I put Rome in all caps in the title because….well…ROME
“Italy has changed. But Rome is Rome.”
-Robert De Nero, American actor
From the moment I began walking the streets of Rome I felt something different than any other place we’d been to in Italy. I felt it, acknowledged it, and considered it over the 4 days we spent in the city. I continued to ponder the feeling long after we had returned to the states and had journeyed to other points on the globe. Eventually, I determined it was…timelessness. Italy is an ancient country and we had visited many, many places with very long histories, but Rome….well it felt like it had ALWAYS been there and always would be. I won’t even begin to talk about the places we DIDN’T get to see (Coliseum is one can you believe it?), but we tried to make good use of the time we had. Our Airbnb was situated a very short walk from Trevi Fountain & the Spanish Steps, so a good location for exploring the central part of the city.
It’s not that I WANT to point out a darker side of the city but it would be misleading, I feel, to not acknowledge the reality that Rome has much in common with every other large city on the planet; homelessness and extreme poverty exist. The woman in the image above did not move a single muscle as far as I could see in the 15 minutes or so I watched a thousand people walk by her. She is a fixture in their everyday life I assume. The space around her remained constant unless a tourist, enthralled by their surroundings, somehow missed this semi prostrate form on the ground near them. I witnessed what I would consider to be “professional” beggars as well. They were well dressed, extremely courteous, and for the most part, appeared to consider this their vocation. There was no expression of their dire circumstances, just a simple hat in hand pose with head down.
We chose to go to Italy in October. We chose to go at that time to hopefully avoid some of the crowds (they were still significant, especially around major attractions) and the heat. The downside was the amount of rain we experienced. It wasn’t TERRIBLE but, on more than one occasion we found ourselves a bit housebound. Even then it wasn’t all that bad as we were clocking close to 8 miles a day on our feet, and usually, for me, it was more like 12-15 as I would go out early and late for photography opportunities. One thing I’ve learned as a photographer: take advantage of rainy days to get those amazing shots that don’t exist when the streets are non-reflective and the potholes empty.
If you find yourself standing next to a church in Rome, chances are it was first built a thousand or so years before anyone in Europe gave serious thought to “The New World”. Churches are numerous and all of them are simply works of art. The ceilings have AMAZING frescoes some of which are themselves hundreds of years old. One of the things about Rome is that history is everywhere you stand. I was walking along the street, diving into porticos and doorways depending on the strength of the rain, and at one point found myself standing by a railing beyond which a half-buried stone structure stood with a tiny sign proclaiming its historical significance as the oldest known gateway to the first sports complex in Rome. It was insignificant alongside the gigantic monuments to history elsewhere in the city.
Alongside Pompeii, the Pantheon has been right near the very top of my list of places to see since I was a child. It might have had something to do with the age of the dome which, to this day, is the largest unreinforced concrete dome in the world. I grew up in a family of construction superintendents and eventually became one myself. When I was in high school I studied architectural drafting and originally thought I might become an architect, inspired by what had been accomplished thousands of years before. This location was so meaningful to me I’ve created its own post with images and you can find it here or by clicking on the image above.
The Vatican may perhaps be the most famous religious location in the world. Set aside the fact it is the world’s smallest COUNTRY there is history here most of us will never get a glimpse of. The objects on display, for those of us who get a chance to wander the halls, are merely a hint of what lies in the vaults. I believe there are secrets here we will likely never know until the age-old question of who God is becomes clear, and maybe not even then. Although the Vatican did not hold for me the passionate interest of the Pantheon or Pompeii, I was blown away by the beauty and the sheer magnitude of what it holds. In addition, the artistic element of virtually EVERYTHING in the place meant I took nearly 1,000 images in the 3 hours we toured the site. I’ve created a separate post that delves into some of the amazing items and rooms inside the Vatican as well the history it holds. You can access that by clicking HERE or on the image above.
Rome is not a city you “visit” for a few days if you want to get to know her. My guess is, a person could spend a month and cover most of the “usual” locations and maybe even hit a few of them up more than once. I suspect, however, that if you want to truly understand Rome, it will take more than a lifetime. For more images of this timeless city click HERE.