Thursday, July 14, 2011

Travels in foreign lands-XIV (Turin and Rome-II)

On my way back to Rome, I decided to spend three nights there before flying home. This would be a compensation for missing the Tourism Course. I straightaway checked in the YMCA Hostel in Rome. It was quite cheap and rooms were neat and tidy. Food was also good. At the end of every meal I would take a peach as dessert. The peaches were huge but very tasty and would cost almost a pound each! After having settled myself, I started exploring the possible sight seeing places. The best mode was through buses which were quite cheap and easily available.
First of all, I took a walk through the back streets of Rome. The stone paved streets and the heritage houses virtually transport one into the days of ancient Rome. One feels as if one is walking through the most famous ancient city sometime in the past! The people have kept the exterior of their houses in the traditional style with stone walls. Inside they have all the modern luxuries. It shows how much the Romans of the present day adore their history and tradition. I wish, we too were so much conscious of our tradition and history! On the contrary we are experts at destroying everything of historical significance, be it a bridge, a building or any other monument. We are experts in dismantling and rebuilding our monuments! Next item on my agenda was to locate a friend Colonel Durante whom I had met in Kashmir in mid sixties. He used to fly the UN aircraft attached with the UN Observer group in Kashmir. I had his home address and took a bus to the particular street. After some effort I located the place but did not find him there. It was almost after ten years I was looking for him. It was a shock to know from one of his neighbours that he had passed away a year back. He was killed in an air crash. He had become a Major General in the Italian Air Force prior to his death. It was sad that after having come to Italy, I could not meet my friend!
The most important site in Rome is the Vatican City or Vatican City State, which is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. It has an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of just over 800. Vatican City was established in 1929. Vatican City is ruled by the Bishop of Rome—the Pope. The highest state functionaries are all Catholic clergymen of various national origins. It is the location of the Pope's residence. Vatican City is home to some of the most famous art in the world. St. Peter's Basilica, whose successive architects include Bramante, Michelangelo, Giacomo Della Porta, Maderno and Bernini is a renowned work of Renaissance architecture. The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter, commonly known as St. Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites. St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. I spent almost a day at the Vatican City and still I was not able to see all. I took a bus which dropped me just before the Vatican City.
First I took a round of the whole area and then entered the Basilica. The artwork inside especially on the main dome is awe inspiring. It must be the best artwork in the world! The inside of the church is very impressive and there is a sombre and serene atmosphere everywhere. There is a lift to the top of the dome. It goes in two stages. I took both the stages. On top there is an opening to go out and move around a gallery from where one can have a panoramic view of Rome. What was most surprising for me was to see some Italians smoking cigarettes on top of the holiest church!
There are many other historical sites in Rome. However, the one which many friends recommended to me and which I had seen in a movie is the Fontana de Trevi. There is a famous song, “Three coins in the fountain”. I went to see the place late in the evening with a local whom I met in Vatican City. It is a very charming place, full of tourists. There are many eating places around. Almost all tourists come here to throw coins in the fountain to make one’s wishes come true! The whole area is well lit and the fountain seems to be virtually in daylight. It was very cool here in spite of it being the hottest month of August. The other famous sights in Rome are the Coliseum, the Spanish Steps, the Mouth of Truth, the Pantheon, the Roman Forum, and the Parliament Building. The Mouth of Truth or the Bocca della Verita has a legend that the hands of a liar would be bitten off if placed inside the mouth of the statue! One can go on visiting the ancient landmarks and other historical places. However, as I had limited time and money, so I had to contend with few sites only. In any case, visiting Rome in spite of my failure to enrol in the tourism course in Turin was a great trip. After three days of sight seeing I flew back to India. Thus ended my first trip to Europe which was the longest I have ever had. Subsequently I did visit a number of European countries but the trips did not last more than a month or so. In the first trip I had spent almost five months in Europe and visited over a dozen ski resorts in France and Austria. Among all the places, the Tyrolean landscape in Austria had impressed me the most as I found it closest to Kashmir landscape!

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