Tuesday, March 26, 2013


Photos and words by F LoBuono

Some cities earn their nicknames. Paris is certainly the City of Lights. And who can argue that New York is not the City That Never Sleeps? This is most certainly true of Rome, as well: the Eternal City.Since it's legendary founding in 753 B.C. by the twins, Romulus and Remus, Rome has seen, literally,the march of what we know as Western Civilization from its virtual exception to its current breathless pace. And, with all due respect for Greece, the art of Big City living was perfected and continues there. One of my greatest thrills is to see the maniacal drivers of the city hurl themselves around The Coliseum at breakneck speeds. Through the course of so many centuries, Rome certainly experienced dark times, but it never stopped, and it continues mightily today.

One of the first things you realize when experiencing Rome is that it is a BIG, "muscular" city. There is a pace that is typical of any major metropolitan area. However, it is done here with a distinctly Italian flavor.  The pace can be as maddening as New York's but, in some ways, it's worse! Because the city is so ancient and most of it has been built in layers, one era on top or around another, it's a tightly packed maze of via's, corso's, borgo's, vialle's, etc. And cars dominate the landscape. Cars are EVERYWHERE, and I mean besides the streets themselves! Since everything is packed so tightly and space it is at such a premium, the Romans have no problem wedging their cars into any space on the street that just might fit them - and that includes across sidewalks or any other possible pedestrian thoroughfare! This, of course, forces you into the streets which means you have now taken you life into your hands. Traffic rules in Rome are a misnomer - the are suggestions as to how you might like the traffic to precede! Any advantage gained on the streets is one immediately taken. It doesn't matter if the trouble gains you and inch - it's an inch more. And they ALL do it. And no one really gets pissed off! That is what is so amazing. You'd think that wrecked cars and mangled bodies would line the streets. But they don't. It all seems to work. It's this crazy Italian ballet with all the moves like second nature. It's a rush through a giant pipeline where, like the water, everyone just goes with the flow.

Like most things, there are two sides to this story of Rome. Yes, it can be maddening to try and negotiate an ancient city with a modern agenda. But it can also be wonderful and wondrous, too. Because of the claustrophobic nature of the city, you never know what you may see around the next corner. There are some long, narrow avenues in Rome, but most of the city is comprised of short, dark, narrow streets, some only a few hundred feet long until you must turn onto the next, short, dark, narrow street. It provides for an endless source of adventure. You may be on one of these streets when you turn a corner and, suddenly, right in front of you is the Pantheon, one of the architectural wonders of the ancient world. Or, as you stroll along the Via del Corso, you look to your left and down a long, narrow street, in the distance, are The Spanish Steps. It's very easy to "blunder" into the magnificent Fontana di Trevi. And when you first encounter it, your reaction is likely to be OMG, it's so big, and it's in the middle of this tiny, little neighborhood! See. Wondrous.

As I mentioned in my opening paragraph, one of my great thrills is to watch the Roman traffic (being what I described earlier!) whiz by the Coliseum. It provides one with the sense that Rome is, indeed, The Eternal City. It has not stopped. It will not stop. It continues. And you get this sense from the Romans themselves. They are, of course, proud of their heritage. Yet, at the same time, they have a sense of being an integral part of the modern world - just like their city itself. They may not dominate the world like their ancestors once did, but I don't believe they really want to anyway. They project a sense that they are just fine as they are. It's a certain level of confidence (if not arrogance) that, as a New Yorker, I very much relate to. Perhaps, that's one big reason that I enjoy their city so much.

I was very fortunate to be in the city at a most important and auspicious time. A new Pope was in the process of being elected AND Italy was in the midst of one of its most important politic elections, as well. And there was an uneasiness among the Romans. It was a very rare occasion indeed when they felt as rudderless as they were feeling at that moment in time. Remember, Rome is the Eternal City. It continues, without end. And the Romans are all about continuity. Yet, there they were, without a government AND a Pope. It was almost too much to bare. But, they also knew that it was just a matter of time. And the Romans are good with time. They've been there for an eternity and they aren't going anywhere. Francis I is Pontiff AND a new government has been installed.  And, so, it continues.

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