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Tuesday, 01 March 2022

Atmospheric Italy After 25 Years

Written by Joslyn Jay
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We booked a hostel in Rome, Italy, called “Fawlty Towers,” whose slogan my friend and I immediately invented to be “No, it’s really quite safe,” as the word “Fawlty” with the letter “w” immediately conjured up the word “faulty” with the letter “u” and then that Italian tourist hotspot called the Leaning Tower of Pisa. No, tilt straight!

 

It was November 1996, and after flying to Italy from our respective study abroad locales (Spain and England), we were ready to eat some delicious pasta. Bring on that steaming bowl of rigatoni and red sauce. Mmm. We also couldn’t wait to meander through dusty ancient ruins – the ghosts of brave, high-minded Roman philosophers and warriors filled our brains just as much as delicious pasta. But, would our five-day Italy excursion live up to all our excited hype? Quite simply, yes.

 

What I remember most about Italy was its “atmosphere.” There was an enticing, intangible energy that pulsed through my black boots as my friend and I strolled through tiny labyrinthine streets, the scent of the occasional cigarette and espresso coffee wafting out from a cozy café. I then relished in passing through a busy moped-filled intersection, turning a palm tree-adorned corner, and beholding a massive Roman ruin circa 400 B.C. It was merely sitting there, as it had for centuries, all quiet and serene. How phenomenal.

 

Now a plethora of countries around the globe can be described as possessing the old and new, or the ancient and modern. Travel literature is brimming over with exciting collections of this cultural trope – which might however lead to overuse. But in Italy’s case? The old and new, the ancient and modern, it truly is the stylish fashion in which this legendary land and civilization has been forged.

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The first two days we explored Rome proper – the two-thousand-year-old Colosseum and surrounding ruins, then the Spanish Steps, and Trevi Fountain. And that classic 1953 film “Roman Holiday” with Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck? My friend and I skipped the same quaint streets, loving every charming Hollywood minute. We even briefly wondered if a pixie haircut was in order (so as to channel pure Audrey). But then we spotted an adorable calico cat sunning herself on the steps of some crumbling ancient columns (á la a Siamese cat lounging out by the Egyptian pyramids), and our frenetic “tourist attention span” was rightfully derailed.

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On the third day, we visited Vatican City, which sits right within Rome as its own approximately 100-acre independent city-state. This present-day house of Roman Catholicism which dates back to 4th century A.D. was oldie religious splendor at its very best, not to mention its most intimidating. The Sistine Chapel alone was mind-bogglingly beautiful. (Wow to sixteenth-century artist Michelangelo!) My friend and I moseyed through building after impressive building, the scent of incense and candle wax leading our way. We even managed to sneak in some good ol’ “college girl” confessing, said a respectful prayer, and then ding! There went the church bell. We eventually made our way outside – into the massive, sunny piazza.

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Last modified on Monday, 28 February 2022

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