Happy birthday, Rome! 2770 years old and you’re looking great. April 21 is the glorious day that we celebrate the foundation of Rome aka Natale di Roma. It’s pretty amazing to think that nearly three millennia a brotherly spat founded an empire. And even more amazing to see and live that history on a daily basis which is why I go nuts every time April 21st rolls around.
An imperial procession in the Eternal City
Every year, I make sure to head straight to Circus Maximus for the 21st century incarnation of Rome’s birthday which, depending on the year, can be a simple parade or a three day period piece/street party. Organizers Gruppo Storico Romano bring in emperors, vestal virgins, barbarians and legions from all the over Emprire, dressed in authentic antiquity finery.
The Circus Maximus, Rome’s ancient race track, is stage to traditional birthday ceremonies and market place to stands showing off Ancient Roman life from beauty culture andstylus writing to basic gladiator techniques and legion formation training.
From Via Petroselli to Piazza Venezia and on the Colosseum via dei Fori Imperiali, phalanxes march with the imperial family. Legions march n formation just like they did back in the day. Think of it as Downtown Abbey goes Ancient, where the snobby imperial family leads an incredible procession of senators, magistrates, lictors, vestal virgins, troops, barbarians, and, wait for it… gladiators.
Pumped up real life gladiators, including an old friend of mine, show off weapons, muscles and fabulous gladiator outfits. Once the march ends, we’re heading back to the Circus Maximus to get some action- the entire field becomes stage to gorgeously choreographed fights. And the best part? It’s all of this is free… expect for the arrosticini . . .
This article was featured in BBC Travel.