By the time the Papal service ended, it was noon, and the sun didn’t show any sign of turning the heat down. After a quick bite to eat, we went in search of Piazza Navona.
As we walked through the lanes of Rome, often lined with architectural gems, we felt our skin caramelize in the afternoon sun. And it’s definitely not a wise idea to leave your cap behind. Streetside vendors made the most of the weather and charged quite a steep price for an Italia cap. The heat took a toll on our navigational skills and all roads looked similar. Utterly frustrated, I remember wanting to turn back, and return to the pilgrim centre. Turned out — it was kind of a straight route.
The Piazzo Navona has a typical laid-back European charm to it. People, impeccably dressed, dined in the cafes that lined the Piazza. Unfortunately, although we were in Rome, we couldn’t act like the Romans — because we were simply too tired and had too much to see. There were many tourists like us, wandering around with maps, trying to figure their way. We made a quick stop at Fontana del Nettuno (Fountain of Neptune) before proceeding further.
Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi
It would be hard to miss The Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumi (The Fountain of Four Rivers) in Piazza Navona.The larger than life figures are truly impressive and the attention to detail is fantastic.
At the base of the fountain, the four river Gods symbolize the main rivers (Nile, Ganges, Danube, and Río de la Plata) corresponding to the continents ( Africa, Asia, Europe, and South America) in which papal authority spread. While writing this post, I realized, although Bernini chose to give the Ganges a male form, in traditional Indian beliefs she’s depicted as a female Goddess.
After admiring the fountain, we stopped for a Gelato (one of the top 10 things to try out in Rome) and tried to find the route to the Colosseum.
Arch of Constantine & The Colosseum
We really love to walk, however this time, we opted for a local bus to the Colosseum. In hindsight, it seems strange, in the morning we attended a spiritual service and by evening, we would visit a monument that celebrated macabre. I guess, travel doesn’t give you choices — especially when you’re on a tight leash of time.
By the time we reached the Colosseum — it was late evening. The queue for the ticket was pretty long and the monument was swarming with eager tourists. While Basil stood in the line, I preferred to get lost in time and soak every bit of history — in front of me. The stones were cold and filled with crevices. Sadly, the Colosseum had been unable to escape the effect of time and the elements.
The Colosseum is nowhere near its past glory. It would take more than imagination, perhaps, even a time machine, to imagine what it must have looked like — back in the day. Rock debris interspersed with pockets of green — dominated the arena. I was too tired to make much sense of it. I tried to imagine the cheering crowds in this, now muted, arena. Roaring lions charging at blood-thirsty gladiators completed my imagery. The ultimate blow of death and the mandatory cheer for the victorious. I decided, it’s not something I would like to watch.
What could incite such cruelty? I wondered. It seemed like a celebration of death and a bitter lesson for the weak. I don’t think much has changed since then. The fabric of human nature stays impermeable to time.
On the outside, actors dressed as gladiators posed with tourists. A couple chose to get their pre-wedding photo shoot shot here. On paper, or in this case — an album, it might seem like a fantastic idea. But, if you think a little deeper, it might seem a bit strange.
Palatine Hill & The Roman Forum
It was nearing sunset and the heat had waned in intensity. The Roman Forum was a short walk across the street. Most of the buildings were in ruins. We tried following the marked trail in our book and gave up soon enough. It had been a long day and it was hard to stay focused. So, we walked around, looked vacantly and tried to imagine what life would have been here — centuries before — we set foot.