The Rome Diaries - Week 1

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.

Sept. 11, 2006

Tonight I take a stroll after dinner. Romans have a word for this sensible behavior, passeggiata. I come upon the sort of ruin that is layered like an archeological dig. It is Orti Sallustiana. These gardens (orti) were begun by the Roman historian Sallust after he returned from a lucrative governorship in North Africa. He spent his entire fortune on them, it is claimed. Judging from the loot uncovered (largely 5th Century B.C. Greek bronzes and Roman marble

statuary) it must have been magnificent. The area was completely destroyed by Alaric’s

invasion of Rome in 410. But what was not taken was buried and stayed that way until

construction began after Italian unification (1870) when Rome needed space for

bureaucracies and their bureaucrats. At the lowest level (a good fifty feet down) are the

ruins of Saullst’s nymphaneum. The fountain’s myriad statues are now strewn all over

the world in various museum collections. Next comes a conference center built partly

into this ruin and on top of it; and, across a courtyard, a 19 th Century villa still owned by

the noble family who built it. This is the complex web that is Rome and keeps everyone

coming back for more.

Sept. 13, 2006