11.26.2014

Three Days In Rome 3: Nature is alone undying

San Pietro in Fall
...and the undying beauty. As far as I see it we are in the world to make it better and, in spite it isn't the way it often goes, walking in Rome without a specific aim, just looking around and breathing the scent of the city I can say sometimes we succeed.
Don't get me wrong: Rome has got a tons of problems. But the feeling of something great, good and beautiful that ostinately refuses to die is as strong as when Shelley wrote. Nature in its autumnal disguise - red, gold, green and brown - the dirty white of palaces, statues, fountains built for the eternity, the melting pot of languages and faces in Campo dei Fiori, the spirit of Giordano Bruno, still free, still rebel, still calling infinite the universe and still burning of his freedom... nothing can dull that.

So on Sunday we cross the Tevere again and go to the center of the city, under a blue sky but expecting rain in the late afternoon.
I come from Florence, I'm used to meet beauty at every step. But in Rome a lavish, sumptuous glory takes the place of the linear, bare Republican beauty. In Florence it's a civil art, human and popular. In Rome it's about a Pope that is also a King and representing god on the earth. It's the modern greatness challenging the ancient greatness. An stunning excalation.
As in Florence, almost each corner has got its 'tabernacolo' with an holy image and a light. In the ancient ages those little altar were dedicated to the worship of ancenstors (Lari) and that's why they are placed on a private house wall. When Christianity took the place of Paganism, Saints, Jesus and Mary found a perfect collocation: everywhere Romans were reminded of their feith and lately also of their King Pope. 
A 'tabernacolo'
For a very long time the 'tabernacolo' lights have been the only public lights, making the streets relatively safe at night. The most of them are masterpieces of art.
The ancient Rome was dotted of big statues featuring gods, goodness and important people. Time and wars have worked on them and so did the popular creativity of the Romans that renamed them as 'Statue parlanti': talking statues. They were included in rituals and popular feasts, adornated with vegetables or flowers. The most famous is Pasquino, used to 'talk' against the political power, to protest against the injustice and to publicaly denounce hypocrisy and corruption. People used - and still use! - to hang anonymous papers with critical and satirical writtens on the statue to avoid the censure. Pasquino talked for commun people as well as for famous poets like Belli (1791-1863) and Trilussa (1971-1950), the last one a brilliant enemy of the Fascist dictature.
Pasquino
But Rome has never stopped to rise statues to celebrate the power or its enemies. 
Giordano Bruno got his one in 1889  (by Ettore Ferrari) on the exact place where he was burnt alive in 1600. That's a popular square, with a popular Sunday market making a nice contrast with the hooded obstinate figure on the pedestal.
Giordano Bruno in Campo dei Fiori
A completely different story tells Piazza Navona: in the center stands the famous Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi (1651) by Bernini, topped by the Obelisk of Domitian, and in face of it the church of Sant'Agnese in Agone by Borromini. These two were fierce contenders for the name of best artist in Rome, that became the field of their rivalry. As a results... splendid!
On the square there are other two monumental fountains by Della Porta and Palazzo  Pamphili by Girolamo Rainaldi. Plastic, theatrical, playing with shadows and lights. Not my kind of art but still a stunning stuff!
And even the sky seems in style: the slightly veiled blue of the early morning has turned dark, dramaticly decorated by baroque clouds. A coffee by the superlative Caffè San'Eustachio and it's time to hurry up to San Pietro where at noon Pope Francesco will talk from a vindow in front of a mass of believers, tourists, curiouses and peddlers.
Piazza Navona
After that we climb atop the Cupola by Brunelleschi (bigger, not more beautiful of its sister in Florence, as he said) and vist the Basilica, rich of gold, marble and art beyond any concept. In a lateral cappella there is the PietĂ  by Michelangelo, so white and sweet, a child Mary quite different from the other works of Michelangelo. And the only one with his name on it. Charming.
Hungry and exhausted we eat in the first restaurant we see and it happens to be a very good one (Dal Toscano). In spite of the name it offers also typical Roman food.
When we get out, the clouds have stopped to be baroque and it's raining cats and dogs. Fortunately we are close to the sole line of the Rome's underground that brings us directly to Termini rail station
We stop to buy some cannoli alla siciliana by Trombetta, a must of the popular Rome and we dare again the rain to vist some last places that in the morning were closed for the Sunday Mass: Santa Maria della Vittoria with a breathtaking Santa Teresa by Bernini (simply wow! don't miss it!), San Luigi dei Francesi, with the 'Ciclo di San Matteo' by Caravaggio (pity that the paints are bad placed) and the Pantheon: one of the most incredible monument in the world.
The Pantheon was "commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC - 14 AD) and rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD." It's circular "with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon's dome is still the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome. The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres." The Catholic Rome easily took from the ancient Rome the legacy of an universal empire, no more on bodies but on souls. 
The Pantheon was meant as a temple for all the gods worshipped in the Roman Empire, then Christ became the one for all, and the ancient temple is still a church. But through the oculus you can see the sky, a no name 'deus sive natura', 'god or nature' as the pantheist Spinoza used to say.

Our three days in Rome are over but I still have a gallery to post, all about San Pietro: stay tuned!

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