After 55-days under lockdown, Rome is cautiously entering “phase 2” and the city has never felt more like an outdoor museum – on display for only a few spectators to enjoy until travel restrictions are lifted. Famous sites like the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain are empty, with no tour groups or street vendors to be found, while bicycles have replaced cars on the quiet city streets.
Rome these days is truly a sight to behold: I’m both overjoyed to embrace my city after two months indoors, and uneasy to see its piazzas so empty. It feels like a movie set, a majestic city that exists in a parallel universe – the bright sunshine and warm days keep the scenes from feeling apocalyptic, but the shuttered businesses is a reminder of difficult days to come.
Because outdoor tables lined with checkered tablecloths, and sidewalk cafes where businessmen linger to soak in the fresh air, are as much a fixture of the city as the cobblestone streets and peeling patina walls. For now, these signs of life have been replaced by takeaway coffee in plastic cups and staggered lines of people outside of pharmacies and supermarkets.
But with spring in full swing, it’s hard not to feel hopeful about the future. We may have missed wisteria season but the bougainvillea and jasmine have taken over the city, while grass is pushing its way through the cobblestones in Piazza Navona: I can’t think of a more poetic metaphor to prove nature will always find a way forward.
Rome has endured many moments of joy and despair over the past 28 centuries and this situation, too, will one day become just another chapter in its long and illustrious history.