Here in Rome, tsunamis and earthquakes seem as distant as the dated letters of the 18th century Grand Tourists- the young British noblemen who came to Rome to study Italian art and to carry marble busts and statues back home to England.
Here in Rome's historical district there are no skyscrapers, no billboards, and no high-speed expressways. Instead, we walk over streets and sidewalks of cobblestone polished smooth by centuries of moving carriage wheels and the shuffle of pedestrians’ feet. One, red geranium peaks over a windowsill high above the street. There is more marble here than tarmac, and more cafes and patisseries than fast food. Our hotel has ornate, brass handrails and well-worn, marble steps leading all the way up to the 6th floor. In this neighborhood, there is no evidence, thank Artemis, of America: no McDonald's, no Starbucks, no strip malls, no Hummers. Instead: family-run ristourantes, cafes, small specialty shops, and Vespas.
As I walk on the very stones on which Julius Caesar walked on his way to the Forum,