In case you missed it, here are the previous and upcoming posts about our summer trip to Italy:
- United Airlines To Rome
- St. Regis Rome
- Osteria 44
- Photo Essay of Angels & Demons
- A Quiet Meal At Cul de Sac
- Trevi Fountain (Semi) Closed For Business
- A Fast Train To Venice
- St. Regis San Clemente Island
- Hotel Danieli
- Antico Pignolo
- A Quick Trip To Murano
- How To Ride The Vaporetto (Water Bus) In Venice
- Getting Lost In Venice
- British Airways 787 Flight Home
Rome is a city conflicted, living different identities in modern time. There’s a historical side to Rome, the obvious commercial and industrial aspects of a large metropolitan area and a travel and tourism side as both a host city for various activities and a major gateway to the rest of Italy.
I’ve written about my feelings on Rome in the past but I always find Rome shows me just a little bit more each time we return. My opinions of the city have changed quite a bit since my first visit roughly a decade ago.
On the first day of that trip, we dropped our bags at our hotel and headed out to tackle the city. We decided the Colosseum was up first and endeavored to figure out the local subway system. We ended up on a crowded train next to some locals who, it became quickly evident, hadn’t showered in quite some time. We exited the subway to a bunch of graffiti and trash in the street to find the Colosseum and promptly be hassled for a tour. After figuring out the line to get in without purchasing a tour was 2 hours, we adjusted our perspective. Needless to say, my views have changed much since then.
Rome does not strike me as a romantic city, per se. But, if you want to fall in love with her, she beckons you to venture off the path. Whether it’s a restaurant hidden from view near a popular tourist attraction, like Cul de Sac, or a church with magnificent architecture, or even a quiet side street with interesting shops, the city invites you in many ways.
On one trip found us discovering a flea market somewhere between Piazza Navona and the Trevi Fountain which we were never able to find again. On that night, we discovered a merchant selling, among other things, authentic stock certificates from US companies, circa 1920-1940. Another merchant was selling vintage vinyl records from the 60s and 70s. And, virtually nobody spoke much English.
And, then, there was the discovery of a concert in Piazza del Popolo, near the path of Angels & Demons, thousands of folks crammed into the Piazza and night for a concert sponsored by Hard Rock.
To call Rome a city doesn’t quite do it justice. Even amongst the city streets line with taxi cabs and other traffic, racing (and crawling at times) to get to places, there are small touches like orange trees that betray the commercialism.
When I think of a city like Rome, I view it through the lens of a time when it was a sort of “capital of the world”, in a time where such things could exist, a dominating empire that wasn’t seen in this stature very often and likely will never be seen again. The Roman empire expanded mercilessly, occupying a footprint much wider than the borders of Italy today. The red shading indicates areas controlled by the Romans atWhen viewing Rome through that lens now, I can see a city that struggles to maintain that historical significance in the face of modernization. There exists this weave of old and new that I find most intriguing, drawing me back.
Rome won’t win any contests for most beautiful, most cosmopolitan. While rich in history, there are other cities around the world that have stronger reputations for historical context. Rome is what you make of it. But, it’s a shame to consider it only as the gateway to the rest of an incredible country. Rome is meant to be lived, not toured with a guide pointing out landmarks. It is better experiencing what she has to offer over the course of time.
The saying goes, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” To me, she can’t be consumed in a day, either. She is a canvas with centuries of accents where you can see the artist returning to add context for us. And yet, you’ll find the occasional stark line as modern day interrupts history.
Departing Rome has never been sad for me, as I know I’ll be back. The city has that gravitas of a place that once audaciously sat as the capital of an empire set out to rule the world.