Wednesday, July 1, 2009
CHURCHES,MORE CHURCHES AND HILLS
Our first day in Rome! Plane arrives at 7:45; Apartment available at 2:00pm. What to do? Answer: Massimo. For a very reasonable fee -- unusual in Rome -- our hero, Massimo, picks us up at the auroporto (10 years and I had forgotten how grubby Italy can be) and gives us a whirlwind tour of Roma by car. Early Sunday morning transforms what is the usual insanity of Roman traffic to, well, something quite sane.
Rome has 4 main Catholic Cathedrals served by the big guy himself, the Pope: St. Paul Outside the Wall, St. John in Lateran, Santa Maria Maggoria and of course St. Peters; and we hit the first 3 on the first day. As I expected the kids were at first awed, quickly become numb and then turned slowly catatonic viewing churches. The problem with Rome is the shear magnitude of the art and history - and much of Rome's art and history are to be found in their churches. With a few exceptions, most major cities in the world don't have 1/10th of Rome's art, and 1/20th of its history. Usually, I cannot get enough of either, but by 3pm in Rome I am done - stick a fork in me. For the kids, the time limit is more like 11am.
So, I have learned over the years you have to play tricks on them. My favorite is to suck them in with pop culture. Lucky for me there have been 2 recent movies using Roman history as a back drop: Gladiator (Imperial Rome, featuring the great Emperor Marcus Aurelius) and Angels and Demons (set in modern times but using the Baroque architect, Bernini as a major plot prop). Ok, confession time (in honor of my setting): Marcus Aurelius and Bernini play a much more substantial part in my version of Roman history and art then they did in reality. Luckily the kids' recollections of the movie were foggy enough that I was able to claim that every church we visited on our grand auto tour of Roma on that first day was somehow featured in the Tom Hanks' movie.
In addition to Churches, Rome has many Hills, not mountains but Hills -- in fact on a number of occasions I am afraid I might have insulted our able hero by seeming to be questioning whether in fact we were on a proper Hill or not. But, I will say that the views from two were spectacular: the Janiculum and the Aventino. One guide book referred to the view of Rome as "a forest of domes." We agree. Churches 0, Hills 1.