Saturday, July 4, 2009


"Terribilita" (terrifying awesomeness) is how the citizens of Renaissance Rome described both Michelangelo and Julius II -- the Pope who convinced the stubborn young artist to set aside his beloved sculpting (by essentially threatening to invade Tuscany and drag him back to Rome) long enough to paint the Sistine chapel and who also at the head of an army subdued most of central Italy under the papacy. The intensity of their personalities and devotion to their respective causes - perfection of art and restoration of the glory of the Holy Roman Church - apparently tended to frighten their contemporaries. For example, Michelangelo's biographers describe how he would forget to eat, sleep or bath as he carved his best sculptures -- seemingly endowing his works with his own life force.

Aww, such passion is rare in this day-and-age but after two days of storming around the Capitoline museums, the Roman forum, the Vatican museum and the Sistine chapel, the Trincas are firmly convinced that Terribilita lives on in Enrico Buschini.

The name of Professor Enrico Bruschini may be strangely familiar to those bravehearts who bought the official guide book to the Vatican and set out on their own to see its treasures because Enrico is the author. It is sold everywhere in Rome and everywhere we went with him, he would point to the multi-lingual stack of guide books and with a giant smile and a flurry of his arms boom out that "the English version was sold out; Must be a good book."

So what did Terribilita teach us? To love -- and I do mean love -- Roman frescoes, mosaics, arches, great sculptures of antiquity (as opposed to the run-of-the-mill ancient carvings), the elegance of Raphael,and even the stones we walked upon everywhere we went. "Look at those tiles over there! Those carvings here! Just look at the elegant balance of the Piazza del Campidoglio. Just look at it!" And look, we did, (being a little frightened of what he might do if we didn't) as he beamed, mopped his brow from the hot Roman sun and headed off a a near trot to show us the next hidden treasury.

At times, he would stop, look at a room in a museum only to pass it by muttering, "Not enough time, must show you only the best of the best."

But, it was when we encountered any blundering or senseless acts on the part of official keepers of the great Roman cultural legacies that we would witness true Terribilita. "Stupido, stupido" he would shout when we came upon poor restorations or less than ideal displays. At one point, he bent over almost to the ground to point at stones set along the Via Sacra, "now these are originals. notice how they are level and smooth and have just enough room between them to allow proper drainage. Those over there" -- pointing at unlevel, mispaced stones -- "those are stupido, bad restorations. How will people learn of the glories of Roman roads, if this is all they see." Then Off he strode toward the Colosseum with the five of us trotting to keep up.

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