Friday, November 23, 2007
when in rome do as the tourists do
In Rome, people live inside buildings which in India would be systematically degraded by the ASI or MMRDA otherwise, in the name of heritage perservation. But like in India, they drive around merrily on scooters (of course wearing helmets always) and like to watch TV (I surmise).
Rome was clearly not built in a day so dense is it with layers and layers of history and living, with casually strewn shrines and ruins. It's very hard to be much more than a tourist for perhaps many visits, or perhaps a special type of visit - like if you went to work there for a month or something -no matter how much you dawdle, try not to be completist, try to be insouciant, spending more time eating gelatto than taking photo, you can only slide over the surface of a city thick with detail, the whole place a palimpsest of futures being built over pasts.
On the other hand for the ancient parts- it's better than any guide book if you've read your Asterix comics well!
THE CLOISTER OF THE BENEDECTINE MONKS
THE VIEW FROM MY WINDOW - HOTEL OPPOSITE THE FORUM
Clearly six o'clock is the time for divine love - we know what David Dhawan would do with that in a song...
All those silver white bits are clusters of coins in the Trevi fountain
ROME'S OLDEST BRIDGE
Eventually two things in Rome were my favourite- the fountains which have existed since ancient times, which still bring water from the acquaducts and which people use routinely: i saw people brushing their teeth, keeping watermelons or beer cans to cool in them and just drinking water from them.
The other thing was everything to do with death: the ghoulish friezes,the catacombs with their tiny multistorey graves and the Cappuchin Crypt: you weren't allowed to take pictures anywhere there since it's all so fragile. Although here's a picture from the internet - and the whole thing is like that, section upon section ornamented with the bones of dead Capuchin monks.
I found both things on a beautiful street, which I later discovered had a special history, worth reading about - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Via_Giulia
One was the Fontana del Mascherone (Fountain of the Mask/grotesque face).
The other was a chapel called Santa Maria dell'Orazione e Morte (Holy Mary of Prayer and Death). I looked for it for a long time and just could not find until in the end I discovered that it was the exact spot which was covered by some people of my own kind - a film shoot was in progress outside. (yes i know the picture is sideways, but I can't get it straight so just crane your necks already!)
The director was kind enough to let me go in. As soon as I entered I gasped, it was small but beautiful - or perhaps therefore beautiful, because it wasn't the awesome grandeur of everything else you see in Rome and which after a time leaves your senses oversaturated. There was a grave beauty if the expression is pardoned, about this place.
The director was standing behind me and said - isn't it beautiful? My favourite place in Rome. Enjoy it senora (senorita! I would have said, had he been younger and cuter!).
The chapel has a lot of decoration and materials realted to death, especially skulls, two of which are at the entrance. The skulls are a symbol of a confraternity that was charged with burying the bodies of the unidentified dead found in the city streets. Fanciful it may be, but I feel the poignant nature of their work must have propelled the creation of this sombre beauty.
Well Rome is a place people go to worship. Some of us stare from top to bottom at the beauty of the art.
Others walk on their knees up the Holy Steps.
Some are allowed to eat two gelati everyday
And yet others find time to do what they always do. Shop for shoes ;)