The Top 5: Wows in Rome

It took a while for me to be awestruck in Rome, but by the time I departed, Rome was well imprinted on my mind. I had to spend time with the city, get to know it, see more of it.

In the end, I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Rome and need to return with more than two days.

All of my top five “wow moments” in Rome fall into the category of impressive architecture, design and art, which makes sense because Italy was home to men like Michelangelo and Da Vinci, Julius Caesar and Emperor Augustus, Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Caravaggio.

5. The ancient architecture of the Forum and Colosseum

The Colosseum wasn’t much different than I expected, but just seeing it was thrilling. The fact that it is still standing shows the skill of the ancient Romans and when I stopped to admire it, its sturdiness is visibly apparent. The Forum, which is just west of the Colosseum, is more of the same. The remains are fewer, but that is because not all the buildings here were built out of brick. The ones that were are still there. The Curia was the house of the Senate and the acoustics there were incredible. One of the stranger sights I saw was this column that is balancing a corner of a building and nothing else. How has it not fallen over?.

4. St. Peter’s Basilica’s dome

From St. Peter’s Square the size of the dome is disguised. From inside the church and from far away, like on top of Castel Sant’Angelo or at the Pincio Terrace, the size of the dome is astounding. From the floor of the church to the top of the external cross, the dome soars 448 feet — the tallest in the world. The dome is also worth the climb. First, an elevator takes you to the roof of the church, where you can look out on St. Peter’s Square from behind the saints. But what really wowed was sound coming from below me when I was standing inside at the edge of the dome looking down on the altar. The choir was singing a song that sounded so wonderful a couple hundred feet above them. The words just floated up and around, and again, I was marveling at acoustics.

For those not afraid of 320 of the most claustrophobic stairs I have ever climbed, you can keep going up, following a tiny sign pointing to the cupola, taking you to a 360-degree view of Vatican City and Rome. As I was climbing, I was again impressed with another architectural feat. I’m not sure how those stairs and ramps really fit between the walls of the dome, but they do, even when you have to walk with your head tilted to the right due to the curve of the dome.

3. The view from the Capitoline Museum’s terrace

Of the handful of views I had across Rome, this was my favorite. The museum sits on one of the seven hills of Rome in the center of the city, giving a perfect vantage point for all directions. Anyone can access the terrace because there’s a stairway on the southwest side of the building that leads right up to the cafe. I admired the view of the Forum and the city center all the way to St. Peter’s in the afternoon, and knew I had to come back to see a sunset from there. When I did, it was the Italian sunset I had always dreamed of, with golden sunbeams casting a warm glow across the entire city.

2. Trevi Fountain

When I could hear the gushing water from a block or two away, I knew I was approaching something amazing. When I finally saw the fountain, I just stopped and smiled and tried to soak it all in. I love the sound of flowing water, and the Trevi Fountain sounds like a river rushing by. I could have sat on the benches and stared dreamily at the fountain all night. The fountain is entirely different during the day. It’s not as romantic, it’s not as loud, it’s not just you and a lovely fountain. During the day, the fountain is swamped with people vying for their turn to stand at the edge to thrown in their coins.

1. Galleria Borghese

I had high hopes for this museum and its Bernini sculptures and I wasn’t let down. The number of visitors is strictly controlled, so the visit alone is a pleasant experience. Add in one main sculpture per room, and you start to wish all museums are like this. And there isn’t glass keeping you from truly seeing the art or balustrades keeping you at a distance. This museum contains sculptures and paintings from the Borghese family collection. When the tides turned against them, they sold their house, grounds and art collection to Italy and the museum was brought to life. One of the sculptures is of Pauline Bonaparte by Antonio Canova. She is reclining on a settee and neither she nor the fabric look like they are made of marble. Another, which turned out to be my favorite, is “Apollo and Daphne” by Bernini. I was so impressed when I noticed distinct nails on Apollo’s digits. Not that I expected them to be missing, but that I could look that closely at such a work of art, taking my time to notice the more intricate details.

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