Thursday, August 4, 2011

Rome: A City Of Contrasts, Contradictions...I Belonged There

The famous sculpture of Romulus and Remus, twin babies abandoned and then raised by a she-wolf.  Romulus grew up and conquered his brother, and founded Rome in the Palatine Hills. Another personal connection....I live and work near Palatine, Illinois.

(More original photographs to follow the essay below:)

Rome has reinvented herself over the centuries.

After only a day in Rome I was struck by its contradictions, its contrasts, the very old and legendary traditions next to modernity that is ignorant of history; opulent wealth next to horrible poverty; religious tradition and sexual heat. 

From my diary written one night in Rome, Friday July 22: 

"Ancient architecture and structures have been preserved, even as young graffiti artists deface them.  There is a typical Italian complacency about neatness and of the infrastructure. Italians are more concerned with relationships, and less so with the repair and efficiency of their buildings and public spaces.  Unlike Germany, whose people, while friendly, seem almost cold in comparison to the impetuous, generous Italians.

"I am a child of a German father and an Italian mother.  Seeing in myself the two very different world views that are my heritage gives me more layers of insight into my  lifelong interior struggles.  I am a study of opposites, just like Munich Airport vs. Rome Airport.  I love both countries.  The Italian way of life seems to be a better fit and will likely take over."

I tried to  capture in photographs this idea of the diversity of Rome, almost ad odds with herself at times:

Modern vehicles line up outside of a "modern" apartment/retail building, which connect to an impressive, ancient structure that is a remaining section of the original Roman baths. The ancient building now contains a restaurant and rooftop garden.

I was thrilled when I saw the word CINEMA across the street; when I ran over to see what was playing, I found to my disappointment that the "Cinema Moderno" had succumbed to hard times.

A tastefully ornate and gorgeously designed luxury hotel building takes a back seat to a McDonalds on the front stairs.

This sign reads, "SITTING ON THE STAIRS IS FORBIDDEN".  This fronts a Cathedral a block away from our hotel.

This sign in a square in Vatican City reads, in 4 languages, "PLEASE DO NOT WALK ON THE GRASS."

People seemed to respect the grass request better than the stairs request.
I noticed that there is almost no landscaping or grass along the busy streets and quiet narrow walkways of Rome. Maybe it was the scarcity of grass, or perhaps the feeling of a watchful godly eye inside the Vatican, that caused people to obey the second sign.  (Was God sleeping at the cathedral?)

While the crowds closely studied the Vatican's exquisite buildings, the buildings seemed to be closely studying the crowds.

Caffe Vaticano, just across the street from the Vatican's main gate.  Giving us this day our daily snack and coffee.

A pop-culture open-air market,  a carousel in the next plane of vision, with a stately office building in the background.  The layers of contrast are quite pleasing!

This was seen from a high plaza near the forum, looking onto the street below.  I regret not going into this shop.  I wonder who it was intended for?


  1. What a great selection of photos from a City that captivated and entranced you, it seems.

    How much of the Vatican did you see? Was the Pope there (admittedly he's not a Pope many of us want to hear but it's still an experience).

  2. Hi Ben, and thank your for your kind assessment of my photographic choices.

    We saw a good deal of the Vatican. It is overwhelming...St. Peter's alone is one massive work of art from ceiling to floor and wall-to-wall. I would have liked some quiet time to linger and absorb it all slowly.... It was like trying to internalize the Art Institute of Chicago in 30 minutes.

    The Sistine Chapel was very crowded....and a little dark.

    Flash pictures were not allowed inside the buildings, and so I missed a few nice shots. But I figure I can find great photos of these in books.

    The Pope, I hear, was vacationing in Chicago (just kidding!). Actually, he was not in Rome while we were there.