Saturday, December 27, 2014

When in Rome, remember it

Some places are so fabulous that words and photos hardly do justice but we keep trying. 

This is how it was with a recent land tour of Italy and cruise taken by our friends this past fall.

After their return they wrote up a travelog which they then shared with those of us who were tracking their vacation through their posted emails as they journeyed through Italy and then sailed from port to port.

Their travel account, thorough in information and lively with detail, put us there with them in the historic places and charming Slovenian villages.

They pulled out chairs for us so we could feast with them on spreads of delicious food. They regaled us with interesting encounters come upon by chance, or directed to through research on their part before their trip.

When they wrote of flying over the Irish coast it joggled a memory of our first trip to Europe. Our flight took us across Ireland just before dawn. You could see scattered lights as you looked down, and we could also start to discern actual countryside as night began to retreat.

We came in low over the North Sea with dawn breaking. The sky was all pink. From our aerial elevation the sea was gentle as a pond. (Which I really marveled at, always thinking of the North Sea as a stormy gulf between England and France).

I was thankful to our friends for writing about their experience of this, for it awakened our association with our flight to Amsterdam.

They wrote about walking miles in Rome. They bought gelato, found pizza that they’d go back for in a heartbeat dodged crazy traffic and soaked up the present and past, which breathes life from each other in the Eternal City.

After the shops and markets at Campo de’ Fiori they passed the Monument to Vittorio Emanuele II (first king of unified Italy as they added) and came to the Palazzo Venezia.

This building in the central Rome district, the residence of Cardinals, comes with a lineage. It was built in 336, rebuilt in 833 and in 1451 had a reconfiguration of space with more construction done at that time.

The Palazzo, at this time, was one of the first buildings to quarry rocks from the nearby Coliseum. This became a common practice in the middle ages and lasted into the 17th century. The multitude of temples and ancient buildings close at hand was a builder’s treasure trove.  

In our visit to the Vatican five years ago we were told parts of it are built from rock quarried from the Coliseum. The old Roman landmark was viewed by the pragmatic Romans of that era as a handy provider of building supplies. It was like a Home Depot store of the medieval ages.

The Adriatic ports our friends visited, and the Amalfi coast afterwards, were especially enjoyed. 

These spots, which they explored on foot, and went on tours into the countryside, struck a chord. It was as if they were saying, Here we have what's important in life.

Maybe it's because our friends were first-time travelers. Partially they may have been smitten because everything was new. All they did was novel to their experience and was presented well in animated settings.

The mild sunny weather quite likely also had its influence. The pleasant day-after-day conditions softened all the fibers of their being, as good weather does to vacationers far from home.

They were feeling, as many of us who visit the Mediterranean and the Adriatic areas, that the residents there grasp something essential which we're still in the process of coming to understand.

For thousands of years their culture, separate by region but united as if by sun, an easeful view which in part comes from realizing life will have its way, has flourished, waned and been reborn in this crossing point of western civilization.

From out of all of this has evolved a sense of what’s important from what is not so much. This in turn has been crafted into a lifestyle with impact to anyone visiting from elsewhere.

The combination of respect for food as a source of life, and food as a connector for life's moments (ordinary moments as well as the eventful), the significance of close ties (family and friendships unbroken through the generations), of wine as a salute to life, and gracious weather shapes this region of the Mediterranean and Adriatic.

In the bustle in these places, where there is bustle, there's also a peace which just knocks us over, it can be so unknown to us before.

I'll be thinking of things our friends wrote about these different places for a long time to come.

We’ll read or hear about these places and be reminded they were there, and that they mentioned them in the real and clear picture they drew for us.

When in Rome, remember it. When we’re anywhere (might be a good thought) remember it. 

Let us pay attention to our settings and our experiences and appreciate them as the building materials in our lives. Let us, where we can, share something of these things with others.

We all gain from sharing. When we send out from what’s good in our life there’s an inclination to build and reconstruct with improvement as a natural end goal. Let us all be in the sphere of positive building in this new year of 2015.  

Ro Giencke - December 27, 2014


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