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“I am in the land of the Arts; let me study them really thoroughly, so that I may find peace and joy for the rest of my life.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
You could say as an American expatriate attempting to make Italy my primary home, I am already predetermined to question the role of the foreigner living abroad. But in my youth, I developed a passion (Alright, I’ll admit it. It’s an obsession of mine) into understanding the reasons people come to Rome at all, even for a few days. Through my time at university, I flaunted myself all over the British and German literalists. I spent nights in tears as Goethe explained through his lush verbiage the internal torment I myself have felt when walking the streets of Rome. My desire to stand in front of Keats grave in the Testaccio neighborhood was fueled by reading and re-reading the account of his death in Rome in 1821. The day I finally accomplished this task, I walked on air for a good week following. As I work daily with those who come to Rome, I often wonder how my own lifelong relationship with The Eternal City can translate in the short time I am in contact with those who seek out my services.
Why come to Rome?
Rome has the ability to change you, internally and completely. The distinct characteristics of Rome create a city in which a person can experience the cultural legacy from Classical Antiquity through the Renaissance and into modernity. There is a fusion of eras resulting in an emotional experience.
How long should I stay in Rome?
While I am aware not everyone has the time or finances to stay in Rome for an extended stay, I would say that a visitor could get a good in-depth feel for the history of this city in 4 well planned days. And if you only have a day or two, RomAmor Tours does a great job of compacting this down to a few hours on their walking tours. By taking a few of them over the course of say, two days, you will have an excellent understanding of this concept of Italy as the leader of “civilizing the world”.
What are the main sites I must see, if I do nothing else?
Roman Forum, Colosseum and Palatine Hill
Vatican City including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica with a climb up the cupola if you have the stamina
Galleria Doria Pamphilji
Piazza Navona and the Pantheon
Let’s back up a few hundred years. Below is a section from an article I wrote explaining how this all got started.
The Grand Tour and Italy
Although predominantly a pleasure stay for most, elite Europeans of the 17-19th centuries considered the only way in which a young man could receive a suitable and complete education was by traveling abroad. Rome, with its ancient glories at every corner and thousands of masterpieces suspended upon every galleria wall developed a reputation for hosting a plethora of artists, philosophical thinkers and poets; Romantic authors, such as German born Johann Wolfgang von Goethe abruptly left their native countries in order to pursue a greater understanding of Classical Art and the culture of Italy in the 18th century. Taking part in what later became known as the “Grand Tour”, Goethe was just one of the many visitors to Italy who documented his stay in his book entitled Italian Journey. With “artists of all nationalities flocking to Rome to find greater inspiration and develop their talents” an abundance of artistic works and literary scholarship poured out of Rome during this time. The writers and artists of the Romantic era helped define Rome for future academic and cultural travelers. Through Goethe’s documented account in Italian Journey one finds that despite the consistent progression of time the city of Rome and the objects it possesses create a place that has the ability to enlighten and inspire any ambitious traveler.
Guest blogger, LeAnne J. Smith lives in Rome, Italy with her chihuahua, Weezer. She is most interested in the Romantic era of the Grand Tourists and the infinite change that occurs by visiting Rome.