Rome holds a particular fascination for me because I’ve never been there. I haven’t stepped down its historic streets or heard its people or seen its antiquities jumbled together with modernity.
It seems, from reading Robert Hughes and Anthony Doerr, that this is a city that wants a relationship. Something personal. They both write of the light and the color and the smell of Rome. I am ready to build something with an old city that is new to me.
When Hughes first arrived his senses went into glorious overdrive. “The enveloping light can be of an incomparable clarity, throwing into gentle vividness every detail presented to the eye. First, the color, which was not like the color of other cities I had been in. Not concrete color, not cold glass color, not the color of overburned brick or harshly pigmented paint. Rather, the worn organic colors of the ancient earth and stone of which the city is composed.” He writes of the color of the ages.
Doerr falls in love with the sky. “I never tire of the clouds here, the light bleeding through their shoulders.”
On the terrace one night he watches as “the sky passes through a sequence of darkening blues.” “Is this Rome? Or a dream?” He is afraid of waking bereft of the color and air of Rome.
Early morning after a storm, “the air seems shinier and purer than I’ve seen it. Dawn stretches across the gardens … the old walls look washed, almost new; a thousand speckled tints of bronze, trailing lacework of ivy, glossy tangles of capers.”
As he prepares to take his family home to Idaho, he says goodbye to “the amber and purple and green of the distances, the blues of dusk…” Then he wonders if enough Roman light “enters our eyes … maybe we incorporate it. Maybe it becomes part of us. Maybe it flashes around inside us, endlessly reflecting, saturating everything.”