It was also the vague start of my love of mythology, which has only grown with the decades. So, when we booked a trip to Rome as our Christmas gift to each other, which also happened to be my rebirthday, I was insanely excited.
We only had five days, so we had to make them count. I wanted to see everything I’d read about Ancient Rome.
I hadn’t, however, given much thought to what the city itself might look like. Turns out, it’s a city.
It has a lot of graffiti. It has a serious homeless problem (something I found particularly disturbing in the shadow of opulence that is the Vatican). It has insane traffic and pollution. That was my first impression.
Our first day we walked to the ticket place for our passes, and then we went to the Pantheon. This piece of Ancient Rome was iconic in my imagination. In my vast ignorance, I thought it was preserved as the temple it had been. I didn’t realise it had been so deeply Christianized. Though the architecture was stunning, and I still appreciated its age, the joy I’d been harbouring was muted under the crucifixion.
That was kind of the theme. There were ancient places, but most had not only been taken over, they were still in use. I have no time for religion in general, and it was quickly hammered home we were in an extremely devout city. I knew that, but hadn’t thought it through properly.
I think my best moment was standing at the top of the colosseum. Looking out over six hundred years worth of history, standing where people so long ago had stood, I felt so small in the scheme of time and space. Just another footstep in a building that would outlast us all.
Seeing the paintings on the Sistine Chapel was also amazing. Not so much for the Bible stuff, but for the colour, texture, and beauty of every piece. The people really looked as though they might climb down and join you.
The final day we simply wandered, and it was then we saw what we’d been looking for; narrow cobbled streets with strange art, shuttered windows on colourful buildings, and even archeological sites contained behind modern facades on little side streets.
Would I go back? I think so. But I’d stay away from the tourist areas and look for the real place beyond the photos of food and people selling every possible tour. I’d rather wander the side streets and see where they led. After all, not all who wander are lost.