Arno River, Firenze, Italia

Arno River, Firenze, Italia

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

To be a gladiator.

October 26th, 2010.

Persistence paid off.  We arrived at the Coliseum early in the morning.  English guides surrounded the ruins, claiming the wait was over two hours, and with determined voices, coaxed us in closer to consider their offer.  They advertised a guided tour coupled with “skip the line” tickets. 

What is baffling to me is the concept of “skip the line.”  Yes, the normal line is two hours long.  But one must consider that if everyone is grabbing hold of this opportunity, perhaps there is a “skip the line” line.  For the Vatican Museum, we bypassed the four hour wait, replacing it with a mere twenty-five minute delay.  But this imaginary line is the unknown.  It could be twenty-five minutes.  Or it might be one hour (which they could conveniently argue is less than two).  But still.  What exactly are you paying for?

Our tour guide was fantastic, the perfect dose of history and humor.  It was a relief to the previous day.  I found our guide for the tour of the Vatican Museum a bit dry, her desire to impart a wealth of art history drowning out the interesting facts that would keep people in tune with the sights.

When I give tours of Santa Croce in Florence, I have learned to keep them brief and simple (45 minutes brief, but still short nonetheless), including a few facts transposed over fascinating stories, stories that one might excitingly share with others beyond the walls of the basilica.  They don’t arrive at the church as tourists and leave as students of art history.  They arrive as tourists and leave the same.  My goal is that perhaps their memory of the church is both informative and postcard worthy.  A balance of both is key. 

I find though, as a student of art history, often this balance is difficult to maintain.  I am undoubtedly fascinated by art history.  It is amazing to me how visual we are, that we create beautiful, and sometimes fearsome, works to convey emotion, to express political feats, to show wealth, to preserve the past.  So this blog has become the catch-all for those instances when I found myself spouting forth facts, dates and names.  For those mundane moments of this monologue, I give you permission to skim or just skip them.  But I do try to maintain the balance, including some of my feelings and thoughts, the crazy stories, the lessons learned since I have arrived here in Florence.  Perhaps through those you will smile or nod your head in agreement (or shake your head is disagreement).  And this monologue will have transformed into a sort of dialogue, though silent. 

And when I return to the states, the set-up will be more of the same—a mixture of my educational pursuits and the intricacies of life.

I have been captured by the concept of “blogging.”  While new and slightly awkward at first, I now find that my mind is at a constant writing pace, and sometimes I fear I have too much to say and not enough time to record it all.  So now that I am also a student of conversation as well as art,  I’ll let this dialogue continue.

But I digress, again.

The Coliseum is magnificent.  Standing within its walls, I was made so much more aware of the architectural feat that it represents.  The first, the largest of its kind.  Seating over five thousand people, based on status.  And they climbed the steep steps in the middle ages, to witness marvelous feats of strength, the era of gladiators.

We romanticize this idea, the blood and gore equivalent to a symbol of power, as it was then.  And perhaps we forget that lives ended here, fathers, brothers, sons, died.  So in a way, it was sobering.  I almost expected a new age Enya song to start playing as I entered the amphitheatre, walking out of the shadows into the startling and unfettered sunlight.  In some small way, I would have preferred if the sky had been dark and grave to match the mood and purpose of the structure.  The brilliant blue in my photos contrasts so severely with the spartan Coliseum, that at times I am tempted to artificially reduce the vibrance and saturation in photoshop, and restore to the building its rightful foreboding appearance. 

Shadow of a brilliant sun.

Within the arena.

Crowded with tourists.

Almost too beautiful.

But really, a perfect end to Rome.

Jared was captivated by the Coliseum, adding his own side commentary to the tour guide’s spiel.  He admired, with sparkling eyes, the dress-up gladiator costumes.  But to his great dismay, they were sized for children.  He touched every sword and helmet at the gift shop, asking me repeatedly, “Would you be okay if I got one of these?”  To which I replied, simply, “Yes.”  But the weaponry, shields, and armor remained on the shelves.  For now, a dream still a dream.

With regret, we left Rome as simple folk, but Jared eagerly made plans to return for Gladiator school.  The Coliseum’s past is apparently,  both infective and inspiring.

We look like gladiators, I'm sure.

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