Friday, 3 September 2010

A City of the Imagination.

Tuesday 31st August.

I've quickly discovered what a great place for walkers Rome is. As long as you find the shady side of the street you can comfortably be just about anywhere in half an hour from anywhere else. I started the day by crossing the Tiber and heading for the Keats museum by the side of the Spanish Steps. Already I'm finding it easier to conjure an image of the city that the grand tourists of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century discovered than I am of imperial glories. Rome in my mind, I realise, has been in perpetual ruin, overgrown with vines.

The house is full of curios, but the star attraction is the room Keats died in, which, although fairly accommodating, has it's own silent protocol of only admitting one visitor at a time. Everybody gets to spend a moment alone with the spirit of romantic genius.

Walked up to the piazza del Popolo to see the Caravaggios in Santa Maria and then took a long stroll south down via del Corso to the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, and across to the Piazza Navona. Before heading on to the lively Campo de Fiori for a coffee watched by the brooding hooded figure of Giordano Bruno burned for heresy in the market in 1600. I liked the contrast with the happy cries of the traders.

With a load of sightseeing done I relaxed for the rest of the afternoon and walked without purpose through the old Jewish ghetto, across the river again to Trastevere and found the Almost Corner English speaking bookshop, run by Dermot, a charming Irishman, full of advice and recommendation. This might just be the Dolche Vita, I thought - a little bookshop in a Roman side street, chatting all day to newly arrived students and tourists about the wonders of an ever surprising and changing city.

By sunset I'd climbed the Gianicolo hill which overlooks Rome from the West and watched as the yellow walls and red rooftops of the city melted to butter and pastel pink, before ending the day with a beer, a pizza, a conversation with two very excited Americans spending their first day in Europe and late night walk back along the Tiber to the hotel. It's been glorious.

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