Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Roman Holiday. 1985.

Leaving the Forum, heading for the Colosseum

June 25, 2013:    Rome:  Bright. Sunny. Joyous. Solemn. Historic. Modern. Well- spring of civilization, scourge of nations.  Fountain of faith, source of evil.  A notion wrapped in enigma.  I love it.

  Mary Alice and I went to Rome in 1985 to begin a two week tour of Italy and Switzerland.  I had been there before, she never had, and it was so much fun to watch her catch its rhythm. We hit all the high points.  We breakfasted Roman-style: a roll and coffee at a sidewalk stand, and then we'd walk.  We would walk until we couldn't walk anymore, and then we'd take a cab back to the hotel.  We put off the cab as long as possible, knowing the terror of Roman traffic.  In a Roman cab, you stare at the floorboards and don't look up till you get there, wherever it is.  But that's all part of Rome..something else to relish.  Besides, we had to hurry because we knew a wonderful dinner was waiting somewhere, we just had to get there.

  Our hotel was on a hill overlooking the Tiber Valley and some of the best shopping in the city.  We were jet-lagged when we arrived..too tired to just race out and start exploring  So, we opened the balcony doors and lay down for nap; we would unpack when we got the strength.

  It seemed only a short time before we were aware of a stirring, a discreet murmur and sort of shuffle on the street below.

  Investigating, I found a small migration of people heading for what I discovered was the top of the Spanish Steps, less than half a block away.

  Many Romans spend at least part of their evening at the Spanish Steps.  Some bring food and wine, some have a guitar.  It is a social place.  People find a step, sit down, spread out and watch the world go by.  Beats watching television any night of the week.  We joined them awhile and then found a marvelous restaurant tucked just under the steps on the right in that picture.

  (A brief word about the pictures:  These are color slides I took so I could show the kids and/or others our vacations..the best I could do at the time.  They've been converted to modern digital and they have lost some of their original brilliance.  I've rescued them a bit with Photoshop, but please bear with me.)


  Romans, like all Italians, are exuberant and can be a lot of fun.  The men have a casual style, the women are sexy, and a stroll down the street is a people-watcher's feast.

  As you stroll, the contrast of ancient and new envelops you. Here in a grotto between two modern buildings, is a moss covered lion's head, water flowing from its mouth into a basin, still providing a quiet and cool place after centuries.  

  The famous Trevi Fountain is in a relatively small square, reached 
through narrow walkways.  You need directions, but it's worth it. At last you turn a corner, come into the square and there it is in all its glory.  

  There are small sidewalk cafes around the square..a perfect place to have a drink and savor place and time.   Happy conversation blends with the sounds of Trevi's flowing water, and as evening begins, soft lights add a coziness you didn't expect.  


  Everyone knows the traditional price of a visit to Trevi is three coins.

  Toss the coins into the pool and, legend says, you will return someday.  My sweet wife had them ready in her pocket before we got there (right).  She did not get to return, sadly, but she relived it in her memory time and time again..and what could be better than that?


  Rome takes care of its past.  

  The most ancient parts of the city are in its center.  The Forum is there; archaeologists work as tourists stroll where Caesar presided, where the Senate met and the Empire was governed.  You can see ancient apartments on the hill, temples and monuments, crumbling but still where they were in the days of glory. 

  Get a guidebook, whatever you do.  Read it and understand as much as you can about what you're seeing.  It only magnifies the experience.

  Climbing the hill from the Forum, you cross to the Colosseum, the monumental stadium that any NFL team would lust for in its heyday.  

  Once, it was covered in white marble and those niches contained statues to whatever gods were in vogue at the time.  The marble disappeared over time--taken away to decorate other palaces in other places.  

  It held 50-thousand spectators at one sitting.  The Emperor had a box seat and there was a special place for prominent politicians.  Sounds like today's layout, doesn't it?  Privilege begets privilege and the common man rides coach.

  Here's the interior today:

  Those walls in the basement were where the animals were kept and where the gladiators prepped for whatever gruesome spectacle was on the schedule.

  Think of it: 50-thousand spectators.  The Emperor's reserved seat is on the left.


  Of course, when in Rome, there's another country to visit--the Vatican.  
Wondrous, mysterious, grand.  A beacon for the faithful.. 

                                      ..a vessel of culture.

                             Michelangelo's The Last Judgement.

                                            In the Basilica.

                                               At sundown


  It's absolutely wonderful and if I have "waxed purple-poetic," I apologize, but that's how Rome makes you feel.  While you're there, you do all you can to soak it up, enjoy it, appreciate it and take it home with you to think about some more.  From there, Mary Alice and I went to Florence, Venice, Lake Como and its lovely little Bellagio.  We crossed the lake and went to Switzerland and Liechtenstein.  But those are all stories and pictures for another time and I promise I'll get to it.  But for's Rome..

 ..and one tired puppy.  


Written in Morgantown, WV on 6/25/2013 about travel enjoyed in 1985.