Rome: Why travel?

 - “Do I look like a tourist?” I ask my sweet but sarcastic sister, who just laughs and goes her own way with her daughter, “Little Michele” to the Fiumucino airport. My huge backpack is stuffed with a modicum of practical clothes, history and travel books and an overweight computer. I look like a sort of elder backpacker rediscovering Europe. But then I am. I’ve already checked most of the Roman tourist boxes in a past life, and Rome makes you feel as if you have had many past lives.

“Do I look like a tourist?” I ask my sweet but sarcastic sister, who just laughs and goes her own way with her daughter, “Little Michele” to the Fiumucino airport. My huge backpack is stuffed with a modicum of practical clothes, history and travel books, and an overweight computer. I look like a sort of elder backpacker rediscovering Europe. But then I am. I’ve already checked most of the Roman tourist boxes in a past life, and Rome makes you feel as if you have had many past lives.

 - There’s the impossibly alive Trevi fountain, where I’ve been about seven times (not enough), the decadently beautiful unalive religious independent nation called the Vatican, and the elegantly precise Pantheon, which makes you wonder why we just can’t have world peace. Then there’s the spot where Caesar was killed, which makes you realize why we can’t (et tu, Brute?). There’s the coliseum, right next to which I once spent five cold nights on a marble bathroom floor wracked by nightmares. Rome is where you shop for Ferragamo shoes (which you will never again wear back home). Rome is where you realize your ninth grade Latin teacher had a point in making you read Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, not because you remember anything about the ablative case nor can you even speak Latin in Italy but because you suddenly realize there realize there really is a there there. That is why I travel.

There’s the impossibly alive Trevi fountain, where I’ve been about seven times (not enough), the decadently beautiful unalive religious independent nation called the Vatican, and the elegantly precise Pantheon, which makes you wonder why we just can’t have world peace. Then there’s the spot where Caesar was killed, which makes you realize why we can’t (et tu, Brute?). There’s the coliseum, right next to which I once spent five cold nights on a marble bathroom floor wracked by nightmares. Rome is where you shop for Ferragamo shoes (which you will never again wear back home). Rome is where you realize your ninth-grade Latin teacher had a point in making you read Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, not because you remember anything about the ablative case nor can you even speak Latin in Italy but because you suddenly realize there really is a there there. That is why I travel.

 - I told the guide that after the Vatican spent millions of dollars to clean the Sistine Chapel maybe they shouldn’t light fires anymore. But then how would they elect the pope? She showed me this picture of how they erect a “pope chimney” so that the fire that they must light when they elect a new pope, it won’t harm Michelangelo’s precious ceiling. My biggest fantasy is banish all the other tourists so that I might lie, undisturbed, on the cool marble floors of the Sistine Chapel on a hot August day (they can’t afford air conditioning) and stare up at God and man, nearly, but never quite, touching. God is definitely trying harder, and woman is nowhere to be seen.Still, after this, I decided I might end my life without complaint. Then someone said, under her breath, the single word, alora! Which described life perfectly, including the chapel and all other treasures in its 1000 plus galleries filled with gorgeous loot and lucre. It was a bon mot if ever there was one. I laughed out loud in the Sistine chapel and decided to go on living.

I told the guide that after the Vatican spent millions of dollars to clean the Sistine Chapel maybe they shouldn’t light fires anymore. But then how would they elect the pope? She showed me this picture of how they erect a “pope chimney” so that the fire that they must light when they elect a new pope, won’t harm Michelangelo’s precious ceiling. My biggest fantasy is to banish all the other tourists so that I might lie, undisturbed, on the cool marble floors of the Sistine Chapel on a hot August day (they can’t afford air conditioning) and stare up at God and man, nearly, but never quite, touching. God is definitely trying harder, and woman is nowhere to be seen.

Still, after this, I decided I might end my life without complaint. Then someone said, under her breath, the single word, alora! Which described life perfectly, including the chapel and all other treasures in its 1000 plus galleries filled with gorgeous loot and lucre. It was a bon mot if ever there was one. I laughed out loud in the Sistine chapel and decided to go on living.

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