A schoolgirl love affair with all things ancient becomes the real thing when Rose McIver visits the Eternal City.
Long story, but my love of classics came about when I was at high school.
I'd taken two six-month stretches out of school to work on television shows, such as Rude Awakenings with Danielle Cormack.
It was my final year of high school and I had to take a lot of correspondence papers — one of which was classical studies run my excellent teacher Pat Quirke, a woman who made the concepts of ancient times incredibly accessible.
This passion for classics lay dormant while I lived in Los Angeles for most of my 20s, where my only contact with gladiators were the ones in cheap, plastic armour on Hollywood Blvd, asking for $20 to be photographed in all their glory.
It was reawoken as soon as I arrived in Rome. No offence Pat, but witnessing the Pantheon in person is unbeatable. The name is an adjective that means to honour all gods. The sheer magnitude and perfect proportions of the building serve as a most honourable dedication to the deities in whose honour it was made. The weight and scope of the building is a feat of engineering unlike anything I had ever seen before.
The 12m columns were dragged all the way from Egypt and the enormous concrete dome was a structural revelation. architecture is best enjoyed out of the history books and in the flesh, and I found it very humbling to be in the presence of such a rare and impressive landmark.
The same goes for the Trevi Fountain. I needed sheer determination to get close enough to see the cascading water over the sea of tourist heads. The fountain is one of the oldest water sources in The Eternal City — given how old Rome is, that's an enormous achievement.
The tradition of throwing coins into the water over their shoulders ensures the thrower will return to Rome. There's roughly $5000 gathered each day and collected every night to be donated to Caritas, a charity helping with groceries to locals in need of support.
I was tempted to rent a Vespa, as I negotiated my way through the scooter-packed streets downtown, and would have but for my last scooter experience.
I lived in Wellington for a year after high school and, well, suffice to say, on two occasions I was blown off the same scooter in the same wind tunnel outside the same cafe. Coming off a scooter in Rome would be too embarrassing, so I contented myself with watching my step count add up on my Fitbit.
It was all the better for offsetting the effect of one of my most lasting impressions of Rome — the food.
Ahead of time, I'd diligently looked at lists of suggestions for places to eat on food blogger websites. I needn't have bothered.
Everywhere was jam-packed with trattorias and gelaterias. Recommendations for food here aren't necessary. I wasn't let down once by a meal — good solid, hard-earned food after a long day on foot is one of the pleasures of the city.
Rome has left me with an even greater appreciation for carbs. Oh and, of course, classical studies.
Emirates flies A380s daily between Auckland and Rome via Dubai, with Economy Class return fares starting from $1839.
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