Bella Roma

What do you say of Bella Roma who steals your heart, much like the Mani di velluto that she is known for? She seeps into your blood. She reminds you of all your pain, and she stands, poignant, beautiful, moving, blood soaking the cobbled stones of the streets. Keats and Shirley claimed her as their own. With every step, you march alongside a long gory history, with as much anger in it as faith or despair or glory, which may be the same thing. But here it is more than the dead past; it mingles with the present and the Romans live it, flaunt it.

From largo di Torre Argentina you can look down into the disappointingly small senate chamber where Ceaser must have mouthed, ”Et tu, Brutus?” and reach in fifteen minutes the stairs of the Courts of Justice among the Roman Fora where Marc Antony delivered a speech to ‘the people of Rome’ that Marcus Brutus was a good man, a great man. You can stare at the impossibly high pillars near the Temple of Vesta, and then walk into the Pantheone and again be taken aback by the awe, grandeur and scale at which Romans accomplished things. On an aside, I think that the real difference between the Greeks and the Romans was this: that Greeks were largely the thinkers and philosophers (almost all of ancient Rome’s religion and science came from there) and the Romans, Doers.

You only have to see the massive baths of Caracalla or the high dome of St. Pietro to know that they are an impossibly proud people, maybe even arrogant. Without a trace of doubt and with the tone of inevitability they call their city ‘Caput Mundi’ (capital of the world). But they are also the nicest, and the most friendly I have ever come across, from the pizza guy in Trestravere (across the Tiber from Centro where all the ruins are, what used to be the poorer section of Rome and now is probably the more vibrant part) to ever-helpful Giovanni, to the little old lady handing out pamphlets near the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano. I didn’t take a pamphlet, but she strove to give me the directions I wanted despite my inability to capice. Finally, she took to mimicking ‘ding dong’ with her hands to tell me where the cathedral was. ‘Tis because of the people that I will never forget “grazie”… it still springs to my tongue occasionally.

The Eternal City. Where tourists rush and natives laze through the day. The former tip, the latter don’t. Generous of heart, she seems to be all cathedral-cafe-church, but she’s actually all throbbing, moving life. So much more to say, but I could never do it all justice: Madonna con Bambino. Michaelangelo. Raphael. Fountain of Trevi and others. Cafe on the sidewalk. Spanish steps a la Roman Holiday. Rain with hail and sunshine. EUR and Hitler’s fascist friend. The Risorgimento. Gelato. Chagall’s exhibition. On Eros. Appia Antica. Pizza. Mura.

The Life.

Mani di velluto = Velvet Hands. Pickpockets. You can’t take a walk in the over crowded metro or bus (pronounced boos) without fearing for your wallet. capice = understand grazie = thank you. largo = a small open square. a piazza is a larger one; piazzale is the largest.


12 responses to “Bella Roma

  1. Whatye language… took my like ages to get to the bottom…

    Okay now for a comment like Suraksha:

    “Gelato! Gelato! Even me louws Gelato :D”


  2. You forgot Fellini, among the quintessentially Italian list. The only association I can make with Rome is his picturisation of it in his films, with special emphasis of course on Anita Ekberg getting drenched in the Trevi Fountain.

    Besides, I have always thought India and Italy are very similar. Both are peninsulas, both begin with an I, both consume gold in amounts unheard of in other countries, both have the curry obsession, both have really large families and strong family ties, both their flags are kinda similar, and now we also have Sonia bridging the two countries.

    My friend argues it is Ireland and India that are similar, but to me Italy it is.
    The post however was bella!

  3. @Spunky Monkey:
    Also India and Italy have an ‘a’ in them. Now they seriously are very very similar.

  4. There you go, that just about sealed it.

  5. Okay didn’t anyone get the sarcasm?

  6. I remember your blog from long ago, and then it became inactive. This showed up today in statcounter, and I’m glad I found you again.

  7. I suggest you read the Mark Antony’s speech again. It was Caesar he praised, and Brutus whom he, well, called a honourable man. Thrice.

    It is a beautiful piece of writing wherein Antony implies, rather strongly, that Brutus was mistaken in killing Caesar, and that he labored under the very delusions that he accused Caesar of harboring.

  8. Ooh. Wonderfully structured. 🙂 Italian = love. The language just rolls wonderfully off your tongue, si?!

  9. You did flip a coin into the Fontana di Trevi, right? So you could wish for something? World peace is the ‘in’ thing. That, or extra gelato.

  10. Spunky Monkey – a) Thanks. 🙂
    b) I agree. Ireland is the nation of dreamers, revolutionaries and fatalists : leave the revolutionaries out and you have India. But Italy- I remember when I first asked Dad about how it was, he said, “It’s like being in a more industrialised India!”. And it does seem very similar : except Indians are more suspicious and less friendly. Can you imagine an indian bus driver stop for an 80 year old woman (once you find one), listen patiently to her entire itenary adn then tell her that this bus doesn’t go there?
    c) He didn’t. I even spoke to him about it, just to confirm that he didn’t.
    d) *sheepish* I had to go look up Fellini. Which movie is this?

    DC – Every time I say I’m back, I have to leave again. So this time I’m not saying it. I’m gald you showed up here.

    the Monk – I know, I know. Beg yer pardon. I don’t know how I made that stupid mistake.

    the One
    My mom apparently has taken to demolishing the family fortune in Fontana di Trevi. Enough damage from there, so I dropped a measely cent in. I wonder what wishes are worth one cent?

  11. Agree with the comments. Italy is like India simply because no one crosses roads at the proper place, no one waits for signals and its chaotic. Roma is beautiful, and yeah , Fontana Di trevi is nice 🙂 I like Vatican though… And Gelatos.. And pastas.. and spaghetti.. and pizza… YUMMM

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s