Sunday, July 23, 2017

Italian Diaries: Rome -- Intimate Relationship with the City

On the beautiful Wednesday morning, the summer breeze was fondling the milky-white gauze curtains calling unexpected visitors to peek through the shabby window frames of the apartment on via Delle Quattro Fontane. My family and I had arrived to the apartment-hotel that morning and were total strangers who ventured to visit such place, as Rome. It was July - the month of ablaze sun and melting asphalt of the sidewalks. At first, to me, Rome appeared spoiled with strange gapers who did not even realize their impoliteness to intrude authenticity of the ancient city. The crowds of numerous tourists scattered throughout the city, like ants in an anthill. In Rome, I was another guests who craved the beauty and adventures - a true Roman holiday. When I was 8 years old, it was my first experience of such holiday; it was a spring-time, during which the crowds significantly increased due to the fact that Italians were on their long-awaited vacations, which meant that Rome puked people out to the outskirts of its boarders. Thus, tourists were everywhere - from the very heart of Rome to its hidden local streets. From that unforgettable experience I remember how my brother and I bought many scoops of gelato seeking salvation from heat, but all was in vain; to our childish anticipation of an icy splendid taste, the scoops of creamy gelato instantly melted leaving us no chances to satisfy our unquenchable thirst. The city was puking us out to the very outskirts. I came to a disappointing conclusion that I hated Rome, and if it was rejecting my presence, then I had to reject the city's existence. I left home with a silly souvenir - a magnet in a shape of Colosseum, we couldn't even visit; what a shame.

On the summer of 2017, I gave Rome another chance and decided to let in to its ancient ruins. Surprisingly, the city turned out a completely different place from what I expected to see. We stayed in the hotel, where the view from the balcony was worthy of a couple of hundred euros per night. It was incredible; my room contained not only the view but the walls with the gigantic photographs of Sophie Loren and Robert De Niro, which gazed at me as if they were saints. After dropping off our bags, we ventured to explore the city seeking fresh adventures, despite the fact of 99 F heat outside.

The very first plan we had in our adventures list was to find a place where we could eat a decently authentic Italian cuisine. Shortly, we sensed the strong smell of rising dough and ran to the tavern, which was located on the street secluded from the eyes of strangers. My father followed the sacred procedure over the course of many years, ever since from the times when my family used to live in Italy; so, with no intent to cheat on his tradition, he ordered burrata, quattro formaggi and a bottle of prosecco. His funny, but at the same time impressively good Italian never fails to amaze me. Ten minutes elapsed, the pizza as big as a size of my car's wheel dominated the table; it appeared as a work of art - an expressionist painting, that portrayed the entire palette of emotional spectrum. Soon after, the wheel became an empty plate, or a pinnacle of satisfied food prayers.

Our journey continued down the streets of Rome. Nothing has changed - the city remained a paragon of antiquity, but I noticed an interesting fact that young street artists waist off their paint on the insightful signing of their names on the centuries-lasting walls. I believe it's wrong and nonsensical; I highly respect street art, however not the one that lacks fantasy or meaning. Signing your name on the wall to prove everybody that "I was here" is just a mere vandalization of the architecture, you can as simply take a picture in front of the wall and post it on Facebook; to me it sounds like a plan. Anyways, we strolled around the city with no certain destination or intention for a particular search. We attended Campo Marzio - the forth district of Rome with its own miracles. After the contemplation of the beautiful city-scape from Santa Trinita dei Monti and attempts to study a copy of an ancient oblique from Sallustianni Gardens, we ran down the Spanish Steps that was the past place for artists' gatherings and their beautiful models.

Rome was very hot. The endless crowds of tourists along with Vespa drivers blockaded the exit to reality, however we still managed to escape the crowd that suffocated itself. I figured that crowds is one of the main reasons why people tend to underestimate the pleasure of being in an ancient city; it really reminded me of Babylon Captivity. After breaking free, I discovered Rome from the new perspective, we stumbled on the streets, which were not congested with tourists or people at all; these streets were empty and truly authentic. There, I could really tell that Rome became my fabulous acquaintance. The silence prevailed over the smell of roasted chestnuts. Despite the street's simplicity, it was a vivid feast for an eye; the buildings with closed windows but radiantly colored flower beds resembled movie's decorations that managed to survive hundreds of years. To me, those iconic buildings is a true symbol of Rome, or just this street that introduced me to the real environment.  

Lastly, we had a chance to pay a visit to Galleria Doria Pamphilj, where I discovered the definition of art and its magical powers. To give a little bit of history, this place is owned by the family of Doria Pamphilj which derived itself as a result of two marriages; one of them formed a papal closure or a direct attachment to Vatican, which gave the family a chance to gain unquestionable dominance in the state. The family created the gallery in 17th century, and ever since had begun to accumulate the greatest pieces of art, including such masters like Titian and Caravaggio. As we entered the gallery, I realized that this place remained in a complete silence that would be a shame to interrupt; certainty, the gallery directly reminded me of the secluded streets that I previously described. As I figured later on, the most ironic and amazing fact about Rome is that there are a plethora of museums with the greatest artworks one can ever imagine, but those museums have absolutely no visitors. This intimate atmosphere of disclosure with the dead masters and the lively city made me extremely sentimental. As I passed by the canvases and sculptures, I felt that the masterpieces came to life when everybody left the gallery, but I was fortunate enough to contemplate their impersonation ahead of time. My eyes bursted in tears when I came up close to the canvas of Caravaggio: Saint John the Baptist gave me his playful lively look, as if he was a child who wanted to engage in hide and seek. I almost touched its surface. My heart palpitated from observing this miracle. At that moment, the paintings appeared as icons and soul food. I remained still for countless minutes, but someone came from the back and asked me to leave the building because the gallery was about to close. 

Just beautiful.