Go thou to Rome,—at once the Paradise, The grave, the city, and the wilderness; And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise, And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress The bones of Desolation’s nakedness Pass, till the spirit of the spot shall lead Thy footsteps to a slope of green access Where, like an infant’s smile, over the dead A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread; Percy Bysshe Shelley, Adonais 49-52
I haven’t seen every city in the world, but in my heart, I know that Rome will always be my favourite city of all time. My first visit to Rome was with my family, in the summer of 2003. I was 13, a full-on self-conscious teenager, and it was my very first time in Europe! (I exclude the 3 months when I was a baby, because I don’t remember that!). Rome simply left me breathless.
Coming from a country with a relatively short period of European settlement (about 200 years of colonisation), and a largely non-extant written history or architectural history of indigenous peoples (besides archaeological and fossil records from thousands of years ago, and oral history), I could hardly believe my eyes! I had obviously read about Ancient Rome in books, had watched movies and documentaries, and played strategy city-building PC games which added to my knowledge of Roman culture, agriculture, politics, but it was suddenly REAL.
As a mostly self-obsessed teen, my mind was blown wide open – seeing the ruins of structures built thousands of years ago certainly put some things in perspective! I may not have appreciated the details of the wealth of historical information at that time, but Rome left a very deep impression on me. I remember feeling like I would evaporate as my dad lead the way up the Palatine Hill in the sweltering heat, guidebook in hand, us trailing behind complaining and getting sunburned. I remember throwing my coin into the Trevi Fountain, secretly hoping the legend was true.
The second time I visited was on my Contiki Eurotrip, with my brother. We had one day in Rome – a whirlwind touristy march through the sights, which left me feeling sad and disappointed. There were too many people, the pace was WAY too fast, and it slipped by like a blurry dream. The third time was with my hubby – a long weekend in the height of summer, it was so incredibly hot that I don’t remember much! We walked a lot at night, stumbled over cobblestones, drank wine, sat by the fountains, and mostly just soaked up the vibrant, pulsating soul of Rome. Marco’s aunt, who has lived in Rome for 42 years, took us to some of the best spots that are hidden from tourists. I fell utterly, irrevocably in love with Rome, whereas before I had been merely infatuated.
On this visit, my fourth, I finally had the time to fully explore a fraction of what Rome has to offer. As Marco’s aunt says (well, she’s now my aunt too 😀 ), you could live several lifetimes in Rome and still not see all of it! I see Rome as one of the most magnificent collages in the world. It’s beautiful because it’s made up of so many amazing fragments, and each of these pieces has its own story, and its own life force. Etruscan ruins, Ancient Roman marble, Fascist monstrosities, decrepit Medieval churches, Byzantine basilicas, Renaissance art, modern graffiti and high fashion, and so much more!
It is said that Rome was the first Cosmopolis, and it certainly is still to this day. The droves of tourists that come to gape in awe at the ruins of ruins of a once unparalleled civilization is testament to its magic. I fully intend on visiting as many times as I can, each time adding more experiences and images to the collage of Rome that I hold in my own heart.
There is simply SO MUCH to see and do in Rome, so I will be posting a whole series on the city over the next few weeks. Let me know if you have any requests, in the comments below!