Esteban and I were supposed to arrive in Rome today.
I say “supposed to” because when our flight took off yesterday we were still at home in our pajamas, eating French silk pie and watching reruns of Big Bang Theory.
There were some omens our trip might be doomed, like the public buses that caught fire just days after we bought our plane tickets. “We’ll just stick to the subway,” Esteban said. But then an escalator malfunctioned, piling a couple of dozen people at the bottom. “No problem,” I replied. “We’ll walk!” Or sprint, maybe, to outpace the wild boars.
But in the end, it wasn’t the flaming buses or killer escalators or rampaging boars that finally did us in; it was an infection that needed surgery.
Esteban and I weighed the risks of going anyway — because maybe the antibiotics would at least keep the infection in check. But maybe wasn’t good enough for me. “The only thing worse than sepsis is sepsis in Italian,” I reminded him. So last Sunday we reluctantly cancelled everything, just four days before our scheduled departure.
Last night we consoled ourselves by sharing memories of the few days we spent in Rome in 2007. There were the usual touristy shots of the pseudo-gladiators and the spot where Rome was founded …
And there was the ancient Forum, of course. It took little effort for us to imagine tens of thousands of Romans milling about in this former center of commerce, government and worship.
One of our most vivid impressions of Rome was the coexistence of old and new.
Absolutely everything was steeped in centuries of history, from the fountain the courtyard of a police station to the hand-carved street signs.
Esteban also pointed out that some of the pavers in the Forum still bore grooves from the centuries of chariot traffic.
We also remembered the excavation of Largo Argentina, which jutted like old bones out of the city’s belly.
And Trajan’s column — which celebrated his many exploits in battle — next to an 18th-century basilica. (Yes, an 18th-century basilica is considered modern in Rome.)
… or a different but oddly similar basilica, flanked by Constantine’s Arch.
I wish I had taken more photos of the sculpture that adorns many of the ancient monuments, like these beautiful statues on Constantine’s Arch.
In fact, there was sculpture everywhere in Rome.
But some of the most beautiful was arguably in the Vatican.
Esteban and I were overwhelmed by the scale of the Vatican, in fact — like the chairs set up in the piazza, ready to welcome the faithful to a not-quite-personal audience with the Pope.
And here is one tiny bit of St. Peter’s Basilica to give you a sense of scale.
In fact, 11 years later my most lasting impression of Rome is one of scale — because this city wasn’t built for humans, but rather for posterity.
Maybe it’s because the individual Roman was an afterthought that the Eternal City overpowers visitors to this day with an almost crushing sense of history,
reducing us to mere ants among the glory of her ruins.
To give you a sense of scale: That’s a group of some 20 people inside the red box.
Although Esteban and I are disappointed not to be in Rome today, what we had most looked forward to was time together. So we’ve decided to take a week off work anyway and be tourists in our own town. (Yes, we will wear fanny packs.)
Maybe I’ll bring your a few stories next week about what we did when we were not in Rome.