Rome Sketchbook

AUGUST 29, 2011
A few weeks ago Cynthia and I had a Roman holiday.  Here are some pages from my sketchbook.

On the train from Leonardo daVinci Airport at about 7 AM  a lady shows it’s never too early in the day to moisturize. Her husband read the paper.

A Roman in a cafe. Can’t you see what I’m saying?

Near the Termini this man stands all day in traffic, bouncing a soccer ball on his head. When we got back to the hotel he was still doing it.  I’m not sure but this may be linked to the economic slowdown.

At St. Peters you see another poster of John Paul II.  The movement to quickly get him to sainthood is a testament to the feelings still held for him.

In fact you can buy him as a tsotchke.

At the Vatican Museum Laocoon and sons are strangled by sea serpents, which is tough enough without tourists.

Inside the Vatican Museum.

At the Sistine Chapel, the crowds are reverent but not hushed. Seeing these images in person is, naturally, very different than seeing even the finest reproductions. Finally here is the familiar but now with design and narrative tightly woven together.  A huge story on the ceiling.  Each an intense part of a mesmerizing whole.   Sends you out awe-struck and inspired to draw.  Of course in my case I draw the guards who run around shushing everyone.

At dinner there were a couple of young carabinieri dining next to us.

When they put on their hats and tunics to leave they suddenly looked the part.

The guys who stand around in gladiator uniforms in front of the Colosseum look authentic, until they don’t.

The arena itself is a marvel.  You feel the extremes of Roman power and cruelty.

Inside the Colloseum. This summer “the hat” was everywhere.

In a sidewalk cafe across fron the Colosseo  the proprietor sat with her paper while the lean and hungry waiters tried to drum up business on the street. “Buongiorno pizza!” (In English this refers to a kind of frozen pizza.)

The Forum invites you to emerse yourself in the dream of antiquity, the flight of imagination to the past and what it meant. The intense July heat, cascading waves of  fellow tourists and the things like this funk band playing ’70′s hits make it an extra challenge.

This journal page discusses how the heat not only stopped us in our tracks and got us into the nearest restaurant for lunch. It also drove the chef out onto the street, seeking relief on the broiling stones.

The streets, the restaurants, the piazzas taken all together. Almost every direction you look there is art, and the suggestion of stories.

Tourist on the Via Nazionale

If there is one thing worse than the heat for the guys selling fake handbags on the streets of Rome it would be the cops. As they arrived this fellow was just leaving.

Nearby we encountered the Pantheon in time to see the daily Sacrifice of the Tourists.

Inside the Pantheon.  It was cool inside.


A night we went to Caracalla, a vast site of former Roman baths, now repurposed as an amphitheater.

The view from the audience. Ballet that night: Swan Lake.

Members of the audience.

Leaving Rome, this was the image most fixed in my mind. Open windows at the Vatican Museum. The chapel, the pines, the sunset coming together, carrying you off, softly whispering that creative dynamism can go to places where it may, if all goes well, connect with the eternal.