CLAY JENKINSON: Rome Journal — To Rome

Journal of a journey to Rome. I’m teaching a capstone humanities course for a Catholic university. Twenty-five students. They have been there all semester, staying in a convent that has plenty of room for the campus. My job is to show them things about Rome that they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see.

Long day of flying ahead. Bismarck, then Minneapolis, then Paris, then Rome. Then a taxi to the campus. I have 75 or so books on my iPad and on these flights, the airlines provide power terminals. The discipline is to avoid just watching five movies from here to Paris.

This is the best time to be in Rome. The summer crowds are long gone. The lines are shorter. The museums are less congested. It will probably rain a good deal. I get more walking in Rome than anywhere else.

I regard myself as a flaneur, navigating the city in a desultory way, with no particular goal on any given afternoon. I know that Monday after class I will go into the city, to the Pantheon, which I regard as a top five building on Earth. There is a modest restaurant there, looking over at the massive portico, and all of humanity slips past the fountain as I eat my modest plate, house wine and a bit of bread. A book, a map, a camera, and an endless afternoon.

I’m reading Plutarch’s “Life of Julius Caesar.”

As usual, I leave kicking and screaming because I have so much work to do here. But once I land and get that first shower — and a wee catch-up nap —  I fall into an easy rhythm.

Things I am most looking forward to seeing this time: the Borghese Gallery with its exquisite Bernini sculptures; the Sistine Chapel for the umpteenth (but still magical) time; Vergil’s tomb in Naples; the Capitoline Museum, an inexhaustible source of fragmentary Roman grandeur.

My mother dropped me off at the airport curb.

“If I cork,” said I, “hire a crew to shovel out the house.”

“Don’t cork,” she said sentimentally. “I don’t want the hassle of cleaning out your house. That’s  your own Level Seven of the ‘Inferno.’”

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