“Seule Paris est digne de Rome; seule Rome est digne de Paris.”
“Solo Parigi è degna di Roma; solo Roma è degna di Parigi.”
“Only Paris is worthy of Rome; only Rome is worthy of Paris.”
That’s quite a bold thing to say. Paris and Rome are reciprocally and EXCLUSIVELY twinned to each other, meaning each city has no other twin cities (there are still “sister” cities and friendship cities). Voilà, after Venice, Rome was next on the list as my dad and I continued our Italian holiday. So Rome, huh. Aside from Paris, Rome is probably considered the other “big shot” in European travel. Yet, after my experiences with Paris and other big, popular cities like Amsterdam, I honestly didn’t hold much high expectation for Rome, though I did give it the benefit of the doubt seeing that I loved the other Italian cities I’ve visited so far. We’ll see if Rome is really that “worthy” of Paris…
Dad and I arrived in Rome as the sun was setting, and after having settled down in the hotel, we set out for a leisurely stroll. The purpose was to get an overall orientation of the city and to figure out where we were with respect to the places we planned to see. It seemed like Rome was quite compact and we’d be able to walk everywhere. The first destination was the Colosseum, which was a mere 20-minute walk from Termini station in the city centre. The Colosseum was accompanied by a beautiful full moon that night. Of course, it was too late to go inside – that would be for another day. I’m gonna go ahead and say that the Colosseum didn’t seem TOO impressive upon first look, but I liked the way that it stood quietly there and didn’t scream for attention…*ahem* Paris. I’m totally going to get hated for being a “Paris-hater”…
So this is what the Colosseum, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looks like on the inside. It’s actually quite hard to believe (and quite impressive if it’s really true) that 50000 people could fit into the arena during the ancient times to see spectacles like animal battles and executions. It’s a beast of an architectural work and amazing that it was preserved till today, almost 2000 years after it was built.
Dad and I headed to the Spanish Steps, which were apparently made famous after their appearance in the film Roman Holidays which I have yet to watch. (Yes yes I know, how could I not have seen such a classic? I have already dodged many bullets from friends after telling them I haven’t watched it.) I’ve previously seen photos of the Spanish Steps overcrowded with people sitting on the stairs but this winter morning, there were few tourists. And the weather continues to be gorgeous 😉
From the Spanish Steps dad and I walked slowly west, across the Tiber river to the left bank towards…Vatican City! The walk took about 40 minutes and soon we were in the heart of the smallest independent state in the world. We first headed to the Vatican Museum which was…HUGE! Browsing through the large collection obtained by the Roman Catholic Church over the years, I almost felt like I was in the Louvre again, navigating through an intricate network of display halls and rooms. Works on exhibit include ancient artifacts from places all over the world, paintings, sculptures, carpet art, and of course, the Sistine Chapel. Photography was prohibited inside the Sistine Chapel, where two famous paintings by Michelangelo (The Creation of Adam and The Last Judgment) are housed.
Here we are at St. Peter’s square, right in the heart of the papal state. It was about a week before Christmas, and Vatican was getting ready for its Christmas mass.
The line to enter St. Peter’s Basilica was surprisingly short; my dad and I got to the entrance after waiting for about 15 minutes. Here, inside the most famous Catholic church in the world, holiness, solemnity, and serenity surrounded us. My dad wondered why all Catholic churches had such glamourous interiors with such high ceilings and why some were in the shape of domes while others (the Gothic ones) were narrow and sharp. Was it because that was how people imagined heaven to be like? Was it because the seemingly infinite height represented ascent into the clouds, into heaven?
Sometimes being in the right place at the right time coincidentally yields interesting results. The sun was shining at just the perfect angle to cast shadows of the statues on top of the colonnades in the St. Peter’s square onto the buildings on the opposite side. Exquisite 🙂
Right next to the Tiber river on the left bank in Rome is the Castel Sant’Angelo (Castle of the Holy Angel), site of the tomb of the Roman emperor Hadrian.Apparently, the tomb was converted into a castle and then a prison by the papal state and remains a popular landmark of Rome. The name of the castle is derived from the Archangel Michael, who in legend appeared on the castle and whose statue is now erected on the very top.
Rome is a city of many fountains and undoubtedly Trevi Fountain is the most famous one found within the city limits and arguably even one of the most famous in the world. Beautiful sculptures, I completely admit that, but somehow it doesn’t stand out as a super monumental or memorable place to me. And since the area around Trevi Fountain was swarmed with tourists, pickpockets and scammers were also noticeably aplenty. This is the #1 thing that ruins otherwise lovely places like Rome and Paris for me. Tourism certainly brightens up the cities but contamination is also unavoidable. Oh well, you gotta take the good and the bad while traveling.
Flags of Italy and Canada waving by the Tiber river – Rome, I send love from Canada! ❤
A few final observations and notes: Maybe it's different during the summer (but I doubt it), but in December, Paris is definitely MUCH more booming than Rome, at least in terms of tourism. Paris' glamour and "romance" (I don't find Paris romantic) are perhaps what attracted the people and are what Rome lacks, though they aren't really Rome's style anyway. I was slightly reluctant to admit that Paris is indeed more "audacious" than Rome, and whether that's a good thing or not is for you to decide.
So the conclusion is that Rome is more similar to the modest Madrid than it is to Paris. I’m not sure how it got that “worthy” comparison with Paris. To be honest, this “worthiness” is still quite overrated in my opinion, so I don’t know whether it is something to rave about. Oh well, to each his own.
I lived in Rome on and off for 20 years, it’s a beautiful city. But it has deteriorated a lot lately unfortunately, the pollution and the traffic are unbearable. When are you coming to Sicily?:)
There are still so many places in Italy I’d like to visit and Sicily is certainly one of them. It’s harder now that I’m back in North America but I hope I get the chance to go eventually 🙂
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