“It doesn’t matter.”
It’s this poo-poo, couldn’t-give-a-f***-even-if-f***s-were-tax-exempt attitude that comes with being a Roman. It’s the exact mentality that can be expected from a city that surrounds civilization’s greatest hits with more McDonald’s restaurants than you could possibly conceive and gladiators choking words out of their smoke-filled lungs into their iPhones.
“It doesn’t matter.”
That was the response I received when asking a girl how a picture I took of her and her two exact clones came out at the Vatican, one of the more impressive things Catholicism’s been able to throw together.
It doesn’t matter. You’re probably right. In the grand scheme of things, it probably doesn’t matter. But at the same time? It all does. We’re in one of the cradles of civilization in a part of the world that’s a venerable maternity ward for popping out culture. And that’s no understatement. Everywhere you turn in this city, this country you see traces of “Oh crap, that started here?”
But I suppose after seeing something stand for 2,000 years, if it doesn’t jump, you lose interest. It’s understandable, Romans. But it’s hard to do as the Romans do in this regard. It’s hard to look into the eyes of St. Peter’s statue in his very own basilica, built atop the very spot that he was crucified upside down, one story above where his very (let’s guess they’re brittle by now) bones still lay today and not say “Dang.” And I don’t even practice Catholicism anymore. And I don’t even say dang. But that’s what this place will do to you. When you’re on the outside looking in, this hotbed of awe will get you saying things you might not otherwise say, thinking things you might not otherwise think.
And with this mentality… in mind, I found myself in Rome.
As whirlwind tours of Rome go, this was a whirly, windy one. It brought us from the top of St. Peter’s Basilica to the labyrinthine subway tunnels below and nearly everywhere in between. And we did it all in one day. I wouldn’t recommend a marathon here (that’s more of a Greek thing), but if you’ve got a day to spare, why not spend it in Rome? So with our bodies sluggishly weighed down by an unhealthy, ungod(s)ly amount of gelato and pasta, we went for the sprint. And here are some highlights from that Usain sprint…
-St. Peter’s Basilica: Probably one of the most impressive things you’ll ever see. It’s two football fields worth of priceless artwork that would eat your Mama’s church for breakfast and ask for seconds. It even has markers for where other churches stack up size-wise down the aisle. They don’t stack up… and these show-boaters know it.
-Sistine Chapel: Imagine a high school gymnasium where you can’t talk or take pictures and you’ve basically got the Sistine Chapel. Oh… and the gym’s ceiling and walls are decorated by one of the greatest artists the world has ever seen.
-Spanish Steps: Taking their name from an embassy that’s kind of nearby, this New-York-Jets/Giants-of-a-landmark is what it is – steps. Nice steps though – that people like to sit on. Don’t expect Jacob’s Ladder or Jesus’ Escalator. They’re steps. Pretty steps though.
-Colosseum: By far what I was looking forward to most in Rome. If you don’t look forward to it, you haven’t seen Gladiator. Or you’re an idiot. Maybe both. But it didn’t disappoint… me at least. A lot of visitors call it a can-miss, but the sheer ingenuity, design and size are nothing short of incredible. It looks just like our stadiums today. People find that trite. But your stadium is trite. This place started it.
-Roman Forum: If you like ruins, go here. It’s ruined.
-Trevi Fountain: The first and last place we went to on our Roman tear of two days was the Trevi fountain. It’s not the largest, most ornate, most awe-inspiring place in Rome but it does do a couple of things. It’ll definitely catch your eye. It’s not your average fountain. And with the fact that you can fill up your bottle full of Trevi, it’s not your average bubbler either. With Neptune piercing his trident down into the marble with a host of nautical and godly friends alike dancing about him, this white and aquamarine diversion is something that every visitor of Rome comes to see… or huck coins at, at least. They say that if you throw a coin into the fountain over your left shoulder with your right hand, you can make a wish and you’re guaranteed to come back to Rome. This makes me wonder two things. Who is the tourist ministry genius that came up with that idea? And what happens if you throw it over your right shoulder?
But I digress. The first time we rolled by, it was daytime and the square was teeming with people of all sorts snapping pictures and clapping coinage into the icy blue water. We just stopped by to cool off on our walk. We’d do our coin dance on our second go. We got there the second night and stepped down to the water, ready to take our pictures and throw in our 2 cents, literally. The government scrapes the money off the bottom of the fountain and pockets it. Italy’s taken enough of ours already. A 2 cent wish is just as good as a 2 euro wish, I think. As we stepped down, whistles started blaring to our left. Cops… and custodians (new buddy cop sitcom? I’m thinking “Bleach & Blue”) rushed in, pushing people back off the Trevi so they could sweep up. You want to make a wish? You want to come back here?
It doesn’t matter.
Despite their efforts, we got our chance to throw and our chance to come back. The problem is, like everything in Rome apparently, the coin throw doesn’t matter. For one thing… we’re coming back next Monday. But self-fulfilling prophesies aside, we’d come back here again anyway.
[ps from stephanie: this is the scene of the crime. where everything stopped mattering…but who cares?]