My visit to Rome was guided by a native Italian, my boyfriend, who had been to Rome many times before and knew that I had always wanted to see it ever since I told him I had reoccurring dreams of being in front of the Colosseum. One morning while I was visiting him in Torino, he rushed me on a train at 5 am and didn’t tell me where I was going. A few hours in he looked at me and said “Don’t you want to know where we are going? We are going to Rome.” My mind nor my imagination had nearly been prepared for what I would do if I went to Rome.I stared out the window grasping on to the idea. He had everything prepared for us. All I needed to do was get ready to walk and be mesmerized.
I had been familiar with the architecture in Italy already, but arriving in city limits, I hoped to catch a glimpse of any ancient ruins visible that would tell me I was there. As I stepped onto the streets, It felt like a lucid dream. I looked everywhere for the images I had seen in pictures, books and movies, but still, there was nothing familiar in sight.
Italians are very creative with parking spaces I know this, but the first thing I noticed in Rome was to them parking was a masterful skill in the creative art department. I saw cars parked in crosswalks, sidewalks and in intersections.Walking into Piazza del Popolo we would notice the people saying “Bella Ma!” or “Bella Zi!” and use endearing terms such as “Caro” often instead of the regular “Ciao Bella!” we were used to hearing in the North. My boyfriend would nudge me and say, “Do you hear the Roman accent?”.
I had expected everyone we passed by to have a look of wonderment on their face like I did. Of course, people were carrying on with their usual business just like they do in San Francisco, I admit that it surprised me still. As we began walking through the stone streets of Via Del Corso, I was surprised at how many beautiful and ancient dwellings along the street were stuffed with Armani and Burberry shops. The street performance artists in front were much more peculiar than those I had seen in LA or New York. I had dreamed of a naked Rome, free of modern commercialism, but still, the street artists were quite amusing. We strolled at our own pace through the sprinkling rain to the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, and the Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. A kiss was made under our umbrellas at every corner. I had seen so many things already and still nothing yet. I caught myself looking around wherever we went to see if I could catch a glimpse of the Colosseum. I didn’t realize that Rome is far more vast than I prepared for and there was no way I would see the Colosseum unless I took a subway ride.
On the next day the most unexpected view awaited me as I climbed the stairs to daylight out of the conventional looking subway tunnel. The Colosseum, low and behold, was just as I had pictured it. Massive in its white and silver outlines, it’s dark eye sockets peered around in front of a dismal sky. Many people were standing in line just in front, waiting to get in and sharing the view with their friends and family with the aid of their selfie sticks. Everywhere brown men were waving them in the air for a quick sale. Hour after hour after strolling through Ancient Rome, sitting on the stairs built by Michelangelo, I used my imagination to picture what was going on where I stood during the days of Augustus. By this time, I had toured my way to exhaustion and was almost too heavy to take a peek into the Colosseum. I thought about some Gelato and a nap back at our apartment but Matteo wouldn’t let me miss out. I settled for a nap in the Colosseum on some worn steps overlooking the center of the stadium. Instantly I dreamed. I deemed it the most peculiar nap I have ever taken.
The sight of graffiti and tiny pieces of trash strewn about in places along here and there in some of these sacred spots reminded me that the eternal city that resides in todays time, also suffers the difficulties of today’s time. It is still a city very much alive that will be alive for the passing of many generations, withstanding momentous periods in world history to come.
At last we arrived at the Vatican. Here I began to humble myself with what I had known about the world of sculpture and renaissance art. I touched and passed by many of the most famous works in the world from Van Gogh and Raphael, to Michelangelo and Salvador Dali. I felt as though it would have taken me at least 3 days to know the Vatican properly. I found myself filtering through pieces and giving glance overs to some of the most ancient and beautiful paintings I had the privilege of seeing in real life. I had reached my peak of art viewing in the Sistine Chapel, where I was grudgingly disheartened at the people who were taking pictures even though it was forbidden. I was a little tired and hungry at this point so I was less patient with the public world around me. When I reached St. Peters Basilica, the larger than life atmosphere made me forget my petty concern for human behavior. Our size was reduced to field mice in a mansion. I walked through the papal tombs in silence and wonder, under the massive dome in presence of Bernini and Michelangelo. My eyes attempted to burn to memory every last detail offered, accompanied by an eldritch atmosphere of historical figures that used to occupy these spaces. Half of the day had passed, and I sighed in relief as I discovered outside under the Columns, a line of eager humans at least a quarter of a mile long waiting for their turn to have the same magical experience. The trick was to get tickets in advance, I thought.
Leaving the Vatican, the attempt to go into another church seemed meager and unsatisfying. The only thing I needed now was food buon pranzo and my love sitting across from me. Without going further into food, that is how I remember my Rome.