Jump to content, Jump to navigation.

Amber Paulen

The Real Rome

The following is a long excerpt from Pier Paolo Pasolini’s collection Stories From the City of God: Sketches and Chronicles of Rome 1950-1966, from the essay titled The City’s True Face. (My views on the book will follow tomorrow.)

What is Rome? Where is the real Rome? Where does it begin and where does it end? Rome is surely the most beautiful city in Italy, if not the world. But it is also the most ugly, the most welcoming, the most dramatic, the richest, the most wretched…. The contradictions of Rome are difficult to transcend because they are contradictions of an existential order. Rather than traditional contradictions, between wealth and misery, happiness and horror, they are part of a magma, a chaos.

To the eyes of the foreigner and the visitor, Rome is the city contained within the old Renaissance walls. The rest is a vague, anonymous periphery, unworthy of interest.

Within the walls lies a beautiful Italian city which, rather than revealing uniquely classical, medieval, Communal, Renaissance, or baroque traditions, reveals all of these at once. If it were sectioned, one would see an extraordinary proliferation of layers: this is the source of the city’s great beauty. Add to that the sun, the soft air, the joy of a life lived outdoors—never truly idyllic, bearing a dramatic core, and which therefore can never be boring. It is always alive, moving… Add also the fact that the petite bourgeoisie and grande bourgeoisie do not play an important role in the city center, which is still characterized by the lower classes, as in the southern and Bourbon cities, filled with fictitious vitality and servile paganism.

The Rome that is unknown to tourists, ignored by the right-minded, and nonexistent on maps, is immense.

The ignorant tourist and the upstanding citizen who covers his eyes can catch a glimmer of this disproportionate city, sunken into thousands of grandiose and disparate pools, if he bothers to look out the window of his train or bus….

—Pier Paolo Pasolini


·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·   ·