"I hate Barocco!
I hate Scirocco!
So went a little doggerel, very popular in
in fact, moments when, in the more "modern" part of
A short walk away is an older, perhaps even more captivating part of the City, where the Pantheon rests, perfectly at ease in spite of its great age, in that Fifteenth and Sixteenth century Rome which is in many ways more enchanting, albeit less spectacular.
however, precisely the "newer" part of
Rome, the reign of the "Barocco", which brings home the fact that this, indeed,
has always been and still is the "Eternal City". The appellation of "Roma Caput
Mundi" was applicable for many centuries after the Roman Empire had formally ceased
to exist and even after the end of the
It is enough to spend some time at the CaffÃ¨ Greco (often patronized by Hans Christian Andersen), at the beginning of Via Condotti, and to reflect that, within a radius of about a quarter of a mile there lies more history -- visible, living history -- than most other cities can offer in their entirety.
in nearby Piazza di Spagna, while further up the erroneously labelled "Spanish
Steps" lies Villa Medici, site of the
In the other direction, on the Via del Corso, is the apartment where Goethe spent some years of his life, and following this, which for centuries was Rome's principal avenue, a very short walk leads to the incredibly beautiful Piazza del Popolo in which, through the main gateway to Rome, the Porta del Popolo, many made their triumphal entry, as conquerors, liberators or guests. Among these -- as we are reminded by an inscription on the main gateway - was Queen Christina of Sweden, a Catholic convert in self imposed exile, who was to spend the last thirty years of her life in Rome, a popular and equivocal figure, being at the same time a self-avowed lesbian and carrying on a long, tempestuous and very public affair with one of Rome's most prominent Cardinals..
At the other end of the avenue lies the Capitoline hill, the seat of Imperial power, ,from which Gibbon viewed the ruins of the Forum, getting the inspiration to write one of the most beautiful and readable history books ever written, "The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire".
between the sculptors and architects Bernini and Borromini (who hailed from
Almost every street name in Rome evokes a slice of ancient, medieval, Renaissance or modern history: one of the main shopping avenues is named after Cola di Rienzo, a man of humble origins, whose meteoric rise to fame and leadership in the fourteenth century, seemed destined, for a while, to change the history of the entire Italian peninsula. He called himself a "Tribune" and had huge popular support, only to be finally unseated and killed by those very masses who had hailed him as a saviour.
intriguing aspect of
Also the Romans, in spite of the vast number of new generations, appear to have retained their intriguing combination of placid indolence and fiery temperament. It is not difficult to imagine them chasing a Pope into exile, murdering a tyrant, assassinating the Emperor's emissaries, only to return to the warmth of the family to enjoy a steaming plate of "maccheroni al cacio e pepe", washed down with copious draughts of the white, deceptively light "vino dei Castelli".