Monday, July 10, 2006

La Dolce Vita

Yes, Rome still has vestiges of that Fellini sensibility, yes there are streets one can wander and begin to feel that sense of lightness of being in the midst of such history. Personally I have a bias toward a lesser-known Italian expression, “il dolce far niente,” which means, “the sweetness of doing nothing.” This is not to say that Italians are lazy, and anyone who might assert this ought to watch an Italian waiter working, or get a load of how far the Italians walk (and at what pace) each day as Americans, such as myself, whine about walking from the Marylhurst’s parking lot to a third story classroom on a rainy day. These people are full of life and energy, warmth and temperament.

This is what I wrote in my travel journal on 7/9: Have fallen head-over-heels in love with Rome, in the same vein that a teenage girl falls in love with a sexy, bad-boy, rebel who her mother cautions her against. Italy has just won the world cup and the city has come unglued. After four hours of pre-game coverage, Italy beat the rather ungentlemanly game played by the French, and bid adieu to the French team in a nail-biting, kick-off final. An explosion of fireworks, horns, whistles, car horns, and shouts instantaneously filled the streets. It sounded like shock and awe, only without the eventual political and human life ramifications. We were many miles from the city center, but all around us people were on their balconies and running in the streets in celebration. What a stroke of luck to be here during this monumental event! Italy’s win seemed to extend the run of celebratory sentiment that has followed me since I was inducted into Mu Omega. The world feels so alive to me. What a summer this has been.

We’ve seen the most exquisite sculpture I’ve ever seen at the Villa Borghese Gallery (all I can say is Bernini was definitely channeling the sublimity of the muses), we walked amongst ruins and over stones that Julius Caesar wandered through, we viewed the rooftops of Rome in a nearly 360-degree panoramic from atop Palatine Hill. We rested on marble slabs so eroded and weathered they looked like foam set pieces, we sat in the center of St. Peter’s Basilica and contemplated the almost profane grandeur of the papal tradition. History, and a feel for the evolution of culture, is slam-banging me everywhere,

Today Rome was uncharacteristically sedate, as if there was a collective hangover, and I suspect there was. Half of Rome was in slo-mo, and the other half was queued, along with us, in the Vatican city. Imagine 87 degrees of direct sunlight reflecting off of marble pillars the size of Godzilla, then imagine slipping a hoodie over shoulders so drenched with sweat that it stuck to you in small glumps. The art and treasure of the Vatican is mind-boggling, the Romanoff’s had nothing on the Papacy. And there is such an interesting, paradoxical game of one-upmanship from Pope to Pope. Nevertheless it has become one of the memorable sights of my life, the Vatican reverberates with power—it’s palpable.

A few miscellaneous highlights of Rome:

- an elegantly beautiful young cat walking out from among remnants of antiquity, sitting in front of a group of us in order to casually clean herself and then return into the ruined bits of columns and tablets.
- The eerie sensation, almost like echoes of screams, that blows through the colloseum. I know I wasn’t the only one to feel it, several of us stared into the slave and gladiator pits with utter revulsion.
- Viewing various likenesses of Sophacles, or Sappho, or Euripedes, or Calliope, and being aware of their stories. As my professor noted, Sophacles was a physically unattractive man, and I was struck by how similar the likenesses were—I presumed therefore that the likenesses were accurate.
- The sense of accomplishment Aaron and I had upon conquering the Roman metro system, very easy, very fast, very smelly endeavor!
- The view from the cupola (I did not partake of the 323 winding, narrow stairs it took to get up there to view Rome from a vantage point not too different from God’s)!
- The Duomo and its magnificent mosaic adornment.
- Aaron watching the World Cup in the kitchen of our favorite north Rome restaurant, La Scala, with all the chefs and waiters who he befriended. Tonight they greeted us back into the restaurant like old friends.

Tomorrow we leave this city with heavy hearts and aching feet. I am ready for the serenity of Tuscany—Rome could undo you after a while. But this is a city to be seen and pondered. A molto buono beginning to our trip.


At 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've only been fortunate enough to read about the collections at the Galleria Borghese. Did you get a chance to see the Caravaggio collection?

You must be in Tuscany by now. I'm wondering if you made up your mind about going to the Uffizi...guess I'll stay tuned for more details.

At 12:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Mere,

Yes, I saw several Caravaggio works, as well as a special Raphael exhibit, but I was most impressed by the sculptures by ... yikes, was it Bernini? This artist's work was truly vibrant, emotional life captured in stone! I am typing this on a European keyboard, and the symbols are all in different places than an American keyboard, very strange. Anyway, the Borghese gallery was truly the greatest gallery I've seen.

Must share the computer here at the Agriturissimo with other guests, so won't be creating too many (if any) posts for a while.

Tuscany is a little slice of Eden. Am in love with life at the moment.


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