Friday, June 8, 2018

Rome diary: My marble compass

There's a reason I liked the Vittorio Emanuele II monument in Rome. One clue: It's the highest, most noticeable thing in this photograph.

My, how the white marble of the Vittorio Emanuele stands out against the duller colours of the Roman Forum. The monument is the farthest thing away in this picture, but especially with the distinctive statues on top, it's a clear landmark.

As a directionally challenged person, I am always grateful for the North Shore mountains; from Vancouver, they are always so wonderfully, reassuringly north. But Rome, well. Built, rebuilt and rebuilt again through millennia of fires, wars, sackings, floods, earthquakes, emperors and dictators, it’s understandable that things got jumbled. Streets curve and meander, with sudden hills, ancient walls and a winding river dictating their course. Names change at any point and change again, with no guarantee they will appear anywhere in real life. Numbering of buildings is quixotic.

Despite paper maps, Google maps, guidebooks and intense study of same, I could still get off a bus in broad daylight in Rome and feel like I had just landed on Mars.

It took awhile, but eventually I realized that the Vittorio Emanuele monument – derided by the Romans as an over-the-top white pile disfiguring the ancient part of the city   had become one of my favourite buildings.

From the Janiculum hill across the Tiber, from the Spanish Steps, from Trajan’s Market, from the Palatine hill and the Roman Forum, it shone out in a blaze of white marble with its chariots and horses galloping sky-high on top. You could see it from anywhere!  Not only that, but the buses and trams that would take me home – and I knew their numbers, oh yes – all stopped nearby.

 The Romans, the tourists, may call it a giant wedding cake or a typewriter, but to me, it was glorious. It was my own  personal North Shore mountains.

I am probably the only tourist in Rome who didn't take a proper picture of the Vittorio Emanuele monument, which photographed full-on does in fact look like a wedding cake or typewriter. But there was a parade of figures from Rome's history going on beside the monument one day, so here are some shots taken from the side.

The monument, built as a tribute to the first king of a united Italy, required the clearing of the northern slope of the Capitoline Hill, destroying many Roman ruins and medieval churches. It was inaugurated in 1911, at the 50th anniversary of the kingdom. 

Eighty metres high and 120 metres wide of sparkling white marble makes the monument really hard to ignore. The statues that fly from two points on top, visible from many points of the city, are of winged Victories representing freedom and unity.

No comments:

Post a Comment