« Words | Main | Flavour Text »

The Streets Where Cleopatra Walked

I wonder if Italians ever come to the UK and think "Oh, they're so cute with thier 'history'. They think they have old buildings. Heh. Well, let's indulge them and look at their little divit in the ground out in Wales that they call a coliseum, shall we?" I know that how far back we can trace things really has little to do with physical remains of buildings, but it's something tangible, easier to point to, and it has that immediate effect. Within Rome, there's a vast difference between looking at a divit in the ground and saying "Yes, that was the Circus Maximus" and walking into the Pantheon and staring up at the dome.

Pantheon at night We came upon the Pantheon almost entirely by accident. We were looking for it - but it wasn't where we thought it would be, and I had forgotten what to expect. It's been so long since I studied the architecture of the period that the dome had slipped my mind. It won't ever again. We came upon it in the evening, when the place was cooler (it was so hot when we were there), and sat at the fountian and just... stared. As one does, I suppose.

It's like walking in a dream, a lot of Rome, and nothing really seems like you expect it to. The heat, the sky, the press of people, the way the Met.Ro gets so crowded in the mornings always seems so mundane. I know, it's a city where people live, but it just added to the feeling of disconnection - how could any of this be real?

In front of the Pantheon is a court yard, or piazza, with a fountain in it. Everywhere in Rome has a foutain in it. At night, at least, the little restaurants that line the piazza are filled with patrons. I didn't eat there - I had found the best restaurant in all of Rome when trying to find my way. There's a McDonald's directly across the piazza from the font entry which added to the strangeness of the scene.

I don't know what to say here. I've been reading the wrong type of books to write about Rome, I think - novels that try to be pretentious, and it's affected how I'm writing right now. I don't want to make Rome sound pretentious or holy, even though that's so much a part of it. Romans, Italians, seem to just shrug their shoulders about the history, much like I can't find anyone to get excited about Edinburgh Castle unless they're an ex-pat. It's just a place, just a church, just 2000 years old with a dome that dwarfs so many things. How to you explain that, the casual disregard combined with a feeling of "This is our legacy, this is ours, no one can take it away"?

I need to arrange to not ever again read Kay's "Sarantine Mosaic" right before travelling to Rome.


TrackBack URL for this entry: