Thursday, 8 November 2012

Exterior excitement, inner calm

Another fantastic day of sunshine in this amazing city. We went by bus to the Coliseum area, stopping to peer over the imperial fori (not very well labelled, as that would take away trade from the tour-companies). We saw a couple of real archaeologists scrabbling down by the stones.
The Coliseum itself is now distanced from the terrifying swirl of traffic which used to brush around its feet... we had a leisurely stroll around, and stopped to peer inside, but were led away towards the greenery nearby. This will sound very ignorant to real lovers of Roman antiquity - but the building, financed by the sack of Judea and a monument to the public and purposeful spilling of blood for so long, is not really a very attractive place in my opinion. The slaves and failures, Christians and prisoners, wild beasts and forced gladiators were whipped into the arean with weighted thongs while the crowd, separated into their appropriate classes bayed for their death. The sawdust was mixed with ground coloured rock to mask the blood. Perfume was sprayed to deflect the stench of blood (and shit and fear)..... horrible.
We had a coffee nearby and then into one of the most wondrous, most memorable places I have ever been. This is the church of San Clemente, a little 12th C basilica church now run by Dominicans - and where for some reason in the mid 19thC, someone decided to dig underneath.  They found a whole 4th  C church almost intact, complete with wondrous frescoes and an altar piece.  Then, a few years later, someone else decided to go down even futher, and found two houses - one a kind of public space with little alcoves (shops?) and a pair of water sources.... the other a complete little Mithraic temple. Amazing.
How much more interesting and uplifting than the bloody old Coliseum.
Then a tram ride, so Andrew was v pleased.
More wandering - around the Palatine Hill,back to the Piazza Venezia and a poor choice on my part for lunch - just a bit bland and watery and an aggressive waiter pointing out that service was not included in the bill. Sigh.
On we went, the the Trevi Fountain - ah, wonders of wonders..... really a fun place to sit.
Then along to the Spanish Steps, which I saw as a child...
And along the Via dei Babuin, past all the luxy shops and boutiques, and found the amazing English Anglican Church, built in 1883 in the English Gothic style, red brick and dark inside.  In fact, as you get used to it, it gradually lightens.  It was SO peaceful in there. Very English. We might have been in Enfield!  What made it English? Dunno.  The hymn numbers up on the chancel arch. A polite notice asking people to put the chairs back where they came from. Memorials to various old colonial bishops. 
I suddenly realised, this was the most serene, peaceful place we have been during the whole week.
And when we finally left and headed home for a quiet afternoon reading on our sunny balcony, I was looking at all the buildings with their rugged stonework and massive rustications and quoins and window surrounds - everything you see here is EXTERNAL. It's all to do with a show. Like the ridiculously decorative policemen and officials everwhere, the sirens, the shouting, the gesticulations, etc.  Even the beggars are highly theatrical. They pray. They mutter. They put on a show.
Tonight is the end of our holiday. We are going to EUR tomorrow, for the big JuicePlus conference. Off for a quiet supper now and then home to pack.
I hope we have wifi in the hotel! Then I don't have to seek out these cafes to send you my further bulletins.

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