It’s hard to believe that after living in Europe for eight years, I had never been to Rome before. That all changed this weekend! Especially for the past month, I have been going back and forth between Madrid and Paris. Paris must be one of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world, and Madrid is one of the most agradable. So was it so surprising that I should find myself so surprised by Rome’s stereotypical and cliché eternal beauty? I had assumed that I would be most impressed by Michelangelo’s Rome, by the renaissance Rome, and by the Rome of the narrow alleys and colorful houses.
I arrived late on Friday night, so I wasn’t able to take in much of the city. On Saturday morning, though, we ventured out. We walked down Via Babuino towards the Spanish Steps. I was more impressed by the small Bernini fountain than by the actual steps. Then we worked ourselves over towards the Fontana di Trevi. With +90ºF and no shade, you come to appreciate the importance of Rome’s fountains more for their ultimate purpose than for their artistic quality. Nevertheless, part of the aesthetics — the way the marble alters the color of the water — only helps to refreshen you from the heat.
But it wasn’t until we reached the Troiano Forum on our way to the Colosseum that I was struck by Rome in a way that I had never been moved by even Paris before. As a matter of fact, I have never been much of a fan of Ancient Rome or of Roman history. Nonetheless, there is something so awesome — “awesome” in all of its pre 1980s sense — in coming around the bend and finding yourself face to face with the Roman ruins. There is something massive and almost overwhelming about their size, volume, and overall construction that I had simply not anticipated. I even got the feeling that I was in an ancient New York City surrounded by two thousand year old sky scrapers.
From that point on, every time I turned a corner I was star-struck be it the Area Palatina, Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon, the colorful side streets and piazzas. I only missed out on the Sistine Chapel. That I will leave for the next trip. Rome should be done patiently.