Tag Archives: Italy

claustrophobic in venice

Oh how shameful, to not like Venice; but I didn’t.  I couldn’t breathe there.  According to J’s cousin who has lived there for years, New Zealanders and Australians often have this reaction.  We are too used to open space.

Walking the narrow lanes, I can’t see enough of the sky.  I feel so hemmed in.  Trapped like a rat in a cage, going round and round with no chance of escape.  With a glimpse of Donald Sutherland, just ahead, around every corner.

After a couple of days of roaming the lanes, I insist that we pay some exorbitant amount to have a ride in a gondola.  It is only when we get out onto the Grand Canal that I can finally breathe and I realise I have been holding my breath since we arrived.

J, of course, loved Venice.  He, with his innate sense of direction, loved to be in a place where it was possible to get lost.  He went off exploring on his own for hours; while I stayed in the apartment, anxious.

People had warned me that I would find Rome very dirty; but I didn’t experience that at all.  I thought Rome beautiful, but Venice dirty and decaying.  It seems almost sacrilegious to say it, when Venice is so loved, but I just didn’t get it.

I was also aware that all was not as it seemed.  That the real Venice is behind closed doors – the houses themselves masks.  The streets a treadmill for tourists, while the Venetians live in a parallel, hidden Venice.

Fair enough!  How hideous to have to share your city with 30 million visitors each year.

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feeling at home in rome

In Rome, I am not too loud, too excitable, too emotional, too volatile, too much.  For the first time in my life, I feel completely at ease.  As if I fit.  As if who I am is all right.

We arrive at 7 am and already the air is crisp, clear and hot.  We’ve travelled 12 hours from New Zealand to Hong Kong where we spent the day wandering around, sweating in the heat and humidity.  Back on the next flight at midnight for another 12 hours to Rome.  We arrive filthy and smelly; grubby tourists.  Our room is not ready for us until the afternoon so, filthy and smelly, we hit the streets.  Here we are, so grotty, and here is Rome, so beautiful.  Nothing ugly allowed.  No billboards, no excessive signage, no ugly high rise buildings, no McDonalds.  Welcome relief to the senses.

I love Rome from the second we step off the plane.  It felt like a great pulsating heart; warm, inviting and full of light.  I don’t mean the people; they ignored us turista.  I mean the energy of the city.

Visiting the Sistine Chapel was the highpoint.  Walking through the Vatican Museums, overwhelmed by the art.  At first able to walk in any direction, then slowly becoming aware that we were being funnelled one way in a thick crowd.  And it was so hot.  The passageways get narrower and there’s no turning back, we can only move forward, herded with the crowd.  We didn’t have a map so we didn’t know where we were heading, but eventually pushed through a single door and realized we were in the Sistine Chapel.  Looking up, the ceiling so far away and the paintings so much smaller than imagined.  Squeezed in with hundreds of people, so hot.  No windows, guards everywhere.  The way out at the far end – another single door, but you have to go through a wire gate to get to it, in single file.  All those people talking and the guards ‘shushing’.  Awful and squashed.  Trapped in this cavernous room.  I hate it and feel so disappointed.

Then a voice in my head reminds me that it’s a ‘chapel’, and next I see at one end a cross and candles for an altar.    Focusing on this I’m drawn inside myself and find calm beneath the intensity and noise of the crowd.  Then I start to feel energy, huge energy, as if I have tapped into some sort of energy centre.  As if this room with its famous ceiling is not about the art at all.  As if the chapel was built at this place because of the energy that emanates from here.  As if the painting on the ceiling was created from this energy.

I stand, beneath this famous ceiling with my eyes shut, and I am filled with energy.  Filled to the top, filled to bursting.  I can’t speak and I hold onto J’s arm as he leads me with the crowd out the doors.  I am in a state of absolute bliss, like I have never experienced before.

It lasts for hours.

View through the ceiling of the Pantheon

View through the ceiling of the Pantheon