Thursday, August 2, 2012

The City Inside

     In Rome I have seen the Colosseum, the Forum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, extraordinary fountains, high-end clothing stores, statues, churches, trattorias, osterias, gelaterias and pasticcerias . . . but not a single grocery store. There is no hint here of a Rome where people actually live and work, only of a city where tourists are catered to. It is as though I am experiencing a city inside a larger city, almost a set piece that has been constructed for the use of me and millions of others like me. Even our map (given to us at our hotel) appears to end at the borders of the city we are supposed to be a part of, trailing off at the edges into the real city which will forever remain invisible to us.
     The other great cities of the world -- New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong among them -- integrate their tourist industries with their "true" selves and allow you to form a connection with the urban culture and community. Rome seems to want to keep me at arm's length. I have a better sense of how Ancient Romans lived than how contemporary Romans do.
     But, my God, they make good gelato.

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