Time patrol: all roads lead to Rome

Florence, 1997. “Of the impossibility of photographing the Duomo”. One of the prettiest cathedrals in the world. (Milan’s not bad either.) The Duomo in Florence is a delicate work of white and black marble. A masterpiece really. But houses are so close to it you never really can get a comprehensive view. (Analog photo. One used to take several shots to form a larger picture)

The Duomo itself, Santa María del Fiore. Construction started in 1296. Ended around 1340. Only five years before Notre-Dame-de- Paris. Cousins of a sort. (Florence, 1997). I’d been to Italy several times before, on business, endless meetings in Milan or Torino. No time for sightseeing. In 1997, we packed the family and started in Tuscany.

Ponte vecchio, the ‘Old bridge’ on the Arno river. In those days no space was lost, houses were built on top of bridges. Even in Paris all bridges had houses on them. It might be fun to rent a flat on the Ponte Vecchio for a few days today, but I wonder about the crowds all day and night. Though, post Covid, who knows? In 1997, Florence was fine, not so many crowds.

The Toscan countryside lends itself to black and white. I still have a sixties book on Tuscany by Gianni Berengo-Gardin, all B&W, superb.

An unusual Pietà by Michelangelo at the Museo dell’opera del Duomo. Florence, 1997. Let’s hop on the train to Venice.

Piazza San Marco, 1997. More pigeons than tourists then. One could still grasp a feel for the place.

The four horses on top of the main door to the cathedral have a long story of being stolen. Originally Roman statues from 2nd or 3d century AD, they were stolen by the Venetians when Constantinople was sacked – by the crusaders – in 1204. Looted in Venice by Napoleon – when he “liberated” Italy from the Austrians, in 1795, they were placed on top of the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, until 1815, when, after Waterloo, the horses were returned to Venice. The horses now on the Arc de triomphe at the Tuileries are copies. Given the current general state of stupidity madness I wonder whether Erdogan will claim the return of the horses to Istanbul?

Not too sure which island this is. Burano maybe? From modern pictures, Burano looks very different. Scanning old analog pictures gives an interesting grainy effect. Need to try that in B&W.

“Venise serait ma fin.” Venice would be the end of me. Corto Maltese in “Un ange à la fenêtre d’orient”, by Hugo Pratt. A cousin of mine rents a house in Venice every summer. I guess Venice will be the end of him.

Couldn’t leave Venice without the cliché, could we? No, this is not a postcard. Ah done took it mahself. Yes ma’am…

All roads lead to Rome. 2,500 years of civilization packed in the same place. Along the Forum if I recall. (Strange things happen on the way to the Forum.)

A small setback in civilization, mayhap? The monument to Vittorio Emmanuelle II was built by Mussolini. I’m told Italians – never short of a ‘bon mot’ – call it either the typewriter or the wedding cake. It does look like its has a lot of whipped cream.

Saint Peter’s. Five analog pictures here. When I think I could now do that in one click. 🤣 in ’97, there were tourists, but nowhere near the multitudes that swamped the world up to 2019. Will cities limit the number of entries in the future? Politicians are likely to charge…

Somewhere on the Forum. Roman bas-relief. Featuring a procession carrying a Jewish menorah, the seven-branch chandelier. Intriguing, since Romans were not exactly lenient on the Jewish people. After some research, I found the answer. This bas-relief is dated 81AD, it is on the Arc of triumph of Titus, the Roman emperor who destroyed the Temple of Jerusalem in 70AD. (Always do research!) 😉

Saint Peter’s square from above. (How did I get up there?)

Trajan’s column, 113AD. Commemorating the victories of Emperor Trajan. It was a model, no doubt, for Napoleon’s column on place Vendôme.

This would be Moses, I assume, carrying the tables of the Law. Besides a new Story for the World, mayhap we need a new Law?

Piazza Navona. Italians have perfected the art of fountains. World leaders in fountains. And doors. And…

Lascia ogni speranza voi che entrate… “Abandon all hope ye who enter”. I might have expected such a “Dantesque” door in Florence, but no, it is in Rome. (This one is for Manja) No offense to Romans, Rome is not my favourite Italian city. Florence is. Probably did not spend enough time in Rome. Maybe we should spend a few months in Rome. LOL. When?

Villa Borghese, 1600’s, now the seat of the French Academy in Rome. One of the most coveted top French civil servant jobs. Rent a bike or stroll in the gardens. You may see the shadow of Pauline Bonaparte, Napoleon’s little sister who married a Borghese prince.

Fountain of Trevi. Anita Ekberg and Marcello Mastroianni just passed by.

This post is dedicated to all my Italian friends. Grazie mille a tutti. Thank y’all as always, for flying Equinoxio Airways’ Time-Space shuttle. Arrivederci.

136 thoughts on “Time patrol: all roads lead to Rome

  1. What you have done, mon chère Brieuc, is send me right back to Toscana, where I long to be. I fell in love with Florence, more so Siena, but also Pienza and well, you get the picture. In September, it will already be five years since my solo trip there. I am itching to return. And then to visit each different area of Italy, one by one…(on different trips, of course).

    The duomo in Siena is gorgeous, too (prettier, i would say 😉 )

    • I guess I did. It’s one of the reasons I stopped taking pictures soon after. For 15 years or so. I found I remembered better without pictures. Any Italian travel plans soon?

      • Italy, no. But I hope to go to Spain this year. Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada (and Valencia), so the great architectural achievements of the Moorish era. And after that a week on Mallorca, where in my younger days (some centuries ago) I picked olives and stayed for the winter.

  2. La mécanique des lasers de aeolus a été fabriquée près de Florence et l’optique près de Rome, en fait à Pomezia. Comme je suis plus mécanicien qu’opticien, je connais Florence mieux que Rome. Néanmoins, une de mes plus fortes impressions, et qui reste, sont les restes de ces voûtes romaines dans le Forum, incroyablement hautes, incroyablement puissantes, incroyablement larges, en briques. L’ingéniosité derrière ces voûtes est prodigieuse.
    Merci pour le voyage, Brieuc.

    • Oui je me rappelle tes séjours à Florence. Mais j’ignorais Rome. Oui, l’architecture était déjà impressionante. Les temples de Baalbek au Liban aussi.
      Pas de quoi cher ami.

  3. Ahh, thank you for the door, Equinoxio! I took many similar photos, especially of the Trajan’s column and Moses. All roads do lead to Rome, you know, it’s been proven (I saw a map online claiming this a while ago). I was in Rome much more often than in Florence (only twice there, briefly), but my favourite bits of Italy are those nobody knows about. This is a grand photo from the Vatican. I wonder what you climbed as well.

  4. Italy certainly does have much to offer: spectacular cities, ancient ruins, wonderful museums, soaring mountains, great beaches, and beautiful natural scenery. Your photos made me think of my very first trip to Bergamo many many years ago 🙂

  5. Thanks for the tour. I have not been to Rome but of course, it would be impressive. I laughed at the whipped cream comment. I find the most impressive structure was Trajan’s column. So old yet has withstood the test of time.

    • Well, make sure to include Italy on your next trip to Europe. You can make a small detour from Scandinavia… And yes, the age… The Forum and the Column are 2,000 years old (and change)

      • Milan is very nice. And the lakes? A friend of mine has a house in Cuomo. Did you go?
        Rome we went to in ’97. Decent. Haven’t gone back since. Florence we went in 97 and back in 2014. Huge crowds, but if you move two streets down or up, you’re fine.

      • Yes I did visit Lake Como. George Clooney wasn’t home when I called in at his place – Lol. I actually preferred Lake Garda to Como and Maggiore. But they are all stunning areas.
        The crowds around Florence are one of the reasons I didn’t go south. Good to know that you found how to avoid them. Milan and the Da Vinci exhibit was a bit similar in that way.

      • Does he now? (I didn’t know Clooney had a place there) 🤣
        Garda is renowned. Will have to go on another trip…
        What works in Florence works in Venice, or in Paris. The major sites are packed pf course, but you can find gems two streets down. Works everywhere. Buona Domenica… 😉

    • That was very common in Europe. All Paris bridges had houses on them until the Pont-Neuf. (Puente nuevo!) which was the first bridge without houses. And is now the oldest bridge in Paris, despite its name.

  6. I visited Venice and Rome in 1989. Back when you could linger and breathe. The difference now is that there are millions more who have the freedom and means to travel. Chinese, Eastern Europeans and other people who no longer are confined by their own governments. And people of emerging economies such as India, Latin America, and Southeast Asia who now have the money to travel. It’s sad that cities may have to impose limits on tourists, but they may not have a choice. They’ve done that with many National Parks here in the US. I’m glad I got to see Italy in quieter times. Thank you for the tour, mon ami!

    • Piacere. Yes, I still remember the days when one could travel without “hordes”. Which is not a nice word. Who am I to question their right to see the world? And pick up new insights on the way? The pandemic will probably put a temporary block but it will resume. Now, there are “solutions”. Open the Louvre 24/7. You will get visitors. But the Unions? There is great need for a new vision in France and Europe. I’ll tell you what I find… Biz mon amie.

  7. Always wanted to visit Florence. Have been to Milan and Rome. But the Duomo is beautiful. Milan’s is a forest of spires. I wonder what Florence was like back then, in the late 13th century. Hard to envision it, except in paintings. How did you get that photograph of St. Peter’s Square?

    • “Prego”. Oui ça fait du bien. J’espère que les voyages vont bientôt reprendre. Tout va bien chez toi? Après cette année de folie. (Pas encore finie) Biz et à +.

  8. When addressing to a group of people – or to a highly ranked/elderly person – one says “lasciate”, which is the plural/respectful form of the verb lasciare. Lascia is suitable for single person, either younger or a friend/close relative. 😉

    As for certain expressions such as bee’s knees, one may try to pronounce it loudly or in their mind – it may trigger something. Like saying business in a prolonged, slang kind-of-way, which I believe it was the original intention. 🙂

    As for Italy, guess I may visit it in a future life. Maybe. 🙂

      • You’re too kind 😉 We actually don’t dare. We really had Rome (FINALLY!!!) planned but that’s not gonna happen. We are going to Dresden for a few days. Pretty modest summer I suppose but it has been fun. School holidays are almost over in Berlin. We’ll see where life takes us from there …

      • Ah… Rome. The eternal city… I can understand. Here, there are too many people in the subway or in many streets. I keep putting my mask on and off. But I figure: hell, I got my two shots… que sera sera…
        Enjoy Dresden. Tschüß Freundin.

      • Merci!
        (We’ve had our fair share of normal life lately, but whenever I see a person with a travel guide, I feel strangely uncomfortable and keep my disctance. Who knows where they came from? People are slowly coming back from holidays and bringing ??? with them. It might stay intereting for a while … )

      • Travel guide? LOL. We have to keep our distances indeed, but here when I have to take the metro… just keep my mask on and put gel on my hands as I leave the station.

      • It’s a bit like that here, too. Just soldier on. But big cities are big cities, what are the options? Mask on and get on with life 😷 our new normal … Numbers rising here already. Keep safe on your travels!

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