Roman Holiday: Delving into Rome’s cuisine and dramatic past

Kamala Varadarajan
The ancient arena shines in the late afternoon sun against a stormy sky, as seen from the Roman Forum, just across the street. Inside, visitors can see trapdoors that gladiators and animals used.

STANDING IN ROME’S ancient Forum, it’s hard to fully grasp that some of history’s most famous figures walked these paths, nearly 2,000 years ago.

In the Colosseum, looking down from the highest tier, I tried to picture gladiators and animals fighting in the arena. In St. Peter’s Basilica, Michaelangelo’s emotional Pietá sculpture stood right in front of me in all its glory (behind bulletproof glass, of course). It was humbling to view these centuries-old wonders, but Rome has more than ancient history and exquisite art. After hours of sightseeing with my family, the next adventure was always finding a new restaurant to savor Italy’s famous cuisine. I will admit that the food in Rome got somewhat monotonous after a few days, but I was able to work off the endless carbs from all the pizza and pasta by walking everywhere I needed to go. This was my sole form of transportation, so I had the opportunity to venture into smaller, beautiful churches that we stumbled upon and stroll around hidden piazzas. It was these
secluded areas that were windows into the everyday lives of today’s Romans, from teens with cigarettes gathering around the steps of churches to seniors enjoying cones piled high with scoops of the most authentic gelato.

My brother, Gopala Varadarajan, frames a photo of the Spanish Steps. One of Rome’s most famous sights, it’s usually swarming with tourists.

Wandering around the cobblestone streets, I was struck by the stark difference between its two sectors — Old Rome and New Rome. When I imagined the city, I only thought of the ancient part, full of ruins. But just past the Porta del Popolo, an ancient gate in the famous Piazza del Popolo, there are large banks, Burger Kings and other chains that bring tourists back to
modern times. Even after a week, I hadn’t had enough of the magnificent architecture and art, rich history and peaceful parks.

It’s definitely worth braving the crowds to experience these world-famous time capsules.