Chapter Seven: Roman Holiday


I could spend a lifetime in Rome and never lose my sense of wonder. From the centuries of innovation and discovery to the constant return to God. I think I’m most humbled by the monuments people devote lifetimes to creating to honor and worship deity. We went in reverse chronological order in Rome.

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Contained in this stained glass are countless parables and messages.

This stained glass window above is from the visitor’s center of what the locals call “the new church.” It is in fact a temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. While the temple actively performs sacred rites and is therefore closed to the public, the visitor’s center and the lovely, peaceful grounds, are open to everyone.

Also included in the visitor’s center is a huge Christus statue standing in front of statues of the 12 apostles.

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Christ and His apostles

The immaculately maintained grounds feature a water feature as well as beautiful gardens. However it was the pair of olive trees, one to each side of the temple, that struck me. The olive tree is probably a transplant from nearby, as they are native to the area. But since the olive tree features so prominently in so many biblical stories I was struck with how fitting it was to be planted there. I can’t explain more than that how poignant it was for me but it was a cool thing to discover.

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Olive tree on the temple grounds

It was a very pleasant, calm place to spend an afternoon. A contrast to the bustling downtown of Rome.

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Il Tempio

While mobbed by tourists, the city center of Rome still finds a way to continue, inspite of (despite?) the tourists. In the alleys away from the main piazzas the flowers don’t bloom for public consumption but for personal pleasure.

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The trick to avoiding the worst of the crowds in Rome is to get up early. While it may seem counterintuitive to set your alarm on holiday, the jet lag may help you out here. You can always take a nap in the middle of the day if you need to. But by getting up early you’re avoiding the crowds and avoiding the heat.

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Spanish Steps

That’s how we were actually able to see the steps instead of people on what we assumed were steps.

It’s also how we were able to view the Trevi fountain with only dozen or two other people instead of hundreds. Oh? You don’t see the water coming out from the fountain? That’s not sleight of hand or a photography trick, nor is it punishment for getting up early. In fact it was just a random timing thing. As it happens they were cleaning the fountain the day we were there. Instead of running the water there were workers vacuuming up the thousands of coins thrown into the fountain. I hope the money people toss in goes toward the upkeep of this place, beautiful with or without the water running.

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Trevi Fountain

The Pantheon was next on our walking tour of Rome. Again since it was early in the morning we found it sparsely populated. (When we passed it mid-morning on our way for some gelato – or second breakfast as I call it because apparently when I’m in Italy I’m a hobbit – there was a long line out the door and midway through the piazza. I mean it when I say go early in the morning. Unless you love crowds, in which case I think you’re crazy but we can still be friends.)

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Pantheon

The Pantheon is a wonder. Inside you can see where medieval and renaissance Romans had plastered over the original construction to modernize this amazing structure of antiquity. However you can also view the original construction in several places.

The ancient Romans were brilliant. Centuries later, during the Renaissance, mathematicians would painstakingly discover how to construct a dome. Yes, the ancient Romans had done so already but the know-how had been lost to time and it took centuries to re-acquire the information.

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Inside the Pantheon

As we continued our way through Rome, meandering through large modern streets and small, ancient alleys, we marveled at everything we saw. I took hundreds of photos within just a few short hours. I’ve concluded in a future life (when the kids are grown and gone, perhaps?) I should return to school to study architecture. My inner musicologist didn’t even gasp at that epiphany, all of me found this so fascinating.

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Egyptian Obelisk above the Fountain of Four Rivers, and the Sant’Agnese church

While both the above and below photos are from Piazza Navona, please don’t think for a moment that they are the only game in town. It’s just that as the day wore on the piazzas were much more crowded and therefore less photogenic. These early morning moments were pure perfection.

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Fountain of Neptune, Piazza Navona

We eventually found our way to the back entrance of the Roman forum. We later discovered that the vast majority of visitors enter from the side of the Colosseum. However there was no prohibition to entering on the other side, we still found a ticket booth and were able to pay our admission and enter the forum.

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Yes, you can walk around the perimeter from above and see the forum without paying admission.

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But it’s impossible to get the full effect. I highly highly highly recommend paying the admission and walking among the ruins.

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One of the things that struck me most was below: we may thing we are in control, but Nature reclaims what it hers.

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Once we got to the end, or rather the beginning, we were greeted by gates to the city, and the Colosseum, and a few thousand of our closest friends. What good fortune to have entered the other way and meandered at our leisure without bumping into anyone!

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On the topic of the Colosseum: it’s amazing from every angle, but nighttime is the best time.

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One final tidbit: they play opera in the metro stations in Rome. I mean, come on! How awesome is that?

There are not enough days in a lifetime to see and do everything in Rome. However, one bite at a time I intend to try. It was so hard to leave Italy. I think I’m Italian.

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