Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo by Natalia Duron
In St. Peter’s Square, 140 stunning statues of saints sit atop the 284 Doric columns that protect St. Peter’s Basilica. The gorgeous structures are symbols of the Roman Catholic faith. 

Vatican City

When in Rome: The Beauty of the Eternal City  

By NATALIA DURON, Staff Writer | Published March 26, 2024

Visiting Italy had always been a dream of mine. It is one of those places that seems too beautiful to be true. As someone who loves traveling, I knew that when able to visit Italy, I wanted to see multiple cities there.  

During my eight days in Italy in February, I explored Milan, Como, Florence, Naples, Pompeii, Positano, Rome and Lugano, Switzerland. Traveling by train in Italy is just as scenic as you would think.  

I was lucky enough to visit Italy during a period of little to no tourism. Pictures were not crowded by others and museums were empty and calm, so I truly embodied the “When in Rome,” feeling. I was immersed in the Italian realm instead of just visiting it. I was able to visit the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and see The Last Supper in Milan, the Statue of David in Florence, the ruins of Pompeii and the beautiful Lake Como all with ease. 

People have asked me what my favorite city was, and there is no other better answer than Rome. You can see the pictures and read about Rome, but you could never really understand the true beauty of the Eternal City unless you are standing inside it. 

Although its architecture is fading, Rome’s history is not. With its founding date in 753 BC, Rome has encountered pitfalls and triumphs, but the traces of its story remain uncovered today. Its famed name as the “Eternal City” comes from the poet Virgil, who said that Rome was “an empire without end.” 

I spent three days in Rome, so I ventured more into sightseeing and learning there. I visited the ruins of the Roman Forum, was awed by, and listened to the waters of the wondrous Trevi Fountain and stepped inside one of the Seven Wonders of the World: the Colosseum.  

As someone who is fond of history, I was equally enlightened and starstruck seeing the Colosseum. Standing inside the amphitheater brought me back in time. I pictured gladiators ferociously battling, actors reciting lines, and crowds roaring and cheering. I imagined the spectators and influential figures who gathered in this once thriving arena.  

What is most astounding is that this stadium is an icon not only of Italy, but of other countries. Little did the Romans know that the Colosseum would be a blueprint for major stadiums in the world today.  

Little did the Romans know that the Colosseum would be a blueprint for major stadiums in the world today. Defying the test of time, the Colosseum truly symbolizes power and entertainment and entails the story of Rome. Photo by Natalia Duron

Though most of the Colosseum has been broken apart by fires, earthquakes, vandalism and even robbery (metal and marble in the structure were sought after in the Middle Ages) it has not lost its history. Each scratch, stone, brick and missing piece are simply tales of the rise and fall of the landmark. Defying the test of time, the Colosseum is a massive establishment that truly symbolizes power and entertainment and entails the story of Rome.  

Inside of Rome is a small independent state called Vatican City. Visiting the Vatican was something I looked forward to, with one of my lifelong dreams being to see the iconic Creation of Adam painting. 

Vatican City is a breathtaking haven for Catholics around the world. It not only displays the essence and beauty of Catholicism through its glorious white, smokey architecture and iconic marble buildings, but also is rich with monumental history. Though the country is the smallest in the world, it carries an extensive range of artifacts from St. Peter’s tomb to the Sistine Chapel.  

The country is guarded by walls, all except for the main entrance of St. Peter’s Square. At the very end of this small strip of restaurants and embassies is the marvelous St. Peter’s Basilica.  

When I walked into St. Peter’s Square, I noticed the 140 stunning statues of saints that sit atop the 284 Doric columns that protect St. Peter’s Basilica. The gorgeous white structures are a symbol of the power and history of the Roman Catholic faith. The columns and pilasters were built to gracefully force your eyes to trail directly to the basilica. This is symbolic for the embrace of the church. 

In the center of St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City is the Vatican Obelisk with Latin inscriptions carved onto it. On the base facing St. Peter’s Basilica, the words “CHRISTVS VINCIT CHRISTVS REGNAT / CHRISTVS IMPERAT / CHRISTVS AB OMNI MALO / PLEBEM SVAM DEFENDAT,” are shown. In English: “Christ conquers. Christ reigns. Christ commands. May Christ defend his people from all evil.’ This is the phrase that radiates throughout Vatican City and ignites curiosity to all who visit. 

The steps that take you inside St. Peter’s Basilica are the same marble steps that once stood inside the Colosseum—a little piece of history. Once you journey up these steps, you enter a majestic palace of worship. I first noticed the ceilings, with details so intricate and mesmerizing. I then saw Pieta, the marble sculpture created by Michelangelo depicting the Sixth Sorrow of the Virgin Mary. My heart could feel the pain and intensity of this scene; Michelangelo impressively captured this sorrow-filled moment. 

I took a moment to recognize the basilica in all its glory. The gold accents, the marble, the statues and the details of the structure are fascinating. With every step you take there is something new. 

Beneath the Basilica are papal tombs called the Vatican Grottoes. The area is open to the public and is the final resting place of popes and royalty. As you take the stairs to visit the necropolis, you are immediately at the entrance of St. Peter’s tomb. Seeing the words “SEPULCRUM SANCTI PETRI APOSTOLI” (TOMB OF SAINT PETER THE APOSTLE) was overwhelming, yet amazing.  

After my time inside the basilica, I visited the esteemed Sistine Chapel. A bucket–list dream of mine was to gaze at all the paintings—ponder on the details of each brushstroke and bright colors—and observe the stories of the Book of Genesis. The Creation of Adam was the one I dreamt of being directly under and studying it, no matter how much my neck hurt.  

There is so much to see and stare at in Rome, and I am grateful that my time there was well-spent.  

Rome is truly a heavenly city of tales, beauty and glory. And as I left Italy, I felt more inclined to appreciate the wonders of this world, and more importantly the beauty of faith. I can only hope to visit again someday and learn even more.