This blog post comes live from Italy, where I have decided all good things in the world start and end. Things like pasta, and ridiculously small vehicles. freely expressed male fondness, and half day meals. I, in a 3-day window, have discovered that I love Rome. Beyond love it. Adore it. In all its chain-smoking, driving impaired, free flowing wine wonderfulness.
This is my new home.
I don’t know what made me go to Rome. Of all the places on the earth it was not anywhere near the top of my travel list. but then again, neither was Alaska, and I went there last year and loved it. People keep asking me what I want to see in Rome and I have no answer. Until a few days ago, Rome was just a place on a map. And now that I am here. I cannot imagine having gone anywhere else.
Rome is everything. There is history and art on every corner and on every building. It’s nothing to walk down a random street and see a piece of a medieval (or maybe ancient Roman) building sticking out of the ground. Older buildings have been appropriated into modern apartments and condos. Ancient archways line the tram line. In America, we don’t have this sense of history mixing effortlessly with our everyday life. We have to go out of our way to interact with history. We have to make appointments to visit museums, get passes, and pack lunches.
In Rome, you just go outside.
It was disconcerting.
“If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ”
― Michael Crichton
There is a famous quote that, when paraphrased, says if you don’t know your history you are bound to repeat it. Civilizations disappear as quickly they appear. What is new, en mode and noteworthy in one moment can become passé and museum worthy in the next. but that’s not the most important lesson that Rome taught me. it reminded me that our history, whether it is cultural or familial, should be a part of our everyday life. To walk in the steps of our forefathers, our grandparents, the people we have studied and read about, and sat on their knee, is the best way to feel connected to something and somewhere.
It tells us who we really are.
Towards the end of our trip my trip mate and I went to the Coliseum and the Roman Forum. I was really excited to see the Roman Forum but could have cared less about the Coliseum. I knew what it looked like. I knew what had happened there. I had seen enough movies and read enough books that I could probably write a 5-page term paper with no additional research. The idea of going into the Coliseum bored me.
I am so happy that I went into the Coliseum.
It was awe-inspiring to walk through the same doors that ancient Romans strode through, to force my little legs up the stone steps knowing that Roman women had done the same and to overlook where the gladiatorial games were fought and won. It was heartbreaking to stand so close to where men were tortured and killed for sport, for political statement, because they did not believe in the state sponsored religion and, sometimes, on a whim. But it was also inspiring to stand at the bottom and look up and know that men had, without electrical cranes and our modern tools, created this beautiful and massive structure that still stood.
I felt connected to my religious heritage in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I stood in the same arena where first century Christians were persecuted, were made sport of and were torn apart because they believed in a God and a savior that others didn’t. and standing in that structure I felt fear and anxiety and also, a sense of calm. I have never felt the persecution that those Christians did but I have felt my own persecution. I have been verbally attacked because of my beliefs, ridiculed and harassed. And standing in that Coliseum, looking up at the stands, I knew that I could withstand whatever future persecution I received because those brothers and sisters had. And they died faithful to their beliefs.
I haven’t even left and I look forward to returning to Rome. I cannot wait to eat more fresh pasta, drink my share of a few of wine and to embrace the daily siesta that shuts that town down. And I look forward to striding down the same streets that my Christian ancestors did and reminding myself why I hold my beliefs so close.
If you have been to Rome and think there is something I need to see when I return please let me know. And please send me pics of your trips. I know there is a lot of Rome that I missed and I would love to see what you think I need to know.