It looks like I may not be in Rome much longer.  So I was starting to think about all the cultural things I should do before I leave.  The things that when I moved out here I promised myself I would spend my time doing, instead of just hanging out in street cafes. In the end though, spending lots of time hanging out in street cafes has proved more appealing.  Sacrilegious it may be, but there is a limit to the number of the interiors of different churches I can face in a weekend.  Bird watching the locals over an espresso however remains inexhaustibly entertaining.  Still, I thought, I really ought to do some culture whilst I am here, other than just trotting round the big monuments with the rest of the tourists.  (Although as ‘culture’ goes, I think scrambling around the ruins of the imperial Forum is pretty hard to beat.)

So, I decided I’d go to see Trajan’s market, a newly (ish) restored complex of Roman shops and corn exchange.  I checked out the opening times helpfully posted on the internet, only to find on arrival it was closed for restoration.  That is one of the problems with having lots of wonderful old monuments and artworks, they do need an awful lot of care and attention which means you can’t always go and see them, and information about opening times is often out of date.  The ugly scaffolding is invariably covered with a façade printed with a picture of the building underneath making it less of an eyesore, although the ubiquitous advertising hoarding on top of it does rather mar the intended effect.

Italy being Italy, at least if whatever you wanted to go and look at happens inexplicably to be shut, there is usually something else interesting just around the corner. My latest guests were disappointed to find the Botticelli room at the Uffizi gallery under wraps when they called in en-route to mine and will have to come back to Florence for their Botticelli fix.  They did however remark on the gorgeousness of the Uffizi gallery itself, with its intricately frescoed ceilings and view over the Arno (those arriving after lunch to suffer the horrendous afternoon queues at least are treated with the Autumn sunset reflected in the river from the upstairs gallery).

I will remember Rome as much for the wrought ironwork that festoons balconies and weaves doorknockers into gargoyles and medieval lions’ faces as anything else.   Whatever your preferred flavour – medieval or imperial, it’s all here.  Even the stark Fascist architecture finds its place in the EUR parks to the South.  Indeed I’m told one of the chief difficulties archaeologists face is in deciding what to preserve and what to dig up.  (Mussolini had no such difficulties when he cut through what were imperial ruins and to build what is now a main arterial road.)  Rome has only two metro lines and the standard excuse for why only two is that there is simply too much buried for the authorities to be able to dig any more lines.  There is a bit of the fusty artefact syndrome about many of the museums.  They certainly tend towards the academic rather than the popular, something much bemoaned by my Milanese friend recently impressed by London’s offerings.  I presume when you can play to the crowds with the Coliseum you don’t feel the need to make much effort with the rest.

Another set of guests will arrive shortly and I’m hoping for an excuse to get to those parts of Rome I’ve not yet reached, rather than yet another coliseum-and-shopping tour.   Maybe Trajan’s market will have reopened.  At least I shall have an excuse to sample the few ice-cream flavours I’ve not yet tried, something perhaps I have been better at.


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