Roma Triumphant! Happy Birthday to the Eternal City

Happy birthday, Rome! 2770 years old and you’re looking great. . .

April 21, that glorious day of the year in Rome (well, they all are wonderful, aren’t they?) when Rome celebrates the anniversary of the founding of the Eternal City, aka Natale di Roma.  It’s pretty amazing to think that just 2770 years ago, 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.  And I’m not kidding.

Every year, I make sure to head straight to Circus Maximus for the 21st century incarnation of Rome’s birthday – a three day period piece/street party organized by the volunteer group Gruppo Storico Romano. Legions, and yes, I really mean legions-  co-ed phalanxes dressed in authentic antiquity representing troops from across the Empire-  as close as Rome and as far away as Spain and Romania- crowd the Circus Maximus.  Starting Friday, which this year coincides with the April 21 founding date, the ancient race track becomes theatre 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.

By Sunday morning, I’m in Piazza Venezia, with the imperial family as part of the triumphan t march on Rome.   Legions get in formation from the Circus through Piazza Venezia and down the Via dei Fori Imperiali to the Colosseum 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 . . .

Here’s how to join the party  

And enjoy more photos from my article celebrating the Eternal City for Huffington Post