Surprise, surprise … at 5 am, the day broke promisingly with a dark blue sky…I can not believe that we could be having such luck again like in Istanbul! But, yes, as the day awoke, it became a perfect and calm day.
At 7, we presented ourselves with van and trailer at the gates of Urbe airport, a small military and civil aviation airport at the edge of the Eternal City, close by the Autostrada-ring racing around it. Nobody, except a very nice policeman, took any note of us and the lady responsible for the traffic on the airfield just left again without even having said hello to check that the runway is in good shape… By 7:45, I was frustrated, since we had not yet been assigned where to deploy and rig our airship. Finally. the chief air-traffic controller arrived at work, and, with all my power of convincing, I was able to win him over as a New7Wonders champion. He then got on top of things, requested the point of departure for us and even drove us there like a real “follow-me” car on the airfields. This helped to make up for some of the time we had lost.
Take-off from the grass field, next to the runway with the light morning sun, was a truly majestic experience. In just minutes, one becomes the objective observer of the world—in this case, looking down at the eternal city of Rome. After the rain, the air was so crisp and clear, with such a spectacular bird’s-eye view! It was mind boggling.
Saint Peter’s could be spotted right away in the distance, and so could the Monument of the Unknown Soldier in white marble at Piazza Venezia, and just behind the unique round structure of the Colosseum … what a sight!
The tailwinds pushed us at high speed over the city and in just a few minutes we had already reached our destination. We turned around it once and, as we reached the downwind side again, the wind started to pick up even stronger…Hampi, our pilot, was struggling, literally ruddering to keep the airship into the wind—naturally, it wanted to fly with the wind. I could feel how stressed he was, but I still had to ask him to fly even lower…again, luck was on our side and the winds were weaker at a lower altitude. I could see traffic stopped or at least slowing down significantly on the crowded streets below us. Rome commuters were looking out of their car windows to admire the airship soaring above them! Even the crazy, hectic Roman morning rush hour was a little calmer—a truly amazing feat, one to be proud of!
We finally made it back to the Colosseum for a second and third circle around, but there was simply no way that we were going to make it all the way back to Urbe airport. Hampi informed air traffic control and asked for an outside landing, which he was granted. So we landed safely in one of the most spectacular places in the world: the Circus Maximus—the Romans’ ancient Formula 1 race course, where they held their thrilling horse-drawn chariot races over 2,000 years ago. These are still so exciting to watch in films like Ben-Hur. What a day, and it was only about 11 am!
To conclude, we were invited—in a perfectly restored and peaceful palazzo in the ancient Roman Forum—to hand the official New7Wonders candidature certificate to Dottoressa Irene Iacopi, Director of the Colosseum. The little handover took place on a lovely terrazza full of flowers with the Colosseum in the background.
Rome was a short and successful stop on our World Tour, but unfortunately, with the bad weather during the days before, bella Italia did not show herself from her most charming side.
As we get to Fiumicino airport to depart, it starts pouring rain again.
Arrivederci, Roma. Good-bye, Italy. Hope to see you in a nicer dress next time!