We finally found out where all the tourists have gone. They’re in Rome; legions of them lining up around the Colosseum, mobs and globs clogging the Spanish Steps, masses of chatterboxes disturbing the sanctity of the Sistine Chapel.
We were actually in Rome twice, with the Amalfi Coast sandwiched in-between, and we used our time in the Eternal City to cram in the must-see highlights, including the Roman ruins, the Vatican, and the Pantheon. We tried to maximize our absorption rate by going on guided tours, but we still had to deal with the huge crowds every place we went.
The city is absolutely crammed with art: monumental, dramatic, glorious, egomaniacal. Some of it is stolen (from Egypt, for instance; we found a missing obelisk or two that had originally sat on pedestals we saw last week). Some of the art is most notable for the scandals and jealousies that surrounded it. If I could only remember what my art history textbooks had to say about it all, I might have more to say, too.
You know those reality TV shows in which contestants compete for position as the top chef, fashion model, or designer? Well, Rome looks like a bunch of over-competitive cake decorators have been using the place as a battleground for centuries.
The one stand-out was the Pantheon. Built about 2000 years ago, this temple is as close to mathematical perfection as a building can get. There are no rococo festoons or self-glorifying sculptures, just pure architectural elegance and engineering brilliance; the largest open-span, unreinforced concrete dome ever built. At the peak, the dome is open to the sky, and it is said that when rain falls through this oculus, the natural pressure of the column of rising air causes the drops to descend as if in slow motion, lit, of course, by the light of the oculus itself. Simple openings among the floor tiles allow the water to drain away.
The temple was originally dedicated to all the Roman gods, but in the eighth century the Christians took over and removed all the pagan imagery. To their credit, after all these centuries they’ve hardly changed anything else. They hold Sunday mass and other services there, but these must only be for the deaf or people who don’t care to hear what the priest is saying, because the acoustics inside that near-sphere are not made for oratory.
We didn’t like Rome very much, but in all fairness, we didn’t see the “real” Rome. I’m pretty sure that of all the thousands of people we saw, 99% of them were tourists or temporary transplants there to make money off tourists.This entry was posted in Honeymoon 2013