Atlantis Alumni

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dan Writes: Our Return To Rome


On our first day back in Rome—after twenty-five years(!)—several things stuck me about the Eternal City. First of all, is the city’s scale. The buildings and streets are grand, and laid out in a grandiose manner. It doesn’t matter whether it was ancient Rome, Renaissance Rome or the city of the Baroque era in the 17th century. All were heights of architecture, art and living, and reached their apogee in Roma.

Even the vast throngs of tourists and the heat of August cannot dim one’s love and appreciation of this incredible city. Though our plane left Philadelphia late, we summoned up enough energy, after a short nap, to visit our first four attractions. While Borromini’s church of San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane was closed, its façade is worth while studying, for its undulating Baroque curves, in the late afternoon Roman light. The masterpiece of Gian Lorenzo Bernini was the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria. Its theatrical grandeur combines painted interiors, rich marbles and painted ceilings. Yet all these elements are in the service of the mystical, ultra sensual statue of Saint Teresa and the Angel who pierces her heart with a golden arrow. On a return to the Palazzo Barberini we saw the Holbein portrait of Henry VIII, the imperious Tudor monarch, along with three Caravaggio paintings, including Judith dispatching Holofernes.

Down from the subtle Renaissance façade of the Palazzo Barberini runs the street called Via Rasella, where we stayed at the small Hotel Julia 25 years ago. Jim was delighted to return to the area, though we both enjoy our current hotel, the huge, late 19th century Hotel Quirinale on the Via Nazionale. Our last attraction at the start of the afternoon was the gigantic, ancient church of Santa Maria Maggiore—a combination of Early Christian, Renaissance and Baroque styles.

After showering and resting, we met shipmates Wayne and Steve, to have dinner near the Piazza Navona. On the way there we again passed the church of San Carlo, the Palazzo Quirinale, and wound up at the Trevi Fountain. Though jammed with tourists, it’s impossible not to appreciate the vigor of that great Baroque delight. We still had time to visit the interior of the Pantheon and then dine at a fine restaurant, La Scaletta, near the Piazza Navona.

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