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Rome, eternally young
It is the Eternal City because past, present and future meet together there. But also because Rome can always surprise you with something new, even if you've visited a thousand times before.
It knows how to rejuvenate itself because modern times rise out of the ruins of its past. Walking the Appian Way and shuddering with emotion in the 20 kilometres of catacombs of Saint Calixtus is a modern phenomenon. “There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have changed”, said Nelson Mandela. It happens in Rome. Try it: follow in the footsteps of Stendhal in Walks in Rome (1928-1929) and visit all seven hills. Go to Campidoglio and visit the Capitoline Museums. It was here in Italy where Stendhal suffered the symptoms of the syndrome that carries his name. The sensation of being so overwhelmed by the sights you are seeing that you are unable to breathe – it’s known as the Stendhal Syndrome”. “An overdose of beauty” that, literally, takes your breath away, as you come down the Palatine Hill, or go between the Roman Forum and Circus Maximus, the birth point of the city.
The writings of Alberti, Joyce, Goethe, Gogol, Andersen or Stendhal accompany the visitors on their literary pilgrimage around the city of Rome.
Photo: Alberto Rodríguez.
His Literary Guide is obligatory reading: “Only a foolish person will admire other cities if he has never seen Rome”, wrote Petrarch. The guide takes the reader to timeless places admired by universal writers. “The city as seen by writers, each travelling at a moment in history, and each choosing his own words”, the InRome guide that organises several literary routes explains: “Accounts by writers in Spanish, by contemporary writers, writings in Latin from Ancient Rome,” the Rome that surprised Dickens, delighted Henry James, or inspired the lyrical fascination of Rilke.
The Torre Argentina cat residence has existed since 1929 when the area was excavated. At first it was an improvised affair, but with the years a proper organisation was developed.
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The traveller should not leave Rome without visiting the Coliseum and the Fountain of Trevi, where you can play out your Anita Ekberg fantasies. The good news here is that both monuments have recently had a face-lift. The amphitheatre was under restoration for two years: the structure was reinforced, the facades cleaned and the amount of space accessible to the public increased by 25%. And the same has happened to the fountain. After years of cleaning and repair, the scaffolding has finally come down. The 16th century sculptures of the ‘Quattro Fontane’ were also restored.
The Villa Gregoriana park mixes natural elements with man-made ones that include some of the waterfalls.
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Small treasures to delight the eye
The Papal Gardens, a 1279 addition to Villa Barberini at Castel Gandolfo in the outskirts of Rome have been open to visitors for the last two years. When the Director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, announced the opening, he made it clear that Pope Francis wanted to share “the splendour of art set in the glory of nature”. The visit begins in the landscaped Barberini Gardens, filled with aromatic herbs in the shadow of buildings known as the second Vatican.
New additions aside, Rome is eternal because in addition to the grandeur of the Vatican or Agrippa’s Pantheon, the city’s smaller treasures never fail to surprise. By all means put your hand into the La Bocca della Verità (The Mouth of Truth) in the basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin, but also cross over and pause in front of the Temple of Hercules Victor. Look beyond the tourist attractions. Stand amazed in the church of Saint Mary of Victory at the whiteness of the ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Visit the churches of Gesu or Saint Mary the Great. And visit the EUR, the neighbourhood built by Mussolini for the Exhibition that never took place because of the outbreak of the Second World War. Take a bike ride through Villa Borghese gardens. Drink in the greens and oranges of Trastevere. Take the boat to Tiberian island, and take to heart the final advice of Stendhal: ”I don’t ask you to take my word for all this, only that if one day you visit Rome, do keep your eyes wide open”.