As we wound our way through the incredibly hectic streets of Rome, with mopeds and other cars cutting in and out of each other, I verified my seatbelt was in working order and proceeded to stare out the window admiring the vibrant colors and age of the buildings we passed. After a while the cab driver asked, in decent English, where we were from and what we were doing in Rome. I explained that I was from Boston and was a photographer, while Brad explained his employment with “the Circus” as he calls it – I think to anyone from the US, Cirque du Soleil is a far superior product to the circus, but it’s the easiest way he can explain it to people who aren’t as familiar with the shows. The driver remained quiet for a while before asking me quite bluntly, “How is the American Dream?” – a question that left me rather dumbfounded, as I haven’t recently checked to see how the American Dream was doing. I mumbled some words and asked if he had ever visited the US, which he said he hadn’t and then expressed his interest in moving to North Carolina, debating aloud between Charlotte and Raleigh for a while before eventually dropping us off outside the Colosseum. Quite the morning it had been already!
There was a surprising lack of lines at the gigantic and nearly two thousand year old structure. Originally constructed in 70 AD and built of concrete and sand, it’s known as the largest amphitheater ever built. We breezed right through the metal detectors at security, buying tickets for just $12 and heading up the wide staircases to the upper floors of the Colosseum. Seeing as Brad had taken the tour with his sister just a week prior, he immediately hopped into tour guide mode and began reciting facts he learned from his last guided visit. We shuffled around the venue moving along through small crowds and doing our best to dodge swinging “selfie-sticks” as tourists of all ages stopped unexpectedly and decided it was the perfect time to extend their 3-foot aluminum rods to take a photo of themselves. At one point I started snapping photos of people photographing themselves with these silly devices. We finished our rounds through the amphitheater as Brad ran out of facts to recite, and I stood in amazement overlooking the gigantic opening where the floor used to be, doing my best to envision blood-soaked sand from men and animals alike who fought each other until death in front of immeasurable crowds in the audience above. Shy of the lack of life at the end of an event, it wasn’t all that difficult to picture football being along the same lines a few thousand years later. Here we were in a gigantic venue overflowing with spectators, alcohol, blood, and camaraderie as gladiators (and animals) battled to win against each other… Sound familiar?
We exited through the monstrous steel gates and walked towards the gated entrance to where the remains of the Roman Forum still stand. Moving slowly through countless remains of broken freestanding columns and buildings of centuries past, it was yet again incredible to think of just how old this area is. As Brad so eloquently put it, “When they say Rome wasn’t built in a day, they certainly mean it”. We snapped some photos and read small signage depicting the scenes laid out before us, and eventually turned our sights towards the main road above. By now it was nearly 15h00, and Bradley had to make his way to work; we parted ways at the Tomb of the Forgotten Soldier, and while he took a cab to the Cirque du Soleil big-top site, I decided that I would spend my afternoon walking across the city back to his apartment. Camera in one hand and a very rough idea in my mind of where I was headed, I walked and photographed at an exceptionally leisurely pace, winding through empty side streets and squeezing through packed cul-de-sacs where children played in fountains and adults bathed in the gorgeous sunlight while sitting on steps of more ancient buildings… It reminded me a bit of Boston in the summer when kids play in the fountain outside the Christian Science Center and people take lunch breaks by the Reflecting Pool.
I took a few hundred photos, challenging myself to work with the bright mid-day light as it shone high above (as someone who spends most of my photography life between dusk and dawn, it’s an out-of-my-element kind of experience to shoot during the day!). I walked as the miles flew by under my feet, using the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica to base my location and trajectory off of, making my way back towards Brad’s apartment. I followed Rome's Tiber River, walking past booksellers and souvenir shops lined up under the cover of immense riverside trees in a way that reminded me of similar walks down the Seine in Paris. Arriving at his house in the late afternoon I showered and got changed for the Cirque du Soleil show I was seeing that night, the grand opening/premiere event for the Rome show series. A long taxi ride in rush-hour traffic brought me to the big top tent site where Brad gave me a great tour of the set and introduced me to more co-workers than I could begin to remember. The show was unbelievably phenomenal, a love story of a man and woman from two drastically different communities, and involved a lot of aerial acrobatics and a gorgeous display of light and sound. The audience of regional celebrities was captivated, and it took no time at all for them to be on their feet when the curtain call began. When the show was over we hung out for the after party, then made our way back to his apartment across town well past midnight, after which I stayed up editing photos of the days adventures. Having walked another 8 miles throughout the city throughout the day, I was surprised to still be awake so late into the night.
Our plan for tomorrow morning is to rise early and take a taxi to the train station, making our way north through the Italian countryside until we arrive in Venice, where we’ll spend the weekend… I’m really looking forward to photographing the causeways, bridges, and boats, as well as visiting the historical monuments the city is home to. Until then I'll focus my efforts on trying to get some sleep.
More to come.