How do I begin to write about Rome…
As I’m writing I’m on my train to Verona, Italy which travels 250km/h, that’s exactly how Rome felt like. Let me first begin with a few recommendations to ease the transition. When I first arrived I did not have an itinerary (mistake #1). I had an idea of the things I wanted to see and do, like the Vatican and Colosseum, but there was no plan. To my advantage Rome is a somewhat easy city to navigate. There are buses in every direction, and if you’re lucky like I was, they usually never check bus tickets. I probably travelled 10-15 times on the bus and I never paid. Aside from these free rides Rome can be quite expensive between souvenirs and meals; make sure you buy snacks and fast meals at the supermarket. DO NOT eat out every night unless you have the funds to do so. My last recommendation for lodging, I stayed with the Religious Teachers Filippini (Casa per Ferie “Auxilium Christianorum”). They have a hostel just 10 minutes (walking) from the Vatican and the #64 bus to the Colosseum and Piazza Venezia passes right in front of the building. For single with private bath, breakfast and great location it was about 47 Euros a night. While you can stay at a private apt. rented hostel where you pay 15-20 Euros, for first time visitors a place that can provide resources, help and that you know is best. The sisters are wonderful. They offer breakfast, room cleaning every day and general guidance on how to get around. Also, if you are ever lost, the trains/buses aren’t working or something happens and you cannot get back to the house, you call them and they will pick you up wherever you are.
The beautiful thing about staying with the sisters is the peace that overwhelms their home, not necessarily because they are “religious”, but because each one serves and loves you genuinely. We are their guests and they are joyful about caring for us. Rome is just like this. The moment I arrived I felt welcomed, perhaps because everyone around me was a tourist and I could relate. I find Italians to be very lovely people, even in Rome where I expected people to be more absent. My favorite example is of a Mexican guy who was asking about tickets for the bus, the Italian girl spoke only Italian and he only spoke English and Spanish. Still, she was able to help him and did so very kindly. At the bus I found them having a conversation with a mixture of multilingual phrases and gestures. She told him about why she was in Rome and he looked are her eyes baffled by her beauty. There was joy, and maybe sparks of attraction between the two stranger in the middle of a smelly and crowded Roman bus.
This is Rome. A place in which you can acquaint the Mexican tourist who spent his life savings to see the world, or the Argentine gorgeous man who took my picture and told me about how he decided to pick up and travel the world…because you only live once. There are also those Roman moments where you find yourself sitting next to a middle-aged man in a restaurant. He seems lonely, pensive and maybe a bit sad. Then you realize you are not much different from him. You realize you might have misread him, that he might be pondering about his past or remembering a love affair. I realized then that traveling alone is not so bad, it might seem lonesome to others but it is very refreshing. I don’t have to worry about limits imposed by other’s needs, but then again I have no one to share the experience with…and that’s okay. Some things we must keep to ourselves, cherish in our hears and hopefully remember forever. Others are worthy to be shared.
One of my favorite things bout Rome is it’s history, particularly the transition from Paganism to Christianity. Everywhere you go there is a place of worship, and if lacking people make their own. I found a group of (of course) Caucasian American Hindus chanting and dancing outside the Pantheon (something a Hindu would never do). My experience was not as lively. When I entered the Vatican I felt spiritually compelled. The aesthetic is majestic, particularly the Basilica and the Square. For a moment I was shocked that it was all real. I remember seeing pictures and watching videos but I never thought I would get to see it in person. The city is hundreds of years old, whoever is Catholic is lucky to be connected to such wonder. The detailed art of the Sistine chapel was surprising, I’d never imagined it to be so large, so bright and filled with life. Since I took a guided tour I learned the history and details of the Vatican, it’s museums and Church. I prayed at the grave of now St. John Paul II, and it was very moving to remember the life of such a man as I prayed.
Another exciting part of Rome is the architecture, not just of Rome but of the entire city. It’s amazing. How were the Romans and those who followed able to create and build the Castel di San’ Angelo, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatino? If we compare the complexity of Roman streets, the magnitude of its buildings, churches, and castles to our modern and sleek architecture that crumbles the moment a natural disaster occurs, Rome wins.
As a New Yorker I thought of how wonderful our buildings are, how people enjoy life in the metropolitan area probably more than others. In Rome I’ve realized that beauty is not necessarily new, fresh and perfect. That beauty can be the crumbling buildings of Rome, the wrinkled face of a woman who has lived and enjoyed life. Something beautiful can be the Italian tourists at the bridge of San’ Angelo dancing to an Italian sonnet, careless to what others thought. Or then street musician who dedicated me a love song and played on his accordion.
Beauty is not held in the complex sizes of our body or degree of education. Beauty in its essence is defined by how we have used our life: have we cherished it, lived it fully and joyfully? Have we experienced pain, love, grief? or have we entered in the individualistic cycle that finds fulfillment in trampling every one else? that only finds joy and beauty in daily material satisfaction? It’s not a question of money vs. happiness, but one of true joy, of experiencing life’s simplest pleasure. I want financial stability, material goods, physical pleasure (food, sex, etc), but I don’t want that to be IT. I want to feel like I’m doing something for this world, whether it’s by admiring it and traveling or helping it in service.
Rome, thank you for challenging me to explore you, to love you and admire you. Thank you for pushing me beyond my mental, emotional and physical limits. Thank you for helping me enjoy life and being able to encounter beauty. Thank you for inspiring me to survive, to thrive, to love and to take risks.
Your legs feel like fried bacon after a day of climbing and descending. It’s a roller coaster ride, but no one is pulling you up the mountain. You’re headed toward Yosemite more than 4,000 feet of pounding the pedals. You are aware of every movement because your thighs feel tender with a sensation of pain. You push on, toward the final ascent into the valley. In front of you is a monster mountain—El Capitan. Your eyes grow wide. You take a deep breath. Suddenly, you feel only wonder.”
- Frosty Wooldridge, Golden, Colorado, Summer, 2010
Ci rivedremo ,
And here are some extra photos for your personal enjoyment