Rome - One of the richest histories in the world
The Italian city of Rome has one of the richest histories in the world, a one-time political and social powerhouse that has evolved into a modern metropolis.
For many, many years, Rome was the de facto capital of the world, the central hub of social and political activity for the ancient and monarchical Roman Kingdom, the governmental Roman Republic and, most famous of all, the all-powerful and autocratic Roman Empire.
It comes as no surprise that everywhere you go in this striking, remarkable and beautiful city, there are reminders of the greatness that once emanated here, with nearly 3,000 years of history echoing across its landscape. No other city can compare in this respect. Rome indeed was not built in a day.
Today it is a buzzing, modern metropolis, set against an amazing backdrop of architectural grandeur, which continues to fascinate to this day. While politics may have dominated the city for much of its past, contemporary society is dominated by the philosophy of the good life. If you only live once, there are few places better than Rome to exist in.
In so many ways, Rome is a phenomenal and uncharacteristic modern city, almost impossible in its constitution. It’s confident, that much is self-evident, for its foundations were constructed with cool aplomb. Anything was feasible, and so it was, the world was for Rome’s taking.
The extraordinariness of Rome can be seen in, for example, Vatican City, effectively a country within a city. This is a fascinating and rare thing. Nowhere else in the world is organised like this and so it is that the Vatican is officially the smallest nation in the world by both landmass and population.
So defined is Rome by its sweeping history and the way in which it shaped the development of the western world that its magisterial centre, effectively bordered by the legendary Aurelian Walls, was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List.
Lingering in and around such a milieu is the city’s wondrously diverse inhabitants, a veritable mix of sensibilities, styles, ages and dispositions all preoccupied with their own spheres of interest, yet intermingling seamlessly with one another.
In Rome you’ll find priests debating Christian theology while ambling past the thoroughly imposing Roman Forum; lovers enjoying a quiet afternoon in a choice of lush parks; style-savvy youngsters zipping by on their delightful Vespas; and artists, writers and musicians taking pleasure in al fresco dining in one of the many sublime piazzas (Navona, Del Popolo and Venezia to name but a few).
As may be evident, Rome is one of those major cities that would take a lifetime to explore and get used to – there’s just so many delights nestled in a delicate little nonchalant alleyway that are often chanced upon one random and lucky meandering day.
“I have worked in the maze-like historic centre for a total of 11 years,” reflected John Hooper, the Guardian’s stalwart foreign correspondent, in Intelligent Life Magazine two years ago.
“Yet, even today, I find tiny lanes I never knew existed, and tucked away, round the corner, a little workshop in which they repair puppets or bind books, make walking sticks or sew ecclesiastical garments.”
He added that for a period of time, every summer, usually towards the end of the morning, he would be greeted with this tremendous baritone voice, so powerful that it rose above the cacophony of traffic. Like a breeze, the singing would occupy the office, before fading. It was impossible to trace the voice.
“Rome is a city of glimpses,” he continued, “of a richly decorated ceiling seen through the window of a building you never previously noticed; of ruins and trees across the Tiber that you had not before caught at quite that angle or in quite that light, of the courtyard of a palazzo whose great doors are normally kept tight shut.”
Though classicism is clearly a focal point of the city, especially in the way it looks, further heightened by the centrality of Catholicism – physically manifested in the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica – the city is always looking forward. It’s always been ambitious.
Its bountiful past hasn’t restricted it from adapting to the times, hence the brilliant poise it possesses between the very old and the very new. It is its very spectacular history that gives it the energy to aspire to be relevant. The empire might have collapsed, but its city never did. Rome is forever.