Ciao, Roma (2)

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By Luci Lizares

Saturday, May 24, 2014

WE WENT on the running tour of Rome and stopped at the Colosseum, the grandest of all of Rome’s monuments.

Do you know that the Colosseum is a marvel of engineering? At the whim of the Emperor, it can be flooded to enact naval battles but can be drained almost instantly for gladiator bouts?

The Colosseum can fit 50,000 people but they can all exit in just three minutes. The Philippines can surely use this magnificent idea to solve our floods and evacuation process.


Sadly but truly, the Colosseum was a slaughter house. On opening day, 9,000 animals were killed. Over time, a million animals were butchered in the Colosseum and about half a million humans were executed mercilessly. I bet they were mostly Christians.

The pomp and glory flaunted in the Colosseum was a testament to the might of the Roman Empire. With all that surge of blood from martyrs, Pope Benedict XIV sanctified the Colosseum and declared it as sacred ground.

Fire, wear and tear, climate change, earthquakes, unlicensed quarrying and many more disasters led to destruction of this elliptical amphitheatre built over a thousand years ago. Today only a third of the edifice remains.

One of my favorite sites in Rome is the wedding cake or the giant typewriter called Vittorio Emmanuele II Monument named after the first king of the unified Italy, Vittorio Emmanuel II.

This colossal white marble structure has a huge equestrian sculpture of the king and two statues of the goddess Victoria riding on a chariot. The monument contains the tomb of the WWI Unknown Soldier. Inside the building is a Museum of the Italian Reunification and a café. This famous landmark is highly controversial. Italians say it is too white or too large or too pompous. But I love it and my son’s name is Victor Emmanuel.

The last stop of the day’s sightseeing was at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, the largest church in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The church, built in the 5th century, at the Esquiline Hill has a magnificent interior with a spectacular gilded ceiling said to be made of gold brought from the Americas by Christopher Columbus and presented to Pope Alexander VI by the Spanish king.
It is called “Maggiore/Major” because of the 80 churches that are dedicated to Mary in Rome; it is the most important.

The Church is also known as the Santa Maria della Neve or St. Mary of the Snow. Legend goes that John, a Patrician landowner, of the Esquiline Hill had a dream on the night of August 4. The Blessed Mother appears to him in the dream and tells him to build a church at the site where snow will fall the next day.

Pope Liberius had the same dream that night. The following day, in the middle of summer, snow fell on Esquiline Hill. John and the Pope ran towards the site where they saw fresh snow. Pope Liberius decided to build a basilica in the site in honor of Mary. Every August 5th, a solemn celebration recalls the Miracle of the Snows. A cascade of white petals descends from the coffered ceiling, blanketing the hypogeum.

Dinner was to be at Piazza Navona. Piazza Navona is one of the most famous and many say the most beautiful of Rome’s many squares. During the hot summer nights, the locals love to spend the evenings cooling off in the fountains.

Piazza Navona’s main attraction is the trio of fountains that adorn the square. The largest fountain is the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of the Four Rivers. The fountain features four figures representing rivers from different continents—the Nile, Ganges, Danube and Rio de la Plata.

The fountain at the northern end is the Fontana del Nettuno, the Neptune Fountain. This fountain has the statue of Neptune fighting an octopus surrounded by sea nymphs, cupids and walruses. The fountain on the southern end of the piazza is the Fontana del Moro. The central statue of a Moor holding a dolphin designed by Bernini was added as well as the tritons.

Piazza Navona is a lively place where artists gather to paint. There were many entertainers and merchants selling souvenirs and paintings.

Rome offers you a vast variety of things to do—sights to see, great food to devour—and leaves you so historically, culturally, gastronomically and spiritually nourished. Thank you Lord!

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 24, 2014.


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