When living in Italy time is tangibly present in a way that doesn’t exist in the United States. This is probably applicable to other deeply rooted cultures, but there is a physicality to time here that I’ve felt nowhere else. Particularly now that I’m in Rome, time is present and visible, even more so than in Florence or anywhere else really. The layers of time can be seen everywhere around the city: whether you’re in a church like San Clemente, which is a medieval structure:
with an interior decorated with Renaissance frescoes and baroque tombs, all of which is pretty typical of Roman churches. But what makes San Clemente really exceptional is that below the medieval church is an early Christian church in the foundations:
filled with altars and tombs with pagan inscriptions on one side and Christian inscriptions on the other. But below even that is another layer, an even deeper foundation of an early Roman settlement, where there are houses and even an underground spring!:
One of my favorite things about Rome is that you can be walking down a totally typical street and then, what-ho! There’s a segment of a two-thousand year old wall! Or colonnade! Or the oldest extant bit of concrete in the city:
These ancient and amazing things are woven into the fabric of the city in a completely nonchalant way. But it’s not just super old stuff that reveals the layers of time here. When you’re walking around you often see posters advertising movies, or political rallies, or cars, or telephones, or whatever. And they typically just stick these posters up on top of the old ones instead of removing them. Eventually the posters become a sculptural mass that looks like it’s sliding off the wall:
Because there are always layers in Rome. Layers and layers like an onion. Or a parfait.