Thursday 13 May 2010

Roma Caput Mundi

I had not been to Rome for years, so I massively overestimated how long it would take to get there from Albano Laziale. I had a ten o'clock rendezvous with two American friends, so I got on the car at around 8:15, parked the car at the station, got on the 8:25 train to Rome, and in fourteen minutes I was at Roma Termini. Because it was so early I decided to walk, but I got to Piazza Barberini in less than fifteen minutes. Ridiculous.

Rome is lovely at this time of the year: it's warm but not too warm, sunny but not sun-strikingly sunny. I was prepared to be disappointed after so many years of absence, but in fact I loved every bit of it, from the stunning buildings and monuments to the food. It's true that quod non fecerunt Barbari fecerunt Barberini, et quod non fecerunt Barberini fecit Populus Romanus: the city centre is annoyingly dingy with smog, noisy and overcrowded. But it's also true that there are more beauties than any other European capital I have ever visited put together, and that its atmosphere and charm are unique.

Although I used to be a seasoned Rome explorer, I discovered some previously unknown sites yesterday, such as Sant'Ivo in Sapienza, with the famous Borromini cupola (I only knew the other one, near Quattro Fontane). The beauty of Rome is that you can walk from one place to the other with ease, as it's all so compact. Incidentally, I realized that whereas Roman people walk at normal pace, I constantly found myself marching along: thirteen years of life in London leave a deep mark.

Rome has not changed much: walking from Termini through Piazza dei Cinquecento and Piazza Esedra to Piazza Barberini, I saw the usual second-hand-book stalls - most of which have diversified into classic adult movies such as Il buco del piacere (The Pleasure Hole) - the usual shops, the usual museums and hotels, the usual people hanging around bars as if it were Sunday morning.

The highlights of the day were the discovery of a nice Osteria near the Piramide Cestia and my return to visit Keats's and Shelley's tombs at the nearby Protestant Cemetery. There were also funny moments, such as when a nutcase almost assaulted my friend for not letting him get off the bus, and when there was a popular uprising against a bus driver who drove too fast and too jumpily on the cobblestones around Piazza Venezia and the Coliseum.

In short, a great day, which confirms my opinion that even if I would not like to live in Rome, I'd love to be here more and more often as a visitor and day-tripper.

Tomorrow off to Tivoli.


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