Roman Holiday (Summary)

The equestrian statue of Marcus Aurelius

As the readers of this little blog will have noticed, my friends and I visited Rome. We had a great time. The eternal city is not exactly beautiful – for beauty, you must go to Venice or to the historical center of Florence. Nor is Rome a real city: it can be surprisingly provincial. If you want to visit an Italian metropole with an international outlook, Naples and Palermo are the places to be. What does make Rome special, however, is historical interest. This is the place where it all happened: emperors, popes, dictators… the seven hills have witnessed them all. To me, it is a place where I can find new energy.

Yet, it is hard to deny that Rome has known better days. The airport is no longer as tidy as it used to be, there’s more dirt in the streets, and the cats appear to have left the Colosseum. The Vatican has become a place to avoid. The Colosseum tries to attract tourists by pretending to offer an exhibition that is not what they say it is. At the Forum Romanum, you’re supposed to pay for closed monuments.

On the other side, some museums have greatly improved. I’ve blogged about the Museo nazionale romano in the Baths of Diocletian, and I might have added the Palazzo Massimo next to it. The Museo nazionale della civiltà romana is no longer partially closed. The new building of the Ara Pacis is fine. The Capitoline Museums are even better than they used to be. I will always love museums like the Palazzo Altemps and the Villa Giulia. I could go on forever describing the many delights of Rome.

But as a whole, the city is more shabby than it used to be just three years ago. The best symbols of Rome are no longer Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, or the She-Wolf, but the reenactors near the Colosseum: lousy and uninterested. Romane memento: you can cheat your guests. They will pay anyhow.

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