There's no place like Rome - September 12
Beautiful and Bestial Rome
Guitarist at the gates of Rome
Just been on a lightning visit to Rome with Jo and our friend Dizzy.
Saturday was a walk through time. The veil was so thin that you felt you were literally walking alongside the ghosts. We quickly lost our sense of direction in the Catacomb of San Callisto, part of a gigantic labyrinth of underground burial chambers that spread out over several kilometres... Then straight on to the nearby Appian Way, cobbled and lined with tombs and villas, just as it had been in ancient times. A strangely exotic, yet claustrophobic atmosphere pervades the Via Appia and you can't help being reminded of Spartacus's crucified followers lining the road right up to the gates of Rome... And there the great entrance still gapes through the enormous walls of the city.
We continued on to the baths of Caracalla. The scale of the place is awe inspiring, the equivalent of a huge club that once housed several baths of different temperatures including the equivalent to a full sized Olympic swimming pool. It was a hot day and I wished then that the veil would lift enough for me to jump into the cool water the ancients enjoyed... but the pull of Rome continued as we climbed up to the Palatine, fabulous gardens amidst crumbling palaces of the emperors, once upheld as living gods. High on the hill we surveyed much of Rome, including the Coliseum, that gigantic carcass of Rome and one time circus of horrors.
Descending to the Forum, we passed the famous Senate building and House of the Vestal Virgins where the sacred fire once burned, alongside the remains of some massive temples... we continued past the huge triumphal arch, a seven story high ancient shopping centre and a massive basilica, before making our way back to our hotel, to sleep and dream of a city that somehow embodies the beauty and beast all in one.
Our pilgrimage continued the following morning initially with a visit to the Capuchin crypt where various clothed skeletons are suspended amidst a sea of bones, some of which are formed into patterns. Strangely, several people had brought their children to this place! It felt like a light relief after that to visit the Spanish Steps, the extraordinary Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon, which always inspires the imagination and I had to get out my notebook to write music. The emperor Hadrian had a real vision with the idea of this building originally dedicated to the entire pantheon of gods.
Following lunch under blue Roman skies in the Piazza Navona we came to the Tiber and crossed the Bridge of Angels to the Castel Sant'Angelo where I once played a gig in the grounds. More musical ideas came flooding in. It's amazing how beautiful imagery and powerful atmospheres unlock the creative imagination...
Even if you haven't done this trip you can still get a sense of it when you hear Respighi's Pines and Fountains of Rome or when in Gladiator Russell Crow sorts out Commodus. As Dorothy said, "There's no place like Rome..."
Pillars to the skies | Angel on the bridge
Pantheon's magical light