Urban Rebirth | Rome, Italy

As promised, a word on the Roman Colosseum after her retirement:

Over the years, a number of earthquakes shook her 40ft foundation while the Empire pillaged much of her facade for the construction of other buildings, including St. Peter's Basilica. The once towering symbol of grandeur was stripped of her unique travertine and even of the iron pegs that fastened her aesthetic outer garment of brilliant marble.

Left exposed, the Colosseum was finally taken pity on by the Catholic Church who offered her asylum and began to take steps toward her continued protection.

Though it has now been illegal to remove stones from the Colosseum for over 250 years, she has continued to fall further into disrepair. As I face this ruin, once a giant in every sense of the word, it is difficult to see past the dark rust color that has now overwhelmed her. Worn down by the sheer pressure of time, coated constantly by pollution from droves of traffic each day and shaken weaker by the vibrations of the aforementioned auto traffic - it doesn't seem likely that future generations will see more of her than a photograph in a textbook.

This evening irony has struck me - as I sat at dawn, just today, sadly pondering the fate of Rome's great architectural legacy. Upon our return from yet another delectable "breakfast" at L'archetto, we are overwhelmed by the celebration and crowds gathered along the main road near the Colosseum. As it turns out, we are present for an enormous shift in the history of The Eternal City.

I am surprised, and amply satisfied at the cause for the closing (to auto traffic, that is) of this main artery through Rome! Though this route will again open up to city buses and taxis tomorrow, it will permanently be closed to private traffic. This move will reduce auto traffic by a whopping 90%, and is being made in an attempt to lessen vibrations & pollution felt by the Colosseum.

The Mayor of Rome says he would like to see a complete pedestrianization of the Flavian Amphitheater and Forum areas by the end of his term. Kudos to you, Mr. Marino!

As far as this particular evening is concerned, it is simply a giant Italian party to celebrate the kickoff of this incredible project. As Wilhelm and I approach the area by foot we can see acrobats performing, the brightly lit Colosseum and a rich navy colored sky acting as the ultimate backdrop. We join the crowds of excited locals and tourists alike, strolling along a path meant solely for auto travel since 1924 when the fascist dictator Mussolini put the route in for easier access to his offices. Under the new changes, some of these major roads may even be declared archaeological sites and be dug up for new explorations.

A beautiful Italian voice finishes a ballot of which we can feel the emotion though we cannot understand the words. As we move past the stage amongst the masses, in the distance we can hear the drifting words of John Lennon, "they may say that I'm a dreamer...but I'm not the only one...". It is a poignant and stunning moment to experience with the international people of his brilliant city, and I think I have the best seat in the house - hoisted high above the happenings, upon my husband's shoulders. 

Walking home on what was once a route making the great Colosseum little more than a traffic island, singing with people of the world in celebration of this urban rebirth of Rome - this is an unexpected experience we will not soon forget.

pedestrian rome