This is a line from the song I am currently listening to as I type this to vividly remember the travel experience and impression that Rome left on me for the four days I was there
The line literally translates to “Thank you Rome“
Before I go any further, I want to admit something; Italy’s capital is INSANELY beautiful
Being the world’s capital at some point in history endowed today’s Rome with great historical heritage.
While the city is famous for its stunning ROMAN archaeological architecture, it does have something for everyone – something for nature lovers, museums, food places, name it
For someone like me that didn’t have any prior knowledge of Rome except what Hollywood portrays, this was an insightful learning experience
I got the opportunity to visit not only the typical MUST–SEE PLACES IN ROME, but also bufunda in the eyes of a ROMAN local
The Roman local, Edo as I like to call him, is a friend I met during my stay in Barcelona
On learning about my blog – which is currently travel diverse🤗🏳️🌈, he was more than happy to host me at his family’s home for a couple of days to explore Rome, and eventually write an article about it on my blog.
Lucky for me, he did a spitting job of METICULOUSLY planning my itinerary and all I needed to do was arrive to be amazed by the city’s marvel
In this blog – LONG READ ALERT, I will share (in fact rave about) my experience in the ETERNAL CITY divided into highlights and my most favourite parts of the experience
FIRST THINGS FIRST; ROME AND KAMPALA
So turns out there are similarities between Rome and Kampala
First, by the way they are named and then their landscape
Kampala got its name after locals during the colonisers’ time added the two words: Camp and Impala; Camp because the area occupied by today’s Kampala was a temporary and initial settlement of the first British colonisers before they spread into other parts of Uganda, and Impala because the place was inhabited by impalas during the time of well, you know who – the colonisers
Rome on the other hand – according to the Roman legend, got its name from one of the twins, Romulus, that killed his brother – Remus and named the city after himself.
The other aspect is that both cities are said to be founded on 7 hills, whose hills keep increasing as the day goes by.
THE COLOSSEUM AND THE ROMAN FORUM
If by any chance you google something in the lines of, “what to do in Rome” or “what is Rome best known for”
Different websites about the largest amphitheatre in human history and the central grounds for commercial and social activities of ancient Rome will flood your web
Roman amphitheatres as you prolly know, were round open-air grounds dedicated for public entertainment involving animals and humans such as gladiator fights
The thoughts that came to me once I confirmed my visit to the Colosseum were the amphitheatre scenes in the movie Pompeii – a little bit ironic if we are talking about Rome instead of Naples
The particular movie scenes being the fight between the gladiators: Atticus (a black gladiator) and the Celt (Kit Harrington, outperforming himself as a white slave) against the Roman soldiers in the presence of the emperor
For the two times I was in the vicinity of the colosseum, I was fascinated by what the human mind can create, let alone make a reality
The funny thing is the feelings are different when watching the colosseum from the outside vs when inside.
Setting foot inside, got me a bit dazed and a scientist would already conclude that the stupendous view before me incited Stendhal’s syndrome signs in me
I was just mesmerised to see something TERRIBLY big, built yonks ago but still stood firm – of course some parts reconstructed, but the idea that a human mind and hands could put this together, brick by brick – wowwww
The colosseum sitting arrangement was organised according to someone’s social status such that the more esteemed, the closer to the entertainment scene you were and vice versa.
Back in the day, the only way a black person like myself would enter was if I was going to be part of the entertainment (I guess for my case, laughing or noise-making competitions😅 is what I would be made as a contender for my freedom)
Akin to the colosseum, the Roman Forum exhibited similar attributes in my eyes
While seated opposite one of the monuments in the forum, Edo explained to me the stories behind how different temples got constructed.
One in particular was the temple of Antoninus and Faustina; a memory of two human beings (each with 46 chromosomes😅) – the emperor and the empress respectively – who were considered deities after their death.
Victor Emmanuel II Monument
Grandeur alone cannot describe what my mind decoded, on seeing this place
I honestly paused to feel my feet on the ground on approaching Piazza Venezia, as I stared at what lay ahead of me – no jokes😄
And trust me to have dramatically exclaimed in Luganda at some point during my staring episode
Built in memory of the first king of unified Italy, the monument has a couple of features each with significant meaning basically about Italy and its unification – Google and Edo told me this
Italy’s Idi Amin, Mussolini, strategically had the monument erected close to the Roman Forum as a way of connecting modern Italy to her imperial past
There was just so much to stare at – from the various well-defined equestrian statues to the whole monument and its features just being spectacular
And no, I didn’t dig deep into the meanings of what crossed my eyes
Instead, as I moved along the stairs, I decided to chill in my being-impressed zone, and explored my artistic surroundings and the views I got
Just like most Italian cities, Rome has churches in abundanceeee – elegant ones at that
In a few steps of strolling through the city’s streets, there is an incredible chance that your eyes will fall on a roof with a sign of THE CROSS roof telling you to check it out, for just in case you have sins to repent🤗 or just inviting you to do CERTIFIED tourist things😅
In most of these churches, are small chapels dedicated to different saints as demonstrated by the saint’s sculpture or piece of art within each chapel’s enclosure
Additionally, burning candles are sometimes placed on an upright chandelier in front of the sculpture/art piece
After noticing this trend in different churches, I started a culture of lighting a candle as a way of reminding myself not to stop the flame inside me from burning🤗
Meanwhileeeeeee, there are people who do it for MORE SELFLESS reasons like praying for the souls of their loved ones to rest in eternal peace
The days we got to see the fountains, the scintillating sun showed up too, which bestowed a beautiful turquoise green colour to the waters
The fountains in Rome made me question how the Romans were extra when it came to creating what their minds imagined, let alone flaunting it
Besides ruins and churches, fountains were the other dominating landmarks I continuously noticed
Big or small, they are definite must-sees as they each have unique features, marks, and history that impacts their general aura
Found within parks, along the streets, squares, I wouldn’t be surprised if some present-day Romans had them at the entrance of their homesteads or in their compounds🤗
A little bit of (more) chatter……….
On my first day in Rome, as I approached Fountain of the Naiads located in the centre of the republic square, there happened to be a group of protestors holding Spanish flags and chanting Italian phrases (not sure if they were at the start or end of the march orrrrrrrrr if stationing themselves at the square was their strategy) butttttt, watching that took me back to memory lane when protests (mostly violent ones) in Makerere University were all supposed to lead towards the Freedom square in the University
As I learnt later, some of these like the Il Fontanone (translated as the big fountain) located on one of the hills, was an end of one of the many Roman ingenious aqueducts aimed to improve access of fresh water from sources like the Tiber River to populations across the Roman empire.
Fontana di Trevi, Fontana dei Cavalli Marini, Fontana del Moro – name it, I enjoyed watching how embellished these water sources were
For someone who is used to seeing the natural stuff – cascades or falls, don’t be surprised that seeing the well-built artificial stuff would get me this excited!
Alloraaaaaaa (a very very very commonly used Italian word that translates to “so”)……. Imagine taking a walk on a weekend and all you see are masses and masses of people – well-dressed at that, just walking towards or away from you (Dear Ugandan, I mean Sunday-best kinda dressed😄)
This happened both during the day and night
And I obviously asked Edo what exactly was happening, just to be sure I was not missing out on something
Rome being is a tourist destination, is flooded with a zillion tourists per year and yes, they were tourists like myself that too, were on a mission to explore the eternal city.
With the JOLLY good weather in Spring, it became clearer why that was the case and even so, the variety of languages and accents I picked out while I thought myself as being on a different “mission” from them 😅
Yep, you read that right, a small keyhole that is actually touristy and a famous one in ROME
Referred to as “The Keyhole of the Priory of Malta” from its location, this tiny opening situated in a huge door gives an EXTRAORDINARY view of the Dome of St. Peter’s Basilica once looked through
When we made way to see the hole (which btw I didn’t have a clue about because my tour guide didn’t want to spoil the surprise), we found a queue weathering that day’s drizzles
I couldn’t think of a good reason why my host would think a few-seconds view of something mysterious would be of interest to me
“A little bit of patience Brenda…. A bit of patience…good things come to those who wait” I thought to myself as we waited in the shockingly long queue
When my turn reached to feed my curiosity, I was overjoyed by the sight of what I saw
And my elated-but-dramatic self could not stop exclaiming phases like, “That’s sooooo cooollllll” “Oh my Godddd” “Very creative”
A pathway lay between properly-aligned orange trees that led to the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica
The path, so straight and narrow yet perfectly aligned looked just as though this was impossible to be possible (intended rhyming words)
And yes, I eventually understood why anyone would be down to wait in a queue in the first place
Indeed, Rome has something for anyone – I hope this is an actual saying😅
When it came to exploring the natural stuff that Rome had to offer, I was gratified
From the Tiber River, the parks to the gardens and cascades in Eur (a business and residential place in Rome)
During my interaction with all things that fall into the Nature category, I noticed a tinge of human modification that made them even more appealing and calming environments to experience
The water from the Tiber River for example, is considered to be the cleanest of all the world’s rivers as a result of multiyear efforts by the responsible district authority.
The most outstanding and famous gardens; Villa Borghese, was initially a private park but is currently open to the public. Moreso, the owners of the gardens were a noble family from which popes descended and ironically, at present, one of the descendants alive is a famous chef, author and TV personality in Rome. Meanwhile, did I mention that this villa with 3 museums, a theatre, various well-groomed lawns and fountains was a private one? Oh yes, I did😅 – clearly, I can’t get over all the facts herein
The garden of cascades was another magical spot particular for its lofty and wide cascades within a beautiful green vicinity
What is a blog post about an Italian city without a section on food?!
Every single day, we indulged in a different food based on Roman cuisine that left my taste buds smiley
The first day had us eating at a place named “zozzone”, which translates to dirty in Italian
And believe you me, the “dirt” alone in the name ironically manipulates you to check out the restaurant and why they would choose to taint themselves by such a quality
That aside, Rome fed my enzymes in a number of ways that definitely left an impression on me and in fact, brings me to the phrase, “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”…so true albeit not inclusive of female beings like myself
Some of the foods I feasted on include Carbonara, Cacio e Pepe, Supplì, Amatriciana, Gricia, Tiramisù (a very very famous desert whose name literally translates to pull me up), and more
The sad bit was I didn’t get to try the Pinsa Romana, a pizza whose origin is Rome. This was mainly because, on the day we decided to have one, all the places recommended by google maps were closed, it having been a national public holiday
The Vatican City
Y’all, it hits different knowing you can be in two countries in one night without having to get a boarding pass or move with any identification
Two things I remember helping me create memories was the museum and the basilica
The museum; I remember we had to wake up really early that day to make a queue that took almost two hours to get into the Vatican Museum
All for what?
Well, it was free, having been the last Sunday of the month
Meanwhile, staying too long in the museum made us miss out on watching the pope animate that Sunday’s mass.
And Vatican being Vatican, we had to go through another queue under the scorching midday sun to enter the Basilica
Parking space and getting by
While using feet was sufficient to get from one point to another within a certain jurisdiction, we used a car to commute for the days I was in Rome
The easy part was the walking and driving
The hard part: finding a parking spot
This got intense on weekends and if the places we chose to visit are frequented by a multitude of visitors in a single day
This, one of the most important routes in Roman history, connects Rome to the southern parts of Italy
While you make way towards the actual path (this depends on where you initiate your hike from), flowers blossom to the bright sun in spring that makes the stroll a magical one
The aura alone – quiet and silent combined with a humid breeze, was perfect accompaniment for a lovely morning walk
A few metres into the walk, bushes lay on the outskirts of the park which, with interaction with the wind created a rhythmical sound that was worth a 10-minute meditation session
Stilllllll along the way and after the bushes, are well-groomed Spartan Juniper trees – side by side, and according to Edo, walking through a path between them is considered “a walk towards the cemetery“
The interesting part was that, while these sort of trees relate to death in this other part of the world, Ugandans use them to create hedges around their houses and furthermore, use there pyramidal branches as Christmas trees – culture being culture
Although, pondering this at that point in time definitely made sense as the place where we were, has catacombs
The route; Appia antica itself is characterised by moderate hiking difficult and definitely a lot of historical sites
This we didn’t really explore in an effort to be able to have a glimpse of other Roman touristic places.
Roseto di Roma
“GLORIOUS!” is all I could exclaim on getting to this destination.
This place, whose name translates to The Garden of Roses of Rome, is home to a multitude of Rose species peppered on its landscape
Some erect, some climbing and others just merely trailing
On the particular day I went, there were a few drizzles, and some shoots didn’t have any blossoms but that didn’t stop the place from looking dazzling
I can’t imagine how breathtaking it gets once flowers bloom on all the trees within the garden
Saving the best for the last
The family where I stayed for my stay in Rome were AWFULLY kind to me
Amidst being profoundly hospitable to me, I had the ultimate Italian experience filled with the family’s charm, laughter, kind words and open-minded conversations – at no cost
Clearly, the world still harbours benevolent souls, and I am grateful that our paths passed
If you have any questions about this experience, share your comments below🤗