I have a mistress, we’ve been together for years. Her beauty can only be comprehended if you’ve walked in her presence. She shows herself to you slowly, with each layer falling from her deliberately,  only revealing enough to bring you back unsatiated and needing to see more.

The greatest artists have loved her, and some have hated her longing to go back to Florence. I think only Florence can rival her in grace and beauty.  She is Rome, and of all the women of her nature, I have never seen one as beautiful.

When I am in Rome, I am serene and quiet, I walk with Bernini in the streets, at every corner he appears. Each Piazza more beautiful than the next.  I have sat for hours with Berninin’s Triton watching him drink with a thirst that cannot be quenched.  Such is my thirst for Rome. From Triton, I turn up the up the street to the Barbeirni Palace. The Barbeirni family legacy as both popes and their contribution to the arts can only be rivalled by the Borgheses.

The Barbeirni Palace is a mind-blowing experience. Not for the Botticells or the Raphaels,  or even the El Grecos that line her walls but for one specific fresco, and it is the less known fresco, it is the Allegory of Divine Wisdom by Sacchi.  You won’t find much written about it.  The fresco is a tribute to Galileo and Copernicus, both well, um more or less considered heretics by the church. I’ve often wonder if this is the reason this fresco is not documented more. The fresco is of all the aspects of wisdom represented by women, Divine Sophia if you will.  All I can say is that I have taken friends to see this fresco.

And then there is the Vatican. What a strange place for a Jew to find spiritual peace. But you must literally walk the floor of the Raphael Rooms to understand. The floors are lined with Stars of David.  You must understand that Raphael and Michelangelo study Kabbalah. You must understand that Michelangelo painted one of the great tributes to the Jewish People on the roof of the Sistine Chapel. I’m not referring to the front wall which has the Final Judgement, but the ceiling and the side walls. Every scene on the ceiling is a story from the Tanach (Old Testament) and the members of the House of David are listed on the walls.  Every panel tells a different story and not just the story you see, but the one you don’t.  Hebrew letters were painted in the corners represented by biblical heros. For example, David’s body forms the letter Gimmel. Michelangelo inserted the Gimmel to represent the word Givorah גבורה  or heroism.  Over the Pope’s entry, Michelangelo painted a cherub literally flipping the pope off (ok the Italian equivalent). Michelangelo was not a fan or the church or its popes.  I could go on about my love of the Vatican art galleries for another 1000 words, but I’ll spare you.

I cannot describe in words what I feel in Rome.  Even the private homes have fresco painted over their doors.  The public parks are kept like they are a part of the enternal fountain of beauty.

One of my greatest memories will be walking in a torrential March rainfall.  I was with a friend and she tought I was crazy because I wouldn’t get under the umbrella. But I was walking in Rome with the rain pouring down, and the wind in my face at it was amazing. I was Lady Chatterly, but with my clothes. I have had few moments as blissful as that.

If we are lucky in life, we all have our Romes. The one place that we can retreat to, and nothing bad touches us while we’re there. The one place beauty surrounds us and lifts us up. We understand our own being better because we see the beauty of humanity through the eyes of the artist.

When my current crisis has passed, and when things are better I will go back to Rome. I will walk through her streets, and sit in her cafes for hours doing nothing but taking pictures and writing. I will visit Senor Rosenfeld’s crystal shop, and stop in the used bookshop not far from the Spanish stairs.

I will be at peace in the one city that touches my soul and enlightens my mind like no other.

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