We have left sweet Venice, and more than one heart, behind, and have reached what many consider the pinnacle of our time in Italy: none other than Rome itself! I must admit to some trepidation. Mrs. Starke reports that the inns near the city are all infected with a horrid sickness she calls Mal’ aria. She also advises that we are not to step outside our hotel at night because of the fogs and noxious vapors that arise.
Yet being around so much history cannot help but impress. Even the gate we ride through into the city, the Porto del Popolo, is magnificent, towering stories above us in ornamented stone and braced by columns. It seems that Rome was once so full of marble columns topped by busts of famous people or gods that the government actually put a tax on them! Sadly, many have fallen now or been taken away.
Oh, but it seems we are surrounded by antiquities! We have all been inspired to purchase notebooks and began sketching. See our impressions?
After a day or two of fountains, churches, and palaces, we hire a guide specifically for Rome, and he beckons us closer. Going out by night dangerous? Oh, no, no. The best way to see the ancient sites is by moonlight, which softens the ravages of time and sets the stones to glowing. Under his guidance, we tiptoe through grottoes, vast coliseums, and hallowed halls alike, awed by the former glory, afraid to wake the slumbering ghosts of the past.
And of course, we must purchase souvenirs! So many of our countrymen and women have passed this way before us that a rousing trade has arisen in brooches, plaques, and sketches of all the wonderful sites. See the lovely brooch I found to bring home?
I hope we can find a particularly burly porter when we head off to Sicily!
[For those of you still in the twenty-first century, check out this site from the University of Oregon. The interactive map allows you to see what Rome looked like in the late 18th century, with photographs of the same sights today. Really cool!]