printed paper and I am there. In this particular instance, I remember a whole range of coloured, squared paper notebooks with different coloured vegetables corresponding to the colour of pad- pink pepper, green tomato etc. I chose an A5 yellow aubergine number, which I actually found the other day with its last few pages intact.
I would like to plan a tour of stationery shops in the city. The Italians do beautiful notebooks like no other, and I’ve got a beautiful, leather, hand-bound sketchbook that the boyfriend bought me from Venice that I am just too scared to use as the book is so beautiful. Il Papiro sounds a must-visit stop on my stationery tour though.
Whilst we didn’t go in, I do remember walking past a couple of times and I really vividly remember cats. Lots of cats. I think someone fed a lot of leftover pasta somewhere around the Colosseum outskirts, and the local feral cat population went crazy for it. Seriously, the cats were everywhere!
Although I would also like to see the cats, if they are still there, I would really love to go back and actually visit the Colosseum properly. I don’t think I can appreciate the scale or the age of this stadium until I am there in person. The main building was completed in 80AD. 80! This thing is not far off two millennia in age and it is pretty much still standing. I just find it amazing how developed the Romans really were, and how incredible it is that the skills they had were lost for so long after the fall of the Roman emperor.
I remember going in (I think it may even have been raining at the time), walking round, looking at some of the periphery sculptures, looking up and thinking, ‘that’s interesting- the roof has a hole in it’. Teenagers have an interesting thought process. I’m pretty embarrassed to admit this, but I really do remember that there was a jewellery shop quite close by that reminded me a little of an Italian Accessorize. Tragic that I remember that shop more than a true masterpiece of structural engineering.
I studied this building in detail for a project at uni, and it really is proof of how incredible the Romans really were. This is a little more recent than the Colosseum given that it was completed in 125AD, but still positively ancient in real terms. The Romans invented concrete, something that we didn’t manage to resurrect until 1756. I think you can see from the section above that the roof is a perfect half sphere, something very rarely seen in a dome. Not only this, but there is a spherical hole or oculus at the top of the dome- a real structural difficulty-and the rest of the building is proportional. If you mirrored that dome, the other half would fit perfectly within the other half of the building. Amazingly, the Romans made the roof out of poured concrete which was completely un-reinforced. They managed to do this, through changing aggregates through the pouring- heavy at the bottom, light at the top- as well as by using ceramic vases within the concrete towards the oculus to reduce the weight. Truly, truly incredible. I suppose they did also have slaves to build it for them. This was also the largest dome ever built until 1436, and still is the largest non-reinforced concrete dome. Sorry if you don’t find the structural blurb interesting, but think it is an absolute wonder!
I’m a little embarrassed to admit I don’t really remember the fountain at all. I seem to recall that we stopped by for a photo, and to throw in a coin and make a wish, but don’t remember anything definite which is a shame.
As well as visiting the famous fountain, I’d like to time my visit with the fruit and vegetable market in Piazza di Trevi to pick up some fresh fruit and veggies. As with stationery shops, I love to visit foreign markets (or markets of any kind really) and this one looks perfect. An excuse to brush on my non-existent Italian too!
I really vividly remember going somewhere (I think just off Piazza Campo dei Fiori) with this amazing forced perspective garden. I’ve tried searching online and can’t seem to find anything about it, but I remember that visit well, and if you come across something that sounds like this, it was well worth a visit.
I also remember the umbrella sellers. As soon as a drop of rain hit the pavement, out they would come by the bucket load trying to sell their wares to unsuspecting tourists!
I remember eating a lot of gelato even though it was January, and I seem to remember that the Cherry Dolce Latte flavour (think extra creamy cherry ripple, mmm) from a Gelateria which I think was just off Piazza dei Fiori. I don’t recall the name but if I go back to Rome, I am straight at the front of the queue for another gelato. The Italians know their ice cream. On a foodie note, I do really remember Delia’s cooking. We had a delicious cooked fennel recipe, which was the first time I’d eaten fennel that wasn’t raw, and also a really simple pasta dish with lots of garlic, basil and fried cherry tomatoes- yum. I’ll have to try that recipe out with the bowl of cherry toms sitting in my kitchen.
Inspired by a quick root through the Lonely Planet online guide to Rome, I seriously want to stroll around the streets of Trastevere. LP’s article tells me that this is a charming medieval neighbourhood with a fiery temperament. From the photograph below, it reminds me so much of scenes towards the end of Fellini’s Roma, and for that reason alone I would like to go. My favourite parts of visiting Venice were wandering around non-tourist neighbourhoods near the Biennale grounds, and I would love to explore Trastevere at a similar leisurely pace. To be honest, the LP guide to A perfect day in Trastevere sounds just that- perfect.
I would also rather like to spot one of these:
Not forgetting the Roman Architecture. I would love to visit this city for that reason alone. Just walking around, the beauty of every building was just not appreciated by the thirteen year old me. I love the age of this city and the slightly scruffy edge some of the streets have, but it seems such a characterful city, that just exploring it on foot would satisfy my curiosity, not even with a plan in mind other than an amble, a stop for a cup of espresso and lots of photographs. People watching from an outside table with a glass of wine would also be a pretty ideal pastime for me.
Finally, I would really like to visit the Vatican on a day when the square is less full, and there is time to explore the museums. This staircase alone looks reason enough for a visit:
I’ve well and truly given myself the travel bug here and I suspect that I may need to return to Rome in the not too distant future. Food and architecture seem to be the trip themes. I’m not sure I really want to admit to this (and I will freely admit that Dan Brown is no literary genius) but I was really quite captured by Angels and Demons, so perhaps a few visits to the featured churches wouldn’t go amiss either!
Image credits are all linked- click each image for the source.
This post represents day twenty two of Blog Every Day in May #BEDM with Rosalilium