Rome Diaries - Week 25

From 2006 to 2011 Paulist Father Tom Holahan served as vice rector of the Paulist church in Rome. During that time he had the opportunity to spend time exploring the historic sites of Rome as well as the hidden ones. The blog features excerpts from this travel diary. A new selection appears each week.

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July 1, 2007

I am reading the “Italian Gardens” by Georgina Masson. In it, she talks about Pliny the Younger and his love of gardens. Pliny is often used as a conduit to the mind of 1st century Rome. As a trained rhetorician and writer, his letters convey emotion and nuance of detail beautifully. After a hard day at the law courts, Pliny loved to escape to his costal villa near Laurentum (present-day San Lorenzo). He reveals that each room is placed in relationship to its view, the sun and the breezes and is careful to describe how the scent of violets fills a certain area of the place. In today’s Rome jasmine has replaced violets as the fragrant plant of choice but the love of a beautiful prospect and breeze is just as much coveted.



July 7, 2007

It’s official, the Roman Coliseum is a New Wonder of the World. (The only wonder still standing from the ancient world is the Great Pyramid of Giza.) Three of the new wonders are in the New World (the Statue of Christ in Brazil, Machu Picchu in Peru and the Pyramid of Chichén Itzá in Mexico), Asia has two (the Great Wall and the Taj Mahal) and the Middle East gets represented by Petra in Jordan. The sites were voted on by one hundred million people over the internet. This “popularity contest” contrasts with the slowly arriving fame of the original wonders -- mentioned by traders, travelers and ancient historians. Hilary Swank and Ben Kingsley host tonight’s “declaration ceremony”; the project was recognized by the United Nations for fostering the UN’s Millennium Development Goals. It all sounds so “produced” -- the “wonders” seem just a way to promote tourism. It takes a bit of the wonder out of things.


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