Arrival in Rome

March 31, 2009

There are six of us. Three brothers, and three friends. Frank Curran has planned this trip for years, not knowing who would go when the time came to commit to the trip. Brothers Frank, Pat and Tom, and friends Karl, Steve and Phil made up the party. And party it was!

After a well-orchestrated flight and taxi into Rome, Frank  herded us onto a tour bus of the city. This was the best thing ever, since we were zombies from the flight, and we got to see the entire city with little effort. A great way to get our bearings, as we went past all the major sights in a couple of hours. img_21151

This is a view off the balcony of our hotel. Across the street, on a rooftop dome, rears this creature,  carved from stone. This goat is the very same kind of goat I used on my rifle! This coincidence was just a beginning of revelations that came to me day after day, walking the streets of Rome.

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The next morning, I am drawn to the window to see if I really am in Rome. There is an indescribable golden light in this morning, and there is a veil of moisture in the air. In the misty distance, St. Peter’s Dome rises above the wakening city.

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The streets and alleyways hold new sights smells and sounds at every turn, the light changes by the minute, and the colors of Rome come out of the dim early light into blazing yellows, reds and ochers as the sun rises in the sky.

From an almost soundless midnight to the raucous whine of the midday scooter race, this is a world of daily contrast. There are few traffic lights, so when you step out in traffic you’d best be committed. It’s as if two flocks of birds cross each other in flight. Crossing the street is a completely subconscious act. If you stopped to think about what you were doing, you’d be run over.

In the distance, again the dome of Saint Peter’s Basilica rises above the city. We walked from the hotel to the Vatican, which took about twenty minutes. The hotel had a splendid breakfast, cold cuts, breads, cereal, yogurt, etc. Really nice. They also had a coffee machine that made coffee to order, at the touch of a button. Oh, happy, happy, joy, joy! I had four cups of cafe Americano on this morning, and I had a little problem with my balance and vision for a while, until the caffeine  wore off.

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Inside St. Peter’s was the most amazing space I’d ever been in. Admittedly, I had been through the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museums already, and felt a bit like mashed potatoes. This dome is so tall, and so decorated, I could not conceive of constructing it, nor decorating it. How long could this have taken? How many artisans spent their lives, nay, generations, on this work? It is unbelievable and beautiful. I felt very small in this space.

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The spiral staircase within the Vatican is faced with the most exquisite bas relief bronze panels, all done in high art floral patterns, cherubs, vines, etc.

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The Pieta. In an most awe inspiring setting. I saw this Long Island, at the 1964 World’s Fair, totally out of context. Now it is home.

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This is a maquette, or a study piece, to be carved in stone. It is plaster over string and straw, on top of a wrought iron armature. Simple and genius. This was one of the coolest things I saw. Why? Because I could see that this was made by simple humans, with simple materials, by hand. I could really connect with it. img_8146

A side street behind our hotel, with a German church at the end. I went in and sat. The pipe organ was being tuned, and the man was putting it through its paces. Magical.

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I can’t remember this Church, its name. But this kind of opulent glory was all over the city, every block had two or three churches. I am sure I exaggerate, but it sure seemed like that. Each church more beautiful than the one before it. Unbelievable.

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The doors on the Church of San Giovanni de Laterano, can you believe this, are the doors from the ancient Roman Senate? This gives me absolute chills thinking of the history behind these doors. These are massive, at least fifteen feet tall, each four feet wide, and a foot thick. One great pivot pin at the bottom, and one at the top. Can you imagine that it’s your job to set these doors in place? Level them up, set the gap top and bottom, and make sure they close flush in the middle? The scale of everything in Rome is larger than life. You feel the power that emanates from these structures.

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Ahhh. The Pantheon. The largest dome in the world, at one time, not surpassed for a very long time. I don’t have my facts down, can you tell? This was a Roman temple to teh gods, and then it was converted to a Christian church. Most other Roman buildings were scavenged and recycled for their materials. The Pantheon was saved because of its incredible beauty. The hole at the top of the dome is open to the sky, the oculus. What a great word. The rain comes in, so does the sun.img_2163

The front of the Pantheon. Your Greek roots are showing, temple. I could almost feel the gods as I walked around this building, such a surreal place. A couple of guys dressed up as Roman Centurions are getting ready to start their day of hooking tourists.img_21781