The Streets of Rome

from Trev Gibb




"The streets of Rome are filled with rubble,
Ancient footprints are everywhere.
You can almost think that you're seein' double
on a cold, dark night on the Spanish Stairs"

When I Paint My Masterpiece Ė Bob Dylan

I had a wonderful time in Italy and returned home yesterday night. In two weeks I travelled from Genoa to Cinque Terre, then from La Specia to Rome, to Florence, Venice and finally home from Treviso airport on Wednesday, spending a few days at each place and even squeezing in a day in Pisa. I even considering travelling to Slovenia for a day, but that never materialised. Italy is a wonderful place. I was shocked at how reasonable transport is there. Their infrastructure isnít as slim line, or as superficial as ours appears, its practical however, it actually works - unlike our own - in general their transport is much more reliable and reasonable than our own, such a different country, time is nothing, there's no rush....

Rome was such a culture shock for me, walking round in the ruins of the past, greatness fallen, seeing people worshipping graveyards of fallen glory taking photographs. Photographs on one level mean nothing... I wrote to a friend during my trip: "I'm trying to take pictures, but what the does a photo really mean? Its the memory of an event personalised and immortalised in the mind that counts, the poetic images you gather and make your own from as opposed to the pictures of a moment gone by. Remember thinking it happened, that it existed as opposed to trying to prove to yourself with a photograph. Some things have to be felt and experienced on a profound level and a Photo can never do that justice. Photographs can make ghosts of people, they can take away the magic of an experience, "look where I've been, see this photograph here?Ē does it really matter in the end? Isnít that a failure of our own vanity? ... I absorbed so much that a photograph didnít matter. Either way I do have photographs, though I felt that I was betraying the beauty of what I was seeing, somehow 'taking' from it instead of 'investing' something of myself in seeing it, seeing hundreds of people scattered across the monuments in Venice, or Rome or Florence taking photographs and touching, making their own empire from the dust of old. Seeing all of those remnants of time and decay is just something completely beyond words and sentence....

I'm still a bit sunburnt, but even at the time it didnít matter, the culture and what I was able to scramble from the massiveness of it seeped so far into me that i felt no aches and pain. All I did was walk, the sun on my back, streets ahead... Echoes of ghosts on the streets of Rome, Florence and Venice, wandering all the way up the Spanish Steps, round the forum, the coliseum, throwing coins in the Fontana di trevi.. Yes, and maybe I will return one day...

Thereís only one place that gave me that same magic feeling I felt when in Rome and thatís NYC. But Rome... Rome is far more authentic and much closer to the soul somehow, not dazzled by the sparks of electric suicide at Times Square or the falling of autumn leaves in Greenwich village, but feeling the past so close to my own skin, but feeling the sublime, lost in a daze, wandering through ancient footsteps and ghosts of previous times back through the streets of Rome and happening upon The Pantheon...but the decay, the faint suggestions of what it once was, there in all its grandness, the faded beauty, the beauty of decay indeed.. it was something else, beyond the words i know, beyond everything, beyond definition, somewhere deep within the mystic. Falling asleep in the park, blue skies above, mythology scattered like leaves across the city and across my mind.

Seeing the balcony where Mussolini gave his speeches was surreal, I wish id been there all those years ago, I'd have thrown my reality right at him... Piazza Venezia, tribute to the greatness and glory of Italy and the Italian people? Iím not so sure, beautiful nonetheless.. A Tribute to Mussoliniís great egotism, perhaps.

Florence like Rome was a beautiful city, yet its beauty was one that had to wash over you. It took me time to adjust to it in that sense, we went on a quest to discover which parts of the city had been used in the film Hannibal, and we found sketches, pieces, fragments... sad i know, but it was all part of the quest. Seeing the Cathedral - The Duomo, Santa Maria del Fiore - incredible, just incredible to see. Walking across the Ponte Vecchio and then up the hillside on the opposite side of the river seeing the whole panorama of the city, fallen below the horizon, coloured like rust, browns and oranges and creams all faded into one - The Florentine Renaissance indeed.

Its so hard at this time to even pour out the experience, the views, my feelings on emotions are so awash with tiredness, the return to some form of normalcy is taking time and the recollections will be more fluid in time. But it was indeed a great trip. Venice was wonderful and St Marks square was magnificent, but there again everything was magnificent in its own individual way, the sunset on the rocks at Riomaggiore almost unspoiled by the outside world, the sunset behind the Ponte Vecchio, the echoes in the wind of faint yet many voices in the streets of Florence as night time fell, that same echo finding its way through the winding side streets of Venice, on Gondolas, flickering through the candles as we ate dinner in one of the ristorante's. Venice like nothing else, sinking into the lagoon, its culture hijacked by tourism and re-enacted carnival, something false was in the air, yet the majesty of what used to be and what should be somehow overpowered this. I didnít ride a Gondola because the magic wasnít there, the guys offering the canal trips were sprinkling glitter on dust instead of being true to their profession and to their own culture.. Either way Venice was wonderful, on the first day happening upon a guy sitting on the steps of a church playing Elizabethan ballads on guitar was surreal. He looked like heíd come from another time and his soul poured through the music, it was genuine, really beauty. The final night, tired, no, exhausted finding our way back to the station we overheard trickles of Vivaldi blagged our way into a Classical music concert; how we managed it I donít know, but wow! We went inside and took our seats, the music echoing across the room, the splendour of every painting on every wall, the way the light touched it in that moment making it special and different the moments and moment-less that followed every stroke of the cello, every murmour of the harpsichord... every statue standing the test of its own structure and every melodic note of the violin weaving and seeping through the grandeur of the surroundings it found itself in.

We left the following day, ears buzzing, eyes in crazy vision, "Train wheels runnin' through the back of my memory", magic restored if only for a few days before becoming part of the deceived once more...

"...someday everything is going to be different when I paint my masterpiece".