When the 'Gladiator' met the 'Angels & Demons.' (Rome, Italy)

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As we slurped big scoops of gelato on waffle cones, we debated, should we or should we not… Finally we decided that we would throw a coin on Trevi Fountain that would ensure our return to the eternal city. Honestly, I don’t believe in these legends but as I stood in front of the Fontana di Trevi and watched hundreds of people tossing a coin into the waters, I thought may be its worth giving a try and if it doesn’t work till the last day of my life, I can tell people ‘It’s not going to work.’ Trevi fountain square in Rome is just a scene straight out of any of India’s festivals; teeming with people of all ages, dressed in their best and posing for photos from different angles of the fountain. Wonder how many actually see the unique fountain and the figures that adorn it.

We had planned that we must see the places that had been shown in films so gloriously and first in the list was ‘The Gladiator.’ So, next day, off we went to meet Russell Crowe, we had a date with the Gladiator at the Colosseum. My daughter was very disappointed to know that even though the film Gladiator had lot of scenes in the Colosseum; the film was not shot here in Rome but at Malta where a replica of this amphitheater was built.    
Once again, the structure is gigantic. With tickets to go inside we started climbing up the stony flight of stairs. A word of caution for those who plan to visit this unique piece of Roman architecture, the stairs are big and high and once inside there‘s lot of walking and climbing up and down. Wearing a sturdy pair of shoes is a must.
 It would be unfair to just term the Colosseum as huge; everyone is sure to fall short of superlatives, such is its grandeur and size. Built to accommodate about one lakh spectators, the theater was mainly used for gladiator fights, animal shows and fights and even enactment of mythological dramas.
There are three levels and each has its own unique style of showing the amphitheater from different angles; especially the arena and the hypogeum (underground corridors). The original wooden stage is no more there but the hypogeum is clearly visible. In fact there is also a separate tour that allows visitors to go to the hypogeum and visualize how gladiators and animals were kept in the tunnels and cages before the fight began. I generally find this idea of ‘fights’ and ‘hunts’ quite barbaric so I skipped this tour even though my family went for it. The entire complex was so huge and was so elaborately laid out that I could probably end up writing a book on the Coliseum, as it is called in Italian. 

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(The Colosseum)

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(The Arena)

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Out of the gladiator scenario we reached Piazza Navona; the most happening place of the city that will remind you of the festive spirit of our countrymen and the crowd and shopping spree associated with it. The entire square is flanked by hundreds of small stalls selling memorabilia and of course there are gelato vendors and pizza stalls but we decided to concentrate on the three lovely fountains that adorned the square. The best was of course Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi, the Fountain of the four Rivers; Nile, Danube, Ganga and Plate, made popular by Ron Howard in his film ‘Angels & Demons.’ It is easy to imagine Tom Hanks as Prof. Robert Langdon, rushing to the fountain to save the last ‘Prefereti’ Cardinal Baggia.

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(Piazza Navona)

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From here we walked to the Piazza del Rotonda to see another beautiful building of the city, the Pantheon. The Pantheon was also shown in Angels and Demons when the Prof. had gone to search the tomb of Raphael as he thought it to be a clue. The Pantheon has three important tombs inside the building.  The first is that of the Italian painter and architect Raphael.  Even though it is not shown in the film or mentioned in the book, Raphael’s tomb has always been located in the Pantheon.  Above Raphael’s tomb is a sculpture of the Madonna del Sasso created by Raphael’s student Lorenzetto. The Pantheon is a Roman temple and once inside, we were awed by its majestic look. The famous dome of the Pantheon, even after two thousand years, still remains the World’s largest concrete dome. It was truly splendid especially the mosaic work and the central opening.
The day was almost over and we were hungry. Following the famous saying of ‘when in Rome do as the Romans do’ we decided to eat something in the nearby pizzeria and ordered some Pizza and Spaghetti to satisfy our cravings for the finger-licking Italian fare…bliss!
 

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(The Pantheon)

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(The Dome)

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(Raphael's Tomb)