Tuesday, June 6, 2017

From Rome with Love

I first came to Rome in 1969. I didn't arrive by train; I arrived by truck having hitchhiked from Denmark. This time we took a train from Naples. While the Italian trains occasionally go on strike, we were fortunate, and found the train system both very comfortable and always on time.
In order to get an overview of a city we often take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. There are a number operating in Rome. The first night we took a Panorama Line tour. It was not very good. When we joined our daughters, they did some research and concluded that the BigBus company was the best, based on on-line comments. We were much happier with it.
One of the most impressive buildings we saw on the first tour. Little did we appreciate that our Airbnb apartment was literally next door. What is this building, you ask?  I can't remember. I'll check.
A highlight of any tour of Rome is the Trevi Fountain. The first time I visited I did not take photos with my phone. I was using transparency slides and was very conscious of the cost, since often I had to chose between taking pictures and eating. No such problems this time.
This is a judicial building which according to our tour guide, is much hated by the locals for being too big. I thought it was a fascinating building. Speaking of big, I did not see one high-rise building in downtown Rome. There may be some in the suburbs, but I didn't see any in the four days I was there.
When I saw the magnificent Trevi Fountain, I rudely tweeted out that it reminded me of the Salt Piles public art near South-East False Creek. However, I later discovered that some contemporary Roman public art isn't much better. At least that's how I felt about this piece.
Rome has a river running through it. But like many waterfronts in Canada in years gone by, it has been ignored. I tried to book a river cruise and everyone was astounded. "Why would you want to do that? they asked". I understand that part of the problem is the tides and depth of water. However, I still predict that in years to come this waterfront will be improved.
I read that many people are coming to Italy rather than France or Spain because they feel there is less of a terror threat here. That being said, I was troubled by the sight of many solders around the city dressed in camouflage (now why would they do that when they're guarding buildings in an urban area?) with their fingers on the triggers of very large, machine guns.
It's hard not to get a bit excited when you see the Colosseum for the first time. Actually we were less impressed with this Colosseum this time, having seen some of the structures in the south of France.
As we toured around, we were impressed by the setting up of a large seating area near the Colosseum. They were preparing for a special presentation by the Pope. Fortunately, we were leaving town so had a good excuse for missing it.
One of the things that impressed me in Rome, and elsewhere in Italy was the preponderance of small cars parked in even smaller spaces. (How was this guy ever going to get out without damaging the Smart Cars parked at either end? I subsequently wrote a column for the Vancouver Courier on the many scooters and small scooter-like vehicles and small cars on the streets of Italy. I think it's just a matter of time before we start to see more of these vehicles on Vancouver streets.
As an architect, I never tired of looking at the variety of architectural styles found around the city.
However, I did tire of seeing the graffiti that seems to come out at night as the shutters come down on kiosks and shop windows.

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