Rome: That Light

Sam and I had both heard from artists that the light in Italy was just "different." It had a different quality to it. We were skeptical but thought it could be true…something about the atmosphere at sea level or the humidity…? And when we got to Rome, we didn't notice anything immediately different—but at certain times of day, or on certain streets, we would suddenly turn to each other and say, "Look at that! There's that light again." Maybe it is from the color of the buildings, those warm surfaces for the light to bounce around on? Or maybe it is from the angle of the sun when it's low in the sky. But it was there, and it made everything feel just a bit foreign, so you couldn't ever forget: this is ROME!

By the way, this is my last set of pictures, the ones that didn't fit anywhere else, and I'm sure we can all breathe a sigh of relief now! I feel like a wild-eyed fanatic that has cornered you and forced you to sit through interminable slides of my travels. But you can leave anytime, you know!

Anyway. Some of my favorite moments in Rome, as in London, were those quiet times I had by myself, with nowhere specific to go and no one depending on me. I took naps at the hotel in the hot part of the day, and then walked for miles and miles, wandering into stores or stopping for awhile to sit on a bench and finally finish this book. (That was a strange thing: I would be transported back to Germany as I read, and then emerge to find myself…in Italy? Blinking in that Italian light. Very disorienting.)
You can kind of see the light here. That glow along the houses, coming down and warming up even the edges of the blue shadows. You could walk in downtown Salt Lake at the same time of day, and it  would just feel…different.

This was a market right down the street from our hotel. It was far from the tourist areas and I never heard anyone speaking English. I loved walking through there and listening to the little Italian ladies talking to each other and picking through the produce, and I liked pretending I was one of them, stopping by to pick up my daily…meat?
Or octopus perhaps? I tried to take pictures stealthily so as not to ruin my anonymity. :)
More produce. So pretty!
A flower shop. Fancier than the ones that were all over in stalls along the street. This was right next to a pet store where I saw four bunnies!! We communed.
Ivy. Love it on other people's houses; ripped it off in horror when it used to grow on my own. (It's too…creeping and clinging.) But pretty! And charming!
A dirty stairway. With graffiti. This wasn't atypical. I told you, the city was dirty! But it all felt new and interesting so I didn't mind too much.
That light!
Here, too, even in the shadows.
Practically every street corner had one of these icons of the Virgin Mary on it (not this exact one—they were all different). One of my tour guides said they were put there to discourage crime back in the Middle Ages (no one wants to get over into a dark corner about to murder someone, and then see Mother Mary looking down at them!). She said they were actually quite effective! Ha! Don't know if that's true, but they were nice. I quite liked knowing Mary was watching over us everywhere.
These are parts of the old city walls. No one seems to pay much attention to them, and in places other things have been built right up next to or on top of them. But there they are, looking just as stern and imposing and ancient as ever. Amazing.
Funny little cars everywhere, of course. And people parked like this. Ha!
Also lots of scooters, parked everywhere!
This place was so strange and forbidding and intriguing. Some huge old estate, all run-down and behind barbed wire. I walked all the way around it (it's huge! and just surrounded by ordinary-looking apartments and such) and peeked in the huge wrought-iron gates to the grounds and just wondered and wondered about it!
You can see some of the grounds behind the wall in this picture: all those trees!
And on the other side, some old stone buildings like this one. I would have so liked to climb inside and look around! But being a perpetually law-abiding sort, of course I didn't.
I sat in this courtyard with my book for a long time, listening to the cicadas and the people bustling by. Feeling the glow of that warm light.
There always seemed to be some interesting tower or other, peeking up above the other buildings—but often, when I'd walk around to see more of the building the tower was coming from, I couldn't find it! Everything was packed so close together, and the streets so strangely configured, and so many things hidden within inner courtyards, that I couldn't make sense of it all! I've been raised in the land of Brigham Young's wide, simple grids and that's the only thing I really understand, for goodness sake!
Trees peeking up and suggesting hidden gardens. Love that.
Practically every other store I went in was like Big/Lots or something. Totally incomprehensible and random. Bras? Stickers? Candles? Yes, we've got them all!
There was a certain quality to the light at night, too, I guess from the streetlights and the way they reflected off the cobblestones. And the lights strung across alleys by the outdoor restaurants, which were cheery and full of life even at 1 a.m.
Churches peeking out around every corner.
Sam and I went to a pasta-making class one evening, which was fun and different, but my favorite part about it was that it was just at someone's house, and we got to be out on their lovely rooftop terrace, which was just the sort of place I'd been longing to see the whole time. It was so snug, and secluded, and you could look out across all the other roofs and terraces and see them lit pink and gold by the setting sun.
The pasta was really good too, naturally. :)
I couldn't stop looking at the light on this church down nearby. It was so beautiful!
I'm not sure any of these pictures really capture that light perfectly, but I can feel, looking at them, the heaviness of the air and the heat on my skin. Such a strange, strange feeling to know that I was there—and now I'm here again—halfway across the world. 


  1. I remember in Israel thinking that! That the light was different from what I was used to! In fact, it was all but forgotten until now, but I think I may have even composed an . . . illy (is that a word?) composed poem about. I mostly only remember writing "light spreads differently here". Maybe it was all the white stone everywhere. Or maybe pollution. Haha. I don't know. But cool phenomenon! And yes! I don't generally travel much at all, and certainly I'd take whatever I could get, but I always WANT to stay places long enough to do little things beyond the main attractions and to get to know the streets, etc a bit! So glad you had a bit of that with Rome.

    1. Nothing would please me more than to read your "illy-composed" poem about Israel! :) And that's interesting. I would so love to go there! I wonder if it is the same sort of light as Rome? I guess it is in that same...Mediterranean...area??


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