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we are all


Charissa Lind Roma, 2011

A Journey... It is amazing to me to walk the streets of Rome—especially ancient Rome—and think of the thousands of people who have trod the same ground before me. In a city over 2700 years old, our lives are just a breath, and yet we all have stories to tell. As I wander here, I wonder about the stories of those who were here before me: What were their lives like? What did they think about? What did they dream about? What challenged them? Who or what did they love? We all walked and worked and connected and lived on these streets, on this land. From Caesars to visiting artists, all those who passed through Rome are woven into the fabric of the city I see before me. This book is not just about my journey, but also the journeys that came before my own.


1819 What shall I say of the modern city? Rome is yet the capital of the world. It is a city of palaces and temples, more glorious than those which any other city contains, and of ruins more glorious than they. Seen from any of the eminences that surround it, it exhibits domes beyond domes, and palaces, and col足onnades interminably, even to the horizon; interspersed with patches of desert, and mighty ruins which stand girt by their own desolation, in the midst of the fanes of living religions and the habitations of living men, in sublime loneliness. Percy Bysshe Shelley: a letter

View from Castel Sant’Angelo

The Pantheon

1308 What was the wonder which welled up in me!

In truth, what with my stupor and my joy,

I happily heard nothing and stood silent.

Dante Alighieri: Divine Comedy

The Colosseum


. . . they who will, may have the whole great pile before them, as it used to be, with thousands of eager faces staring down into the arena, and such a whirl of strife, and blood, and dust going on there, as no language can describe. Its solitude, its awful beauty, and its utter desolation, strike upon the stranger the next moment, like a softened sorrow; and never in this life, perhaps, will he be so moved and overcome by any sight, not immediately connected with his own affections and afflictions.

Charles Dickens: Pictures from Italy


1337 As I recall, you used to dissuade me from coming for a particular reason, which was that if the ruins of the city did not correspond to its fame and to the impressions I had received from books, my love for it would diminish. I, too, although burning with desire, willingly used to postpone my visit, fearing that what I had imagined in my mind, my eyes would belittle at the moment of reality which is always injurious to a reputation. Such reality I am happy to say diminished nothing and instead increased everything.

Petrarch: a letter

Centrale Montemartini


Marmoream relinquo, quam latericiam accepi

I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble.

足Augustus Caesar

Quatro dei Fiumi in the Piazza Navona

St. Peter’s Basilica

Arch of Constantine

Churches The churches of Rome are beautiful: a testament to the skill and creativity of the artists who imagined them. But like Charles Dickens, I couldn’t help but think that they do a poor job of reflecting the faith they were built upon. How did they reconcile the opulence of the churches with the poverty of the communities in which they stood? What would the humble saints have thought of the way they have been (nearly) deified? But, like so much of Rome and of the world, the church has many faces. There are many stories here of bravery and generosity and of standing by what is right, against all odds. In my mind, they, and not the buildings, represent the true church.

The Vatican Gate

1948 The world holds us with a thousand ties of habit, work, inertia, affections. It’s difficult and painful to separate from them. But as soon as a foot rests on a train, airplane, or automobile that will carry us away, everything disappears, the past becomes remote and is buried, a new time crowded to the brim with unknown promises envelopes us and, entirely free and anonymous, we look around searching for new companions. Carlo Levi: The Watch

St. Peter’s Basilica


There are no shadows to speak of, no marked effects of shade; only effects of light innumerable—points at which this element seems to mass itself in air density and scatter itself in enchanting gradations and cadences.

Henry James: Italian Hours

San Bartolomeo All’isola

Eheu fugaces labuntur anni.

Alas, the fleeting years slip by.

Horace: a poem.

1st century b.c.e

San Carlo

1846 “The Triumphs of the Faith are not above ground in our splendid churches,” said the friar . . . “They are here! Among the Martyrs’ Graves!” . . . but then I thought how Christian men have dealt with one another; how, perverting our most merciful religion, they have hunted down and tortured . . . each other; I pictured to myself an agony surpassing any that this Dust had suffered with the breath of life yet lingering in it, and how these great and constant hearts would have been shaken . . . if a foreknowledge of the deeds that professing Christians would commit in the Great Name for which they died, could have rent them with its own unutterable anguish, on the cruel wheel, and bitter cross, and in the fearful fire. ­Charles Dickens: Pictures from Italy

St. Ignatius of Antioch

St. Anthony of Padua

St. John of God

Moments When I think back over the course of my journey in Rome, the first things that come to mind aren’t museums or sculptures or churches. I think of the feeling of Rome, and of specific moments in time: walking down the street as the city wakes up, or the way the heat enveloped me like a second skin. I think of potlucks and watching the sunset and making unexpected friends. Italy is a place where moments seem to take center stage: life here moves more slowly, and with it comes a greater appreciation for details and for the everyday. This love, I think, is one of the most precious gifts Rome has to offer.


1957 Sometimes I would leave the pensione at six o’clock in the morning, which is the best time of all in the Roman summer. The air has been freshened during the night and seems to hold a faint scent of flowers. At such times—wonderful moment—the sound of Rome is the whisper and fall of her fountains.

H.V. Morton: A Traveler in Rome

Tiber River

Ti amo da qui, alla fine del mondo di nuovo qui, all’infinito.

I love you from here to the end of the world and back. Forever.


Campo de’ Fiori

. . . it’s the people every time who are the basis on which it all rests. It’s the whole that does it, not the parts . . . the buyer and the seller, the beggar and the seaman, the lawyer and his adversary—all living and active and involved and talking and asserting and shouting and making offers and singing and scolding and cursing and making a din. Goethe: Diary of the Journey


Ponte Sisto

Boy on the Janiculum Hill

Signore Sergio

SANta Maria Maggiore


And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.

Paul the Apostle: Letter to the Romans

View from the Janiculum Hill

Leaving Rome

8 When steals upon me the gloomy memory of that night which marked my latest hours in the city, when I recall that night on which I left so many things dear to me, even now from my eyes the teardrops fall . . . the voices of men and dogs were hushed: the Moon on high steered her midnight horses . . . I touched the threshold three times, and was called back three times, even my feet slow to match my intent.

Ovid, before his exile from Rome

Conclusion As I sit looking out over the Campo, watching people under the glow of the street lamps, I know I’ll miss Rome. I know I’ll miss the rhythm of the streets, and the sound of thousands of lives intersecting for one moment in time. I’ll miss the beautiful buildings, the narrow streets, and the way people walk too slow . . . My journey here has been at times fascinating, inspiring, frustrating, stressful, confusing, and wonderful. I don’t know if or when I will return, but like all travelers, I will take some part of this city with me when I leave: some part of the chaos and the beauty of Rome has worked its way into my blood, and I leave changed.

Camera: Canon 60D Cover: Cartabianca Abaca Paper Paper: Rismaacqua Colori Tenui Typeface: Sorts Mill Goudy. Binding: Hand-bound Japanese-style Program dates: August 22–September 22, 2011

We Are All Travelers  

Reflections on my time in Rome