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An Architecture Tour: Rome and Ancient Roman Architecture

In the past two essays on travel and architecture, I’ve taken you to Paris and London, so now it’s time to go to another capital of historic architecture and fun European travel – Rome.

In reading about Roman Architecture in “A Concise History of Western Architecture” combined with a little Wikipedia, four things stand out about Roman Architecture. One, the ever present use of the arch, which allowed them to use small stones and concrete to make huge monuments; two, the combination of several arches to create the dome; three, the desire to make the capitol city the greatest looking place in the world and making sure to be able to provide for the masses attracted to living there; and four, the way to keep the masses happy was the idea of ‘bread and circuses’ which reminds me that opening day of baseball is coming soon. (It also bears mentioning that like other parts of the Roman culture, a good deal of the architectural style is owed to the Greeks, however, the discussion of the Greeks and architecture will wait for another essay. Let me add though, that the Gothic style built on the style the Romans created and so on and so forth, like most of the knowledge of the present borrows from the past.)

The Tour

Like most adventures, it all starts at an airport, and to fly to Rome, the journey starts from the Aeroporto Leonardo da Vinci. It’s a great name to start a voyage into a city that melds history into the everyday. Within the airport, there is a pretty good selection of rental car companies that will allow you to get to your first architectural destination.

The majestic Colosseum

Taking the A91 to the A90 to exit 18 for the SS6, left at via Casilina and right at Viale Palmiro Togliatti will take you to the remains of the Aqueduct Alexandrina. Here you will see how they used the arch to create of the many aqueducts that supplied all of the residents of the city with fresh water. Romans created the aqueduct in 226 AD and it still stands as a testament to the sturdiness of the arch and the quality of the construction.

From here, Hotel Milton Roma is just eight kilometers away, by Viale Palmiro Togliatti, a left on Via Prenestina, a right at Via Statilia, a right at Via di Santa Croce, left at Via Bixio, left on Via Emanuele Filiberto and right on Viale Manzoni to stay right in the middle of historic Rome. (If all of those turns make your head spin like mine, a map of the train system shows the Hotel Milton Roma is only 1.6 km – one mile – from the main train terminal – and the Aqueduct Alexandria is right down the street from the Togliatti metro stop.)

After dropping off your car (or you luggage after a train ride) it’s a two-mile walk to see the great example of the dome in Roman architecture, the Pantheon. How great is it? In the nearly two thousand years since it was built, it is still the largest unreinforced concrete dome.

Heading back in the direction of the hotel, a combination of the arch and the need to keep the masses happy is the Colosseum. To reserve a forty-five minute tour as well as the entrance fee to the Colosseum, you can visit this site.

Nearby, there is an example of a commemorative arch, the Arch of Constantine, as well as the ruins of the Circus Maximus, which is currently a park, but where they used to hold chariot races. To restate the obvious, these are just more examples of the arch and entertainment in the Roman architecture.

Down the street from the Circus Maximus is the Bath of Caracalla, a structure that was used to hold pools, gyms for wrestling and boxing and a library. If the virtual tour in the link isn’t enough (and when is it, really) you can buy an admission ticket for six euros. After poking around inside, the hotel is less than a mile away to rest your legs after a long day of walking.

After all of this architectural wonder, you can use the rest of your days to explore the cuisine, the Vatican and the rest of the culture of Rome. But, while you explore, you probably will have a greater ability to see the historic past in all of the domes, arches and the layout of this great city.

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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."

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