At the end of my freshman year of college, I had some money left over from my scholarship along with some savings from my part time job at Macy’s so I booked a trip to Italy on Alitalia airlines-New York to Rome at the tender age of nineteen. I had never been away from home before, much less on an airplane. It was an amazing adventure culminating with a wealthy Italian man taking me to Tivoli at night in his silver Alfa Romeo. When I returned home to New York, I wrote this:
Tivoli is a pure dream, lovely in the creation and awesome in the encounter. Its echoing fountains splash with graceful resonance like a finely sprayed shower of all enveloping sound. Abundant foliage, lush and exuberant, breathes with the subtle, fragrant breezes that delicately brush the vision. The towering splendor and majestic crush of water clouds the mind and haunts the memory.
At the base of this multi- leveled extravagance lies a pool of living liquid. Its still waters mirror the luxuriant excesses of the unreal and sprawling levels, the shimmering fountains, and the dense, winding vines. Captured upon its face is the reflection of the breathtaking sight, the toxic sight, of the splendid illusion.
Lilting and haunting, the vision drifts on mournfully as the tourist buses spew forth their human herds. Old ladies in straw hats and beaded handbags tug urgently on their bent husbands’ sleeves nasally exclaiming “Oh Harry, look at this!”
The hundred fountains play on, quietly weeping, poor passive victims of their own indefinable beauty. Mercifully, the tour is brief as any two day exploration of thousands of years of culture must be.
As the army of buses pulls away, the weeping becomes a fading drone drowned out by the chatter, the page flipping of maps and tour guide books. All is swallowed by the noise of the straining engines and the nasal woman. All is left to await the next busload, the cultural successors, the traveling dynasty that hops from one decayed civilization to the next with embarrassing swiftness….those wonderful ladies and gentlemen who return home with a bus tour view of thousands of years of creative genius, yet never quite grasping what it is that they have been gaping at.