The second I ascended the metro (subway) stairs into the busy Roman morning, I knew right away this was a city I would get lost in. And, in time, I realized that it was the perfect city to get lost in.
Around every corner, history, culture, color, life, and the very spirit of humanity itself, simply leaps out towards you and calls you to a undivided chorus of curiosity, amazement, and joy. It is simply unfathomable that this city continues to breathe with the art and stone laid by Romulus and Remus themselves. The Eternal City serves not only as a tribute to the Romans, but seems to welcome every corner of the earth beneath its architectural and cultural canopy.
We in the west especially are specially indebted to this city that ‘saved’ us through the years from vandal, savage, and ignorance. Imagining the scientific, philosophical, and architectural genius cultivated in its bosom over the years, we can almost picture Leo the Great in 452 AD imploring the powerful Attila the Hun to leave its unparalleled patrimony in peace. The innumerable museums, churches, and art call us to contemplate the world outside ourselves and our present yearnings for self, demonstrating and reminding us that it is through our collective and cooperative pursuits that we gain immortality.
The city is simply a witness to beauty. Its cobbled and narrow streets burst with treasures ancient and modern. Electric trams and mopeds ring their bells while whizzing along streets paved long before Benjamin Franklin ever dreamt of sunlight. Children play marbles under trees; the same trees giving shade to an archeological dig where their fathers immemorial might have played with glass first made larger than beads.
Using elements as ubiquitous and primal as water, the venerated Bernini, among others, works the marvelous gift that is baroque architecture into our hearts. (The featured photo for this page displays Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi with the glorious facade of the church of Sant’Agnese). Egyptian obelisks point majestically heavenward from rooftops and fountains, perhaps in an attempt to remind visitors of the city’s spiritual heritage. Crowned with the Christian cross, they serve as signs to the city’s papal guardians and benefactors, whose successors, the last of Europe’s absolute monarchs, sit on sovereign territory just a few feet away from my hostel window.