Wednesday 1st September.
This morning was old Rome. I wandered down to The Capitoline Museums to have a look at some of the salvaged glories. The huge body parts of a colossal Constantine in the courtyard, a dignified equestrian statue of the philosopher emperor Marcus Aurelius and the famous wolf suckling the feral twins Romulus and Remus. A cloister in the basement of the museum opens up to reveal a splendid view over the steps where Caesar fell, Anthony spoke and onwards over the forum itself. A mini town of rubble and debris, the ancient routes through the city worn to dust, the public buildings crumbled and jagged like old teeth in a rotten mouth.
I decided that I'd need more shade to see it properly, so instead headed down to the Colosseum - bold, evocative and intimidating. How terrifying the carnage in the cauldron atmosphere must have been? How perverse the blood letting? The architecture is exhilarating - steep steps leading expectantly from the dark concourses to the open wonder and unbridled lust of the arena itself. It's completely chilling. And it wasn't just gladiators and wild beasts. One highly popular form of entertainment was a kind of snuff pantomime where the victims were forced to sing and dance whilst being set on fire and burnt to death. The more they burnt, the more they danced and the more the audience apparently lapped it up. I left with imagined cries in my ears.
A twenty minute walk through Aventine and I found the contrasting sanctuary of the protestant cemetery, final resting place of Keats, Shelley and a hundred or so other emigres. It was a pleasant surprise to find Gramsci, tucked in a peaceful, well tended grave under the west wall. I was happy to accidentally come across him.
The light was shifting now, making it cool enough to cross the Circus Maximus and head for the Palatine Hill and an up close look at the Forum, where I sat for some time watching the world go by the undisturbed stones of an ancient civilisation.
Heading back to the river I came across Bartaruga in the Piazza Mattei, a welcoming little baroque bar filled with bohemians and travellers sharing light stories of their journeys, hopes and beliefs. I ended up in an animated debate about whether it's more inspiring to be aware of each sunrise or sunset, which ended abruptly when the sunset supporters realised they only had a few minutes left to find a memorable place to fulfil their ritual and fled for the hills. I stayed on for another glass of wine. I've always been more of a morning person.