Ode to Rome

When it’s your umpteenth time in Rome, and you have already seen all tier 1 sites on your previous trips, there is still plenty of tier 2 sites for you to see here.
Mind you, tier 2 in Rome would easily qualify as tier 1 anywhere else in the world.  This city is so full of wondrously beautiful monuments and museums, it could easily fill the list on tier 3 and 4, and maybe even tier 5.
Rome is a gracefully aging aristocrat. It is distinctly male; handsome despite but also because of his age, elegantly dressed and decidedly noble. Its color is honeyed. The hues of terra cotta are subdued and gentle on the eye. It’s a portrait in sepia.
No effort is made to upkeep the facades; the paint is peeling, the marble is cracking, the plaster is chipped, and the statures are covered with grey soot. Yet it doesn’t take away but adds to the painting that is Rome.
Only the Trevi fountain has been thoroughly cleaned and restored to its original glory by the Fendi family. I thought it was beautiful before; but now, it is blindingly resplendent in its dazzling whiteness.
Rome is made up by a mishmash of palazzos, churches, piazzas, and grand houses seemingly thrown together with complete disregard of any city-planning.  No straight lines here, no Haussmann-type boulevards.  It is laid out more like a small medieval town than the great metropolis it is. Yet somehow, this complete mishmash is crazily artistic.  It’s like a piece of art that looks random but that was actually carefully designed by a genius to be this way. Only it wasn’t. It just happened naturally, or at the whim of each next builder. But since each next builder clearly had a refined taste, each next building complemented the previous setup rather than going against it.
There are more stunning facades on a single Roman street than there are in any given city, which makes the city itself an open air museum.
Our tier 2 visits included two magnificent palace-museums, Palazzo Colonna and Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, two privately owned opulent residences whose aristocratic owners still live on the premises while they open the doors to their palatial public spaces and art galleries to visitors.  Most cities  can’t boast the likes of such palaces and such art collections in their major museums.
The food scene is also becoming more exciting. Some brave chefs are daring to step away from the traditional. We had an outstanding meal at Retrobottega – a take on the classical Italian fare with a decidedly modern twist.
One sorrowful observation: you don’t see fashionable people here anymore. Gone are the high heals and fancy dresses. Men in smart suits are a rare sight. Jeans, sneakers, and teeshirts prevail. Not even fine designer and well-fitted items, but well-worn cheap clothes and athletic sneakers. How sad!

 

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