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The Smiles of Rome

A recent find in my favourite used book store was a collection called "The Smiles of Rome", edited by Susan Cahill. This old New York Times article will give you a feel for the book.


The ending paragraph in her introduction is this:

In the end, what comes across in these pages, in a wide range of voices, is Rome's astonishing expressiveness. The silence of the Palatine. Bright mosaics, travertine, terracotta, pale pink brick, marble, peperino, so many stones. The light. Early morning in Piazza San Cosimato, the peaches in the market stall. People, unpretentious, affectionate, the dazzle of their sprezzatura. Love of life, the imperfect world made new again, among the ruins of this old, old city.

I was yearning to return before I even started reading the actual content...

And amongst the Overtures, this passage:

...In Rome, in the eternal city, I feel nearer to my own past, and to the whole past and future of the world, than I should in any cemetary or museum....Old places...when spirit dwells in them, have an intrinsic vitality of which youth is incapable; precisely the balance and wisdom that come from long perspectives....
~ George Santayana ~

I believe my delayed discovery of Rome was meant to be. I did not visit Rome until after I turned forty and am convinced that my younger self would not have deeply appreciated that elusive quality of this "old, old city" that seeps into one's soul...

I'm only about a third of the way through the book. I find myself lingering, meandering my way through the excerpted passages, wanting to prolong the sweet ache of my longing to return to Rome. I, like so very many others, have utterly fallen for Roma, amor.

The first section of the book is entitled Ancient Rome; the first excerpt is The Palatine Hill from Elizabeth Bowen's A Time in Rome. Ms. Bowen writes very eloquently of the Palatine...I will simply try to express my impressions through a few photos, which I (and/or mom) took in March 2006.

This is one of the first photos I took in Rome...we'd checked late the night before and on our first morning, decided to visit the Roman Forum. Somehow I completely misread the directions and we ended up on the Palatine. A fortuitous happenstance...ambling around this quiet hill was a perfect way to ease into Rome...


The massive weight of these palatial ruins felt almost crushing...


We made our way up this beautiful and peaceful path...


...and found these ruins...deserted, just the way we like them!


Down into the cryptoporticus we went...the very name almost gives one chills!


I was enchanted by the fragments of stucco decoration, especially with the sun slanting across them...


I also found it very cool to think who else's feet have walked on these very tiles (Nero?!), and so long ago...


We reached a terrace atop the hill, and were met with this view of the Forum:


Turn to the right, and another stunning view:


But wait, there's more...turn just a shade more to the right and voila!


Comments (5)


Wonderful pictures! I always wonder who else has walked where I am, too... I couldn't stop thinking about Caesar while I was in the Forum.

It took me a while to appreciate Rome also. Love the photos! Thanks for the book recommendation.

Wonderful photos! I love the Palatine too. Reading all these nice posts about Italy is making me want to go back.

Awesome photos - they gave me chills. I want to go back to Rome now and also read this book!

Love this quote from Fellini in the article:

"Rome does not need to make culture. It is culture."


Anne, those are smashing photos!

I have this book and I've enjoyed it a lot. It's interesting to read different writers' thoughts and perspectives on Rome, as well as some exerpts from literature where Rome is a character. And it is the perfect kind of compilation where you can let your mind wander off between chapters!

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