Leaving the peaceful environs of Cortona was not easy. We knew that driving into Rome was going to be fraught with crazy drivers, little or no parking, and narrow streets, so we opted to leave the car at a carpark outside of the city and take public transport in. This is a good time to describe our car. We leased a Citroën C5, a large-ish SUV, knowing that friends and family may join us along the way. Tia and John had warned us against getting too big a car, and as noted in the former entries, the narrow, winding roads and crazy-ass drivers supported their advice. The French have a great deal for long term travelers: there is a large VAT tax on new cars, so Americans and Canadians can lease a car for 2-3 months and the “used car” is sold to the French without that tax. So, we were driving a brand new leased car and very conscious of the fact that every driving day in Europe was a shit show. Thus, the car was safe in a lot owned by the leasing company, while we took a train, followed by a subway to Rome, and then hoofed our bags to the apartment on a fashionable street in the heart of the city. The car was safe, but I, not so much. Boarding the subway, I was blocked by two young women, who separated me from John. In the fray of pushing beyond them, they unzipped my travel purse and got my wallet. Fortunately, no passport, but the wallet, credit cards, and only 30 EU were gone. It could have been a lot worse.

Our apartment was a true bargain considering the location. It was a large, quiet abode that opened right onto a fashionable street. It was ground zero for exploring Rome. From here we walked the city, explored the ruins, visited the Vatican, and spent a day at the Coliseum and surrounding grounds. Here we saw gorgeous women in high heels and sleek coats moving about the city. Here we saw structures from 200 BC peppered among new buildings. Here we learned that Rome is layer upon layer of life and history. Here, while having drink at a rooftop bar at the Singer Hotel (yes the sewing machine inventor; formally his lavish home abroad) we looked out at the city and felt fortunate, indeed.


The casual occurrence of antiquity as one walks about the city created disbelief in my mind.  To face the grandeur of Capitoline hill, the Coliseum, the Pantheon and then the not grand of ancient columns poking out of the sidewalk next to a tourist eatery is dislocating and humbling.  Our cultural ancestors, my bloodline come out of this place and out of this time lost in memory recorded only in fragments of preserved tablets and scrolls.  The architecture, engineering, and governing genius of the Romans only became real when I saw it in place in this place.  The abstract studies of high school and university do poor justice to being here and seeing it and feeling it. All the governing and civic amenities and order that were lost during the long winter after the collapse of the Roman empire and only equaled in the second half of the 19th century is tragic.  Why do we, as a species, dissolve the progress we make by exercising the dark natures in us.  The Romans were not without reproach, but they achieved more tolerance, peace, and civic order and healthfulness than what came after or that which existed before.