Елена Вахненко

Rome. When the Past Meets the Future

Rome is the ancient city with amazing architecture and impressive history... and I was fortunate enough to get the opportunity to visit it. Wanna know what I've seen there? Just read my article!

This is the second chapter of my travel adventures. Read the first one here...

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A few years ago I decided to visit Rome and (at the same time) other Italian cities. As usual, I had chosen a bus tour for these wanderings, so my trip included several different countries. Of course, it wasn't a problem at all, on the contrary, I was extremely glad. In the end, what's wrong with seeing Poland and Austria, for example?

However, today my story is devoted only to Rome. So, what impressions have I gotted after visiting this great city?

Surprise. This is perhaps the correct word to describe my feelings. Rome is unique in its own way, it’s completely different from other European cities that I have ever been to. Here the past is closely intertwined with the future, and buildings for public worship alongside with ancient majestic ruins coexist with the most modern constructions. Yesterday and tomorrow, past and future... it's so extraordinary and exciting!

I’m not trying to assure you that I had fallen in love with Rome. Maybe, Rome is not exactly "my" city, although I cannot but pay tribute to its amazing architecture and special atmosphere.

And now I will run through my impressions point by point, I'll list the strongest of them. So…

Metropolitan in the morning

Our travel group had arrived in Rome late in the evening, almost at night, and put up at the hotel outside the city, or rather, on the outskirts of Rome. Surely, we were exhausted after a long bus ride.

The guide warned us that tomorrow we were going to have a difficult day: our tourist bus had taken a time-out, so we had no choice but beat the hoof around Rome. I can not say that this prospect inspired us. As for me, I was really worried - I have no sense of direction and no eye for ground, especially when it comes to a new city.

However, I will discuss the problem concerning the sense of direction a bit later, now it's time to describe our troubled morning.

The fact is that the excursion program was planned very intense, and so we had to wake up early in the morning and get to our destination on the subway. Moreover, we should have used the subway on a weekday, during the peak traffic period (about 9 a.m.)! And it was the very moment when I realized that any crowds of people in my native Dnipro could not be compared with this horror... for it was the real hell.

I'd never seen such a crowding! There were not just a lot of people, there were terribly many of them! They tried to get into subway cars with astonishing insanity as if their lives themselves depended on the ability to arrive in time at the office.

Though, I’m afraid, we hardly differed from the majority. We, too, behaved like barbarians or primitive people.

“Whoever does not get on a train along with everyone will have to get to the Vatican on his own, - the guide told us, preparing to fight with crowds. - Understood?”

Yeah, I understood, and this information didn’t please me. I tried to stick to the guide, I followed her like a shadow - and I still do not understand how I managed to keep up with everyone. Miracle…

Well, such an experience is even interesting, if it's not your common routine. As they say, there is something to remember…

Vatican

First of all, we attended the Vatican - a fairly obvious choice, isn’t it? I'm not a very religious person, so I never dreamed of visiting this "state in the state". Rather, I was striving to see the Sistine Chapel and admire the famous frescoes, the creations of the great Michelangelo - I confess I'm a big fan and venerator of his pieces.

In truth, I was worried that they would not let me into the temple.

"Shoulders and knees should be hidden, - the guide warned us severely. - In my practice, there were precedents when the girls in short skirts were not allowed to cross the threshold of the temple"

I am not used to swanking around in short low-necked dresses, but my concept of "sober garments" could be different from the Vatican guards’ one. In the end, I arrived in Rome in the height of summer, when the asphalt was literally melting under the heat influence. As they say, +30 C in the shade... And my wardrobe fully met these weather requirements.

And yet I tried to find the most decent clothes and hoped for the best.

Fortunately, these hopes were justified, and I got into the Sancta Sanctorum.

So, what are my impressions of the Vatican, and especially of the Sistine Chapel? To be honest, they are less bright than one would expect. I liked everything: both the decoration, and the atmosphere... but I was expecting something more grandiose. Well, my wild imagination had proved me wrong again.

As for Michelangelo's creations, I liked the reproductions more - probably, because of my not very sharp sight. The Sistine Chapel turned out to be shadowy, and we were allowed to speak only in a whisper... all these nuances produced a somewhat depressing impression. And the beautiful Master's paintings seemed to have faded against this gloomy background.

By the way, the size of the huge hall was, rather, a disadvantage in this particular case: I had to squint to see all the details of the frescoed ceiling. It reminded me of a few wonderful words about the stars that Colleen McCullough has written in her book "The Thorn Birds". I’d like to quote her: “...they were still there, too distant to warm, too remote to comfort...”. Perhaps I wouldn’t not say better about the Michelangelo's frescoes. Too distant, too remote... they do not warm us, they do not comfort... but still, they leave their special impressions… like stars do.

Colosseum and other ruins

I was looking forward to visiting the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and other majestic ruins. Taking a great interest in the history of ancient Greece and Rome, I longed to see (and even touch!) a particle of a living legend. Alas, the reality was quite disappointing.

The plain truth is that we had reached the Forum in the peak of the Italian summer heat, after a long walk through the Vatican. Wet and tired, we, the tourists, did not want anything anymore. And I was not an exception.

"Somewhere here, perhaps, Julius Caesar himself was walking! - I thought to myself, trying to resurrect the extinguished enthusiasm. - He had been here!"

But these thoughts did not help me cheer up. The only thing I could feel at that moment was a vague compassion for the distant general and the Roman dictator doomed to suffer from this unbearable stuffiness…

Fortunately, things went more smoothly in the Colosseum: its walls, though half ruined, created a pleasant shadow giving a vivifying coolness. Here I managed to relax and enjoy our walk (at least, what's left of it).

I dream to return to Rome one day and wander over its streets again - choosing the right time, on my own, without guide's company. I'm sure, in this case, I will be able to better relish what is happening around.

A pleasant walk

I had a few free hours at my disposal, and I devoted them to an enjoyable walk through this sacred city. I was sitting in coffee shops, watching people outside the window, they were hurrying somewhere... I was promenading in the streets, I was feasting my eyes with everything I saw, and the brightest impressions were filling up my soul.

I couldn't help but notice the coexistence of seemingly incompatible things. Imagine: on the right, you see modern buildings, you turn your head left, - and you stumble upon the majestic ruins! Trembling perplexity embraces you at this moment, and such an anxious ecstasy is so captivating that it alone is worth the effort and money you have spent for this long journey…

In Rome, the past had finally met with the present and even managed to take a cautious look into the future... and you start believing in the idea of traveling through time…

Back to the hotel!

The guide explained to us that we cannot travel around this ancient city using our personal bus, for it would be extremely expensive. So we had to deal with public transport… I guess you remember our adventures in the morning subway, but it was nothing compared to an evening voyage back to the hotel.

As I've already mentioned, I have no sense of direction even if I know the city and live here. So another country is a real mysterious territory for me. You can imagine my horror when I'd found out that I would have to look for a way back to the hotel on my own! No one could make me a company: I was traveling alone, and other tourists from my group had a few additional excursions planned.

"You can take a walk and wait until we are free," the guide suggested to me.

I rejected this idea. Being financially limited, I could not allow extra spending on cafes and other amusements, and I did not want to ramble through the streets till late at night. First of all, I was tired after a very busy and long day... Secondly, the sky, absolutely clear in the morning, now disappeared behind the clouds, so there was a threat of rain. And I did not see anything good in getting wet - even in Rome!

Therefore, after a long walk, I went back to our hotel, trying to follow the instructions of our guide.

It turned out, the proverb is right, and the devil is not so black as he is painted. I got to the center of the city without much difficulty: it would not be possible to make a mistake, because the center of Rome was truly impressive. Then the situation became somewhat more complicated: I had to get on the right bus and get off at the right stop. The task was not as easy as it seems, given that my bus-stop was unremarkable, quite ordinary.

I was rescued by people. Not everyone in Italy speaks English, but I managed to find a few kind-hearted English language experts who willingly helped me to get to the destination safely.

My impressions?

The shuttle bus, which I had taken, painfully resembled minibuses No.120 in my native Dnipro! The same design, the same chairs... even the electronic scoreboard, aimed to highlight the name of the stop, was not working - neither do ours. Nevertheless, I didn't have the feeling of being in Ukraine. And the reason was the other passengers... there were too many people with a candidly non-Ukrainian appearance. My attention was especially attracted by one black handsome man in bright clothes, dozing at the window. Such exotic men are rare to meet in my city.

The very next day, after a hearty breakfast, it was time to leave Rome, and our new goal became Verona. However, I will tell you this story in detail another time.

In the meantime, I can summarize: Rome is unforgettable! I had left it, carrying away amazing memories of a true miracle. For many months I had been enjoying colorful impressions presented by this ancient city ... they were warming me with their beauty on cold days: in the gray autumn weekdays, the white winter evenings and during the first timid March cold...

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Wanna know about my other adventures? Then follow my blog...

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