July 2009

 

All Roads Lead to Rome

And isn’t that the corniest headline ever?

MFTJul09-1    After a rash of movie reviews, I thought it might be nice to talk about something other than celluloid. Although given how well you in eat in Rome, I should say this is about cellulite rather than celluloid.

This column let me revisit some extremely ancient history – and I don’t mean of the Caesar variety. I’ve been to Rome twice, a longish stay in spring of 1985 and a shorter one in autumn of 1995. I’d love to go back – one day soon, I hope! I decided to illustrate this post with some of my own photos and that sparked a journey of nostalgia. So apologies if the pics, all from 1985, are washed out. They’re getting on, a bit like the photographer!

MFTJul09-2Recently I did a blog with fabulous Blaze author Tawny Weber and I had to finish with an either/or question. I went for Paris versus Rome because I have a German friend who says that people tend to love one city or the other. In my experience that’s true.

For me, it’s Rome.

MFTJul09-3Sometimes whether we love a place or not is as shallow as did we have nice weather there. And that first visit to Rome, my best friend with whom I was travelling and I hit the place just as spring burst into full flower. You’ll see the blossom in one of the pictures – just beautiful. So it was warm, it was sunny, it was packed with flowers and not with tourists as the season hadn’t really started yet. So you could wander around a place like the Pantheon or the Forum and soak up the atmosphere, without tripping over tour parties everywhere you went.

What struck me about Rome is how vibrant it is. It’s several thousand years young, in fact. All that history contributes to that richness of life in the current era. You don’t feel like you’re in a museum. You feel like you’re in a place that bristles with energy and vitality and style and pizzazz.

MFTJul09-4Another wonderful thing about it is that there’s just so much wonderful art and beauty around, it becomes part of the fabric of life, not something separate. In 1995, I was just wandering around and I popped into an empty church in which I discovered four absolutely magnificent Caravaggios including the famous one of the calling of St. Matthew. Breathtaking, amazing, awe-inspiring, and all just for me. No security guards. No bored school kids on an art excursion when they’d rather be necking behind the bike sheds. No crowds between me and four glorious paintings. Magic.

Something else magical in Rome is that the place is full of cats. I suppose you’d call them wild although they’re pretty friendly for feral moggies. There’s a stack of really cute postcards of cats sitting on ancient monuments that I must have sent home in the hundreds. I went out to the Protestant Cemetery to pay my respects at Shelley’s and Keats’s graves (yeah, I’m a romantic poetry junkie as well as a romantic fiction junkie!) and the cats made such wonderful companions as I wandered around that leafy, green, peaceful oasis.

MFTJul09-5Another touching moment occurred when I visited the Pantheon which is one of the most amazing architectural spaces I’ve ever stood in. Raphael’s grave is there (oh, dear, this is starting to sound like I’m a cemetery groupie!) and someone had placed a perfect long-stemmed red rose on it. I was there just as a beam of sun from the skylight in the top of the dome hit the grave, illuminating this beautiful flower like a spotlight. Again, magic.

Obviously, I could rave on for pages here. But I should stop as I have a book to finish. It’s been lovely wandering down memory lane and thinking about a place I love but haven’t visited in a long time. Thanks for the opportunity!