Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rome: First Impressions

It usually takes me about two days to become accustomed to a new city and like it, but I think I like Rome right off the bat. It’s not like any other city I’ve ever visited. I feel that it is a truly “European” city- more so than London and Edinburgh, and maybe even more than Paris. Sometimes I feel closed in by the city, and I’m not sure if I totally like that. Even though I like to be able to see more of the city at once, I am still fascinated by this aspect of Rome, because the closed-in feeling comes from narrow roads that follow old footpaths and roads from the days before tall and large buildings. The juxtaposition of old and older and almost new and ancient is astounding. It’s part of what makes modern Rome Rome. It’s not just how old and new(ish) buildings are right next to each other (Mussolini-era structures next to or on top of Renaissance buildings and ancient temples); it’s also how a place like the Pantheon- originally intended for Pagan worship- was saved and transformed into a Christian temple. It’s because the church took such buildings over that many of them have been able to survive to the present. Seeing this and other similar examples, I can’t help but think that Christianity is a lot less unique and original than many of its adherents would like to admit. The abundance of art and architecture and pure culture is a little overwhelming.
Rome is a smaller city than I imagined. I had heard it was small, but I didn’t believe it until I matched up where we had walked with the map, and saw that we were going from point A on the map to point B in a shorter amount of time (and mileage) than I would have guessed. There is still a lot more to see, that’s for sure, and the next several days will be filled with visiting, revisiting, exploring, and occasionally relaxing. Already Trastavere is starting to feel like “home;” our own little neighborhood where we can return and hang out, where we will get to know the shops and the buildings and even the people.
I wonder if modern Romans see themselves as “Romans” in the classic sense, whether they feel any strong ties to their legends and see their city through those eyes. They probably do to some extent at least, much as we do with our [more contemporary] founding fathers. Sometimes it’s hard to look at the Rome of the Classical Period in conjunction with the Rome of today, and sometimes it’s hard to separate them.
I didn’t know what to expect with Rome at all, really. I couldn’t get over the jumble of buildings and history that it is. Now that we’ve been here a day, I can already see it starting to make sense in my head. We’ll see if the next few days help even more, or just add to the mass confusion and overwhelmed-ness. Either way, it’s sure to be an enlightening, exhilarating, (and even though the term is over-used) exciting time.