“Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
Giotto di Bondone
Having arrived late from Amsterdam, my friend and I took the TAM bus from Fiumicino Airport to central Rome; driving past the Colosseum on the way. We found ourselves in an intimate American-style diner named La Base, which had stone walls cluttered with neon signs, billboards, and trinkets. The place was filled with local Romans of all ages: from the table of youngsters shovelling pizza slices, to the two elderly men sat beside us enjoying a bottle of fine wine. I did not countenance the thought of ordering anything else other than the classic – pasta al pomodoro – and was delighted with the simplicity of the dish: there was nothing but loops of succulent spaghetti piled on the plate like a little bird’s nest.
Somehow, we managed to stumble upon this magnificent building. At the time, we had no idea what it was – but that didn’t stop us from being entirely mesmerised by it. This building was the epitome of everything I’d imagined Rome to be like. Later, I discovered that this is known as the Altare della Patria, aka the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II: a monument to honour the first king of a united Italy.
We came across a late night gelateria. I ordered a gelato alla fragola (strawberry gelato). It was rather a strange sensation to be tucking into a gelato whilst simultaneously strolling down the Roman streets, which were overlooked by the few stars visible in the night sky.
Finally, we made it to the Trevi Fountain (or ‘Fontana di Trevi). Whilst approaching it, I could hear the rush of water, and the first thing that struck me as I rounded the corner towards it was the sheer size of the building. I couldn’t even fit the structure within the frame of my camera screen! Apart from policemen surveying the landmark and a canoodling couple, we were the only ones there… And we were sure to make the most of having it all to ourselves. I performed the customary task of throwing in a coin, made a wish, and headed off into the night towards the Colosseum.
Approaching the Colosseum was a surreal moment. The arches of the sturdy concrete structure were illuminated and appeared like a repetition of hundreds of tiny crescent moons. The top of the curved construction was fraying, like the cuff of an old shirt. It was eerily tranquil – its stillness was interrupted only by the staccato call of a wren initiating the dawn chorus, bouncing about in the bushes at the front of the Colosseum. This quietness, I thought, would have been the absolute antithesis of the atmosphere here in the daytime some 2,000 years ago – where the place would have been enlivened with the roar of the Roman public during gladiator battles.
Back to our hotel for a rather luxurious one hour sleep before catching our next flight… What a night!