I went on a trip with Grandma to tour a part of Italy, but it wasn’t my first time in Rome. Back in 2012, Xiker and I hopped over from the Iberian peninsula to Lo Stivale (the boot) for a 4 day vacation in the Eternal City, and I just fell in love with it.
The chiseled stones of the past towered over us as we walked the cobblestones of winding alleys, in present day Rome.
Impatient Italians dressed in sharp cuts of black and grey delved their way through hordes of tourists wielding worn maps. Cars and jumbo buses duke it out in the narrow veins that make the city’s main roads, but two wheeled vehicles eventually overtake them all at a light.
In the residential neighborhoods we walked through, the squat and shuttered apartment buildings were lined up in neat rows and painted warm pastel tones. Doors were old, large and heavy, and I loved the antique door knockers. Every few steps there was a cafe or a pizza place, with aproned workers puffing on cigarettes in between rapid volleys of voiced words and hand gestures.
As someone coming from the suburbs of USA, the entire experience of staying in central Rome for a few nights was charming and ‘positively European’.
The names of the piazzas and the fountains I recognized from the Dan Brown book, but seeing them with my own eyes–the obelisks held aloft by ghostly figures frozen into hellishly uncomfortable positions– was more than just fiction actualized, it was the beginnings of an interaction with a past much more older and experienced than myself, my country and my idealistic whims.
The colosseum was a giant, stripped-down husk of the very distant past, and standing inside at the base of the field in the morning gloom, I actually began to imagine that it was what the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts must’ve looked like during the last task of the Triwizard Cup (with plants for the maze, not the crumbled ruin of bricks, of course).
I had to remind myself to think of it whole, in its marbled splendor and with a full house, crowd roaring for action on the playing field… but the stadium was resting under a gray sky that cast a pall on its historical significance. The exposed ruins only serve to show how it was once a gigantic dungeon-slash-theatre, for which the sole purpose was to provide entertainment to a hungry audience not satisfied with even the blood of animals.
The museum in the second floor of the Flavian Amphitheatre was informative and supplemented my feeble knowledge of Roman history (limited to quickly scanned wikipedia lore) with a colorful description of the history of the city that was and is Rome. But though I enjoyed it, I can’t honestly be a judge of whether the information was “romanticized” (pun intended) or comprehensive in its accuracy.
After the Colosseum, the aging Pantheon—one of the best preserved buildings of old Rome—was an architectural delight to gaze upon. The Pantheon was commissioned by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC, intended to be a temple for all the gods of Ancient Rome, then rebuilt in 126 AD by the Emperor Hadrian. The oculus especially is mesmerizing, when you consider that even almost 2,000 years later, it is still the world’s largest unreinforced dome.
I’m sorry to say, in comparison to the two buildings, the rest of the relics I saw of the distant Roman past were mostly fragmented architectural skeletons ravaged in a thousand ways.
As I wandered among them, I wondered what my own distant future would look like. In the all-too-disposable ideals of my society, what would still exist in my future present? Already now, many of the things I used in my childhood are obsolete, and with each passing year the amount of things manufactured then quickly discarded are multiplied a millionfold.
Did the ambitious Romans know just how long their legacy would stand, throughout the centuries?
This trip was originally published on Intentionally Left Blink.