If Italy captures the essence of a quintessential Europe for many, then Rome is at the epicenter. As the birthplace of western civilization, no other city quite compares to the magnitude of history, art, science, and religion that embodies this epic city. It’s no wonder Audrey’s character couldn’t resist the rhythmic heartbeat of Rome, setting out on her own to discover its treasures one gelato at a time.
Before we left for our Roman holiday, I settled in to watch the magic unfold as Audrey’s character Ann discovered a city unlike any other. It had been years since my sister and I had watched one of her all time favorite actresses play her debut role on the silver screen. Until then, my fascination with Rome was purely of a historical context, and while this is still true, Audrey invited me to discover the unbridled, ultra-Italian way of life.
Stepping out onto the streets for the first time, Princess Ann (Audrey Hepburn) embarked on her journey of self-discovery. Sedated and completely naive, Ann is green to the ways of the world, but it doesn’t matter because she has cut all ties to her princess duties for one day and Rome is her oyster. I, too, was intoxicated by Rome’s sheer volume of culture and heritage. For a time, I could only stare…at the Colosseum, at the ruined temples of great empires of the past, at the unbelievable fresco paintings and marble sculptures that adorned chapel ceilings and museum exhibits. How can one place be so swathed with insurmountable beauty? In my moments of unmasked wonder, I sometimes pictured Princess Ann scooting around the maniacal Roman roadways in her moments of Vespa bliss sharing my very thoughts.
I honestly can’t find the words to describe the feeling that sweeps over me when finally, at last, I have experienced something I have heard about…dreamed about…all my life. Emerging upon Piazza del Colosseo from Via dei Fori Imperiali rocked me to the core. I literally stopped in my tracks from the intensity of the moment when I saw the first stadium ever built actually standing before me. I couldn’t speak. It was so in my face and much bigger than pictures could ever do it justice. Not only was it that the building itself is one of the most amazing feats of human strength ever to have been built, but it’s what the building stood for that was difficult to wrap my head around. I tried to put myself in the stands 2,000 years ago, cheering for my favorite gladiator. Would I give him a thumbs up or a thumbs down? Would I cheer while an animal mauled a man? It’s hard to say…perhaps if there was enough wine.
Touring around Rome was a dream come true, but the moments I spent in some of the oldest parts of town were the most riveting. Of course the food will satisfy you, the wine will flow, the cappuccino will warm you, and the piazzas will enchant you. But for me, the ancient story of an imperial Rome will forever define my Roman holiday.
I dedicate this post to my sister, Jamie. I hope to return to Rome one day with her. Perhaps we’ll rent a Vespa and explore a world completely new to us, just like Audrey.