Rome is a big city. Rome has big buildings, big fountains, big statues, big domes, and big names. Rome is a place of big streets but little cars.
Rome was once home to the biggest of big personalities. All in all, Rome is big but the adjective big doesn’t start to describe the whole experience of Rome. What’s a better way to describe a city than to paint a picture of the most populated and used area, the streets?
Starting with the first step off the train and into the street, I was overwhelmed with the grand scale of the city. The colorful buildings towering over the giant intersections pulled my eyes upward to the blue sky where the sun was shining down on top of the heads of walkers passing by on the sidewalk. This first impression made me want to take it all in. So instinctively I took an enormous breath in of what I thought was going to be fresh air. I was mistaken. The air in Rome is comparable to the air all over Italy, it’s smoke filled. Just as you think you’re in the clear, in a huge open square and inhale, you look to your left and see a smoker, then to your right, another, then behind you, another. Smokers are all over the streets of Italy like fruit flies to aging fruit. First you spot one and twenty seconds later, hundreds are swarming one area. This may be an exaggeration, but breathing the air in Rome is not the same as breathing the air of the Tuscan countryside.
The visual atmosphere makes up for the lack of quality air. Lurking around every corner is some ancient Roman monument or ruin just waiting to be discovered. For example, you can spot the Colosseum about a mile down the road.
But while you are admiring the massive amphitheater, you are surrounded by the Roman Forum or standing in the Piazza Venezia. These ancient beasts of structures have a humbling affect. Not only do you feel like a minute creature in a colossal environment such as an ant in the mountains or perhaps a seashell in a kitchen, but you feel as if you have a very small part in life on this Earth.
It’s comparable to being shown up by your older brother. They’ve accomplished so much and created such a legacy that lasts for years even centuries, and what do you have to show?
Taking the description back to the basics, what’s actually being walked on, the streets and sidewalks, as you see the magnificent sites plays a vital role in the street experience. These roads are what make the city seem authentically ancient. Many streets where modern cars, buses, and bikes are driven are a stark contrast to the new machines on top of them. Several roads are made up of dark grey, smooth, square stones placed side by side with cement fragments, moss, cigarettes, confetti all filling the cracks.
A lot of the sidewalks resemble such roads. While strolling along, you may even find yourself slipping to the left or right because the ancient two-inch by two-inch stone beneath your foot is simply placed in the pattern with nothing to hold on to.
In conclusion, Rome is a beautiful, history-rich, humbling, smoke-infested, ancient city that everyone should visit once in their life so they can experience the same street life that I was lucky enough to enjoy.
P.S. Another chance to get a glimpse of the streets of Rome: ten movies that were set in Rome