This time, Rome blew my mind. Somehow when I visited 12 years ago, I didn’t appreciate it enough, it didn’t make such a huge impression on me.
One would think that now I’d be a more jaded traveler and wouldn’t be so impressed by a place I’d been to before, but I am duly amazed.
Maybe the first time I visited the magic of this city got lost in the shuffle? I visited six other capitol cities, and maybe my awesomeness file got cluttered between Prague and Vienna, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, London and Berlin. Being back here makes me wonder what I’d think of those cities if I saw them again. Would they impress me like Rome?
The Piazza Navone took my breath away. Despite the massive hordes of tourists jostling for a photo op, I thought the Trevi Fountain was stunning. I stumbled upon the Pantheon by accident. I was looking for an ATM, turned the corner and said “holy #$%^ there is the Pantheon!” Twelve years ago it was the same way – I stumbled upon it by luck. The thing is, it still amazed me. The outside columns are massive and dwarf the people below; the unsupported dome goes against logic.
Maybe there is so much grandeur here that I couldn’t wrap my head around it the first time. St. Peter’s Cathedral is so colossal, it defies human scale. There is nothing humble about St. Peter’s, it is pure ostentation. There are so many famous paintings and sculptures in the cathedral any one of which would merit a visit, but when you put it all together it becomes one of the wonders of the world. Maybe I didn’t quite appreciate it the first time because I didn’t have much to compare it to. Now that I’m better traveled, I realize just how much of an embarrassment of riches are in the Vatican.
We visited the Chiasa di Santa Maria Sopra Miverva, a very long name for a church. The outside is very plain, unassuming. It belies what is inside, like a geode. The interior is completely covered in art. From the painted ceiling to the alcoves, the massive worship hall is pure gaudy art. And the thing is, there are dozens of cathedrals that are larger, more dazzling, more famous.
Aside from the major sites, just walking around and getting lost leads to unadulterated amazement. I don’t know how many times we turned a corner and let out a genuine and involuntary “WOW!” It seems that every block has a grand piazza, that every alleyway is dripping in charm.
This time around, I appreciate Rome for the great city that it is. I am certain to not forget, but just in case I plan to return in another 12 years to make sure nothing has changed.