Rome, If You Want To

June 1, 2009

This is the time of year when people who have never been to Italy begin planning a trip, and frequently ask me where they should go first.

I always say start in Roma and when you get there go straight to the Roman Forum with a good guide book in hand or better yet, hire a licensed guide to help make the Forum come alive for you.

The first time I did, all that I had ever studied in school as a student of world history was suddenly real, and as I looked around at the skeletal remains of the Forum’s many magnificent temples, arches and monuments I whispered to myself, Wow, this really did exist!

The Forum was the center of commercial, political and religious life for the people of Rome, their downtown.The streets were lined with many open shops called tabernae where patrons could literally buy fast food and eat it on the run. Sound familiar? Among the fast foods sold were flat breads baked on the spot and topped with everything from garum, (fish sauce) to herbs, oil and olives. Chickpeas were a favorite too.

Merchants sold wares of every description and moneylenders made deals.The Forum was also the place where the politics of the day and the news of the day was expressed by orators standing on a platform known as the rostra and from where we get the expression “get on your soapbox.”

So if you go, visit the Forum Romanum first and try to imagine the crowds, noise, and smells that made up the fabric of this ancient city and you’ll have a better understanding of why all roads lead to Rome.

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