I have a confession to make. I've fallen in love. The head over heels variety. But this time, it's not with a man; nor a woman, for that matter. It's with a city. It's with Rome. I have fallen completely and utterly in love with Rome; and I suspect it's going to be a life-long affair.
One can't help but be enchanted by the heady mix of truffle-laden pasta and architectural splendour. It's intoxicating. But anyone who's ever been will already know this, of course. I think I was cast under its spell long before I had ever been: watching La Dolce Vita a couple of times had done the trick, but my bewitchment was crystallised in that first Roman hour, when I drove through the city under a gigantic, lambent moon.
Walking through Rome is better, though, as walking generally is. Sauntering through its tiny, cobbled streets, there is much pleasure to be gained - perfect espressos are for the taking, the mellifluous drizzle of Italian conversation reverberates off alleyway walls, and one doesn't have to walk for long before stumbling across yet another piazza; derelict, perhaps, but always hideously beautiful.
No wonder Bernini sculpted St. Theresa as he did: call it what you want, spiritual bliss, or the throes of orgasmic ecstasy; I'd have the same expression on my face if I were to live permanently amidst such prolific beauty. Indeed, few things in life can inspire such shudders of aesthetic delight as the Trevi fountain seen at three in the morning, without the gawping hordes of heinous tourists. The undulating curves ooze such gorgeousness that its beauty is practically dripping on the floor. It is Baroque at its best.
Ah, Rome. The winding alleyways and the grand piazzas; the magnificent ruins, the intimate cafes, the excellent coffee; the elegance and the romance; the sheer power and grandeur of the Vatican... It's all a bit much, actually. In fact, alongside my newfound love for the city, was the experience of something quite oppressive and quite Other. You see, there was something unseen, something latent; something almost imperceptible, which made me feel ill at ease.
As much as I loved the gigantic Latin inscriptions strewn all over the shop (they signal history and culture, and gave me an opportunity to try and decipher them with my schoolgirl Latin), the ubiquitous presence of antiquity was, frankly, overwhelming. One felt the constant threat of suffocation from the past. In Rome, life feels intermingled with death, such is the presence of the past. All that has been, still remains; the crumbling ruins of an Ancient Empire stand defiant, triumphant; permeating each and every present moment with the reminder of what once was.
The remainders of Ancient Rome are undeniably glorious; but they soon begin to feel stifling. I couldn't help but feel that the Rome of today is somewhat overshadowed. The city has a history of epic proportions, and, depending on how you perceive it, this history can feel like an oppressive vapour.
Bizarrely, despite this slightly unsettling air, my love for Rome is not diminished. It's almost part of its theatricality, and it makes for a heady concoction: Rome's Pagan past commingles with its Catholic present, evoking a mixture of sex and death, where lovers frolic next to the site of Caesar's murder; where funeral processions march amidst voluptuous buildings that tantalise the viewer with their curves, and where St Theresa moans in ecstasy above the altar.
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