Time to Leave, Rome: Day 1

Brian and I arrived in Rome at 10:30 the next morning, the 19th, and he left for the airport while I went to the hotel. I had said goodbye to Nice in the morning before leaving while she was still half asleep at 6:30. So, either because she was asleep or because of her general positive nature, I did not feel the gut wrenching unhappiness at leaving which I had envisioned myself feeling. I will see her again, I’m sure of it. Brian’s departure, however, was a bit harder because it finally signified the end of Parma. I know I’ll see Brian soon and that I’ve made a life-long friend with whom I plan on spending lots of time in the future, but his leaving left me alone in Rome, as I had started this adventure, waiting to go back to America instead of waiting to begin a brand new semester in Italy. How could I possibly say goodbye to this place?

Cooler Picture?

Well, I was in Rome which meant that I had plenty of things to see and occupy my time until Courtney arrived that night from Granada. I dropped my stuff off at the hotel and went to the Villa Borghese where I had reserved time to visit the museum from 1-3. I had not been there in three years but once I found the museum, located in a giant park, I instantly recognized where I stood. An accordionist played beautiful music on the ‘via’ leading up to the museum. I walked around the fountain where three and half years ago I sat wearing a Michael Jordan jersey (not acceptable style in Italy) in the middle of summer with Mom and Rich as we waited to enter. How had it taken me more than three years to return to this temple of Baroque art and Bernini sculpture? I blogged sitting on a park bench in the slightly chilly, damp air and enjoyed the music. Life was good. I was seeing one of the most beautiful museums in the world and would be joined tonight by my wonderfully amazing girlfriend Courtney.

I entered the museum at 1 and followed the course of the rooms, stopping in each to be

Villa Borghese

stunned by the floor to ceiling marble, decorations and frescoes. In each room a sculpture lay at the center, usually of Bernini, surrounded by other priceless pieces of art that gave each room a theme. There was the David room with Bernini’s magnificent interpretation of the topic surrounded by paintings of the same biblical story. There was the room of Emperors where porphyry busts of Roman emperors surrounded tables of porphyry and mythical sculptures. Throughout the entire museum composed as such, the most stunning sculpture, one where Apollo attempts to kidnap a woodnymph who asks her father to be turned into a tree, is, ironically, the one in a room entitled ‘The Gladiator Room’ which has little to do with the central sculpture. This sculpture, though, is second to only the David in its magnificence. Bernini’s masterpiece captures the moment that the woodnymph begins to turn into a tree as she pushes Apollo away who is grabbing at her waist. The faces are so real that one thinks the transformation is actually happening. Her hands have begun to turn into branches with leaves extend out of them seeming to suspend in the air and her body has begun to transform into the trunk of a tree. Leaves flutter around her as she turns to escape Apollo. There is motion, there is reality. The flesh of stone looks too real so that I honestly thought I could touch the sculptures and feel human. The sight literally takes the breath away. How could anybody capture such emotion, such motion, such reality in stone? How can one express this reality with a chisel? The sculpture is too real to be stone, it seems impossible. Yet there it is, sculpted from a single block of marble. I looked at it for a very long time walking from the back to the front, as Bernini meant it to happen, so that I actually saw the wood nymph transforming in her attempt to escape Apollo. Walking around the sculpture was like watching a short movie with a beginning and an end. I could barely believe it.

A fountain at which I once sat three and a half years ago

Unfortunately, while I was staring at one of the most impressive pieces of art which I have ever seen, I received a call from a very sick Courtney who told me that the Granada airport had been shutdown due to tornado like conditions and that she would have to take a bus to Malaga, fly to Barcelona and then catch a flight to Rome. It seemed too much, but I figured she would make it to the city eventually. The beautiful museum, and my general lack of sleep for the past week, left me too tired to continue sightseeing. I went back to the hotel and spent the afternoon hanging out waiting to hear from Courtney. She boarded a flight to Barcelona at 5, meaning she would miss her 6 o’clock connection to Rome, but I was still confident that she would make it. She told me she would call when she landed. The hours ticked by and come 8:00 I had still not heard from her. I was extremely worried, as Courtney’s mom knows, but unlike in the past I did not begin to freak out or panic. She would call me and she would make it eventually. I had to leave for the airport at 8:30 regardless to pick her up. As I was preparing to leave we finally heard from her. She would be landing at around 10:15 in Rome. I relaxed and went off to get her. Still, regardless that I was worried, I feel that I have begun to improve on my anxiety and pessimism. What could worrying do about it? Courtney would make it eventually.

The saga was not over, however. At the airport I found Courtney near baggage claim looking absolutely miserable and sitting next to an empty turnstile. She was feverish and really sick. Her bags had not come and in her sickness she had to deal with the emotions of leaving Granada behind, besides the horrendous day she had traveling. I took her to the customer service desk where we were assured that her bags would arrive at the hotel the next day. I brought Courtney back to the hotel and tried to put her to bed. It was nearly one when we got home and we had reservations for the Vatican at 8:30 the next morning.

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