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A Winter’s Remembrance of Rome in the Summer

December 19, 2012

The shade of the walkways was a welcome escape from the heat. Not exactly an escape, but a respite, a shadowy place to walk and stroll and think, reflect. People gathered in the low areas next to the massive tan walls of the castle, while the pathways edged these low spots all around so you could look down and watch the people in these man-made valleys. Kids swung on swings. Dogs gamboled after sticks. Couples strolled arm-in-arm, chatting about the heat and the coming summertime in Rome.

A place for pigeons and thinkers. The stone benches lining the dirt trails in the sunken moat around the castle offered such opportunities for reflection. It’s not every day that you can just sit and watch the passersby with their baby strollers and the boys playing rugby with a beat-up ball. Idyllic conditions for rumination.

Big trees threw their dark ragged outlines in crisscrosses on the grass and dirt. The steep sides of the moat’s embankment — leading up to the sidewalks and the tree-lined pathways — were cut through by stairs in several places; and the little children bravely climbed these grassy slopes reaching for the metal rails at the top, and victory. Their mothers watched from the stone benches, talking in the meantime about the financial crises which rocked all Europe in its gigantic maw. For now, however, the children had not to think about anything but reaching the top of the embankment.

Such a place as this is an oasis in any city. Rome has many oases among her tangled web of streets and stone constructions. Wide piazzas with palm trees and the smooth white towers of a Greek Church in Piazza Cavour, not to mention the heavily decorated sides of the enormous Palace of Justice on the other side across from the movie theater. The walls bristle with inset columns and carved figurines, and every one of its hundred windows is a miniature Parthenon. An Indian temple carved with the writhing forms of a million gods could hardly be more impressive.

As the sun bakes Rome into an afternoon biscotto everyone tries to find their way into a shady area, where cypresses grow and the marble walls of some church or monument give refreshing coolness under their shadow. Fountains gurgle their everlasting song. They spray their tribute to the skies, crystal droplets cascading and dripping off the moss-encrusted bowls.

When you consider the history of the place, the first question you will ask is why everyone is so concerned about the history of the place. A city is a city of the present, only reaching into the past so far as to restate its identity for the moment, to show the world a face unique and only saved from monotony by its very development and historical lines. But a new city is an oxymoron, perhaps. Cities grow like people, organic, alive, and the newborn baby is not the ideal talking companion like a lifelong friend is. For all their charms, babies lag a little in conversation. And new settlements have yet to test their historic worth against the slings of time, the arrows of chance and the winds of change.

Traditions and things that remain are the only things which allow us to talk about anything at all. We could not grab hold of a world that is constantly knocking itself apart and building itself up again. Musolini tried to make a New Rome, but he succeeded in showing the value of Old Rome when compared to the artificial lakes and the concrete monoliths of Eur. The problem with trying to start from scratch is that we don’t have any place to get the necessary ingredients, except what our forefathers and mothers have left us. They have made not only our atmosphere and environment; they have made our very flesh and blood. This air we breathe is humanity’s common breath.


From → Musings

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