Tonight, with the assistance of our guide, Paolo, our group descended (literally) into 12th, 4th, 2nd, and 1st century Rome. Starting inside St. Clemente's Basilica, we walked down narrow, damp stone passages through the hidden treasures of Rome.
It seems that as Rome "grew up" it did not level buildings when the next civilization took over. The cheapest route was backfilling existing structures and building on top of the old structures.
As of today, four known levels of Rome have been found, but a fifth remains elusive--Nero's Rome. Remember "Nero sleeps as Rome burns." Well, it seems it did...and he did perhaps. Irrespective of the particulars we do know this--all original trace of Nero has been erased from Rome.
As a matter of fact, in the place where the Coliseum and surrounding neighborhoods now stands, Nero's golden palace was leveled. Every image and etching of his name was chiseled into dust.
The only two remaining traces of the existence of Nero on Rome are two public busts ordered by Mussolini.
Otherwise, asta la vista, Nero.
And that is exactly what amazes me about Rome and Italians in general--so much here, in this country, is anchored in the ages. When you are Rome, you are for all eternity. And when you piss them off, you are gone forever. No in-betweens exist for Italians...now, I am starting understand fragments of who I am.
One learns quickly why Rome is known as the "Eternal City."
Yet, at the same time, the passion of Italy is dyed withon the atoms of everything in this country. We have met people who have worked their jobs with pride and precision and without any sense of personal pretense or baggage--whatever is "home" feels left at "home." Additionally, Italians love being in Italy.
Italians, and Romans in particular, are forever in the moment. They take incredible pains to enunciate every spoken syllable--it is exhausting to speak Italian! It is a full-time physical embodiment to be Italian.
What a commitment!
We met Italians who were proud of their landscape, food, history, and art--that is to be expected, eh? But beyond that we met a city that begs no thing from no man while it's people live so patiently as every second of every day ticks away with painful clarity and beauty. And no one worries. They wait patiently for the next espresso.
When you are named The Eternal City it is for a reason.
Here, in Rome, thinking, real thinking, was revealed. When we visited the Coliseum, or the Duomo in Florence for that matter, or the canals of Venice, we felt more than a pulse of passion--we felt the circuitry of brilliant minds still resonating throughout centuries.
I hasten to say that we know no equivalent of such thinking today. Even with the incredible advances in technology and medicine, the brilliance found in this country is almost beyond words. What is so cool about it is that it is brilliance paired with an aesthetic quality.
Disciplines of the mind and the heart are not mutual exclusive. The details of life (numbers, emotion, fact, and imagination) all work together. It's amazing.
So much math is adorned in beauty.
So much practicality is buttressed by the laws of physics.
So much brutality is complemented by love.
While I stand today as a product of culture ruled by plastic and nanotechnology, I am most impressed by the stone and water (ok, and wine) of Italy. Italians have tamed time with those two main forces of life.
At forty-five, I have travelled to a country that has much to still teach me. I have books to read, for sure, but I have more Roman streets to walk and people to listen to.
I love Rome.
Rome stands peerless. I am humbled by it.
With no offense meant to other worlds, I am for Rome.