I am writing this post at the Vatican of all places in the world. Bizarre. And if the amount of priests and nuns complemented with the massive scale of things at the Vatican would not be enough to raise some eyebrows, there is a German trumpet orchestra in the traditional leather shorts (lederhosen) just crossing the main square.
The walk to the Vatican was the saddest moment of my three-day work visit to Rome. The street leading to St. Peter’s is occupied by African young men selling fake bags, watches, tripods and sunglasses. A sense of panic emerged the moment I crossed the street as the men saw a policecar approaching on the bridge. They rushed to collect their merchandise inside a white blanket, threw it on their shoulders and ducked into the bushes. Heads popped up every now and then to see whether the patrol had left the street. As the police turned around the corner, it took less than two minutes for them to organise their stuff on the streets in neat lines and constantly glancing left and right for the next carabinieri. This is today’s Europe in most metropoles - also five minutes’ walk from the richest and most powerful institution in the world.
During Easter the Finnish TV showed by coincidence the classic film A Holiday in Rome so I was well prepared for my visit. Although my three days were slightly less eventful than Audrey Hepburn’s (no romance with an American journalist, no fights with the secret police and not a new haircut), I got a fair taste of what Rome is about.
As always, I was greatly more impressed by the people than by the Spanish Stairs of the Colosseum. As my colleague from the Italian TV phrased it, the Romans take more time with the people they meet than we tend to do in the North. Even if I was in town only for work, I was still guided through all the main sights, invited to dinners, introduced to a great number of people and taken around at night with a scooter. I also managed to have the ultimate Rome experience by ending up chatting with the group in the next restaurant table and going on the next evening to the opening of their literary cafe.
All and all Rome strikes me as a city of contradictions - ultimate poverty meets the richest institution in the world, glorious history meets the chaos and disorganisation of today and ancient Roman ruins meet Mussolini’s out-of-proportion fascist architecture. And yes, the best past in my life meets cannellonis worse than any airline would ever dare to serve. But the unsolvability (not sure if that is English) is what makes me want to come again.
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