Four Great Cities (part 2 of 2)

Sallie Satterthwaite's picture

A faded cotton sweatshirt inspired last week’s conversation - or lack of - about four great cities and their symbols. Certainly I don’t want to suggest that London and Paris are the world’s greatest municipalities or that I have the credentials to judge them. After all, my shirt is only a size 12.

But there they are, accepting recognition - London, Paris, and this week Rome and another - Rome:

Rome was never on my short list, actually, but now that I’ve seen that great city and glimpsed her historical artifacts, I have to admit Rome is an amazing experience.

Until a recent three-day visit, I thought of Rome only as the center of Roman Catholicism and interesting architecture wrapped in dingy neighborhoods.

But there are also the Vatican and St. Peter’s Square (which is not square at all); elaborate fountains and the vile River Tiber; stern glances from the young Swiss guards and the truly divine Pieta in St. Peter’s basilica.

And there is the Coliseum in a setting that surprised me. Since I was old enough to understand such matters I remember worrying about that incredible building being damaged by roaring hordes of automobiles. The filth spewing from their mufflers ate away at the once-satiny surfaces of blocks, roughing them to the point of fragility. Something should be done.

Good news: Something has been done, and more will follow. Immediately around the base of this gigantic playground of the ancients, traffic is now restricted to maintenance and emergency vehicles, and now grass and shrubs soften the paving stones underfoot. In short, the Coliseum appears to have been waiting for you. An engineering marvel, shored up in areas with many more projects awaiting restoration, it will always be a work in progress.

The goal, as I understand it, is to stabilize the walls, using techniques that at least appear to match the existing structure.

Rome is hot in late July, cooler at night. Thank God for what air conditioning there is. By Opening Day, about 80 AD, Roman thrill-seekers were shaded from the sun by wing-like shades pulled across the magnificent structure by soldiers. Drawings of this engineering marvel put me in mind of the great shells shading the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

There’s another silent, functioning, ongoing public works project underway in Roman preservation - the care and replenishment of trees. We rode the outdoor upper decks of streetcars in the city, and I remember seeing what looked like dark caverns into which we plunged for several cool blocks at a time. I’ve never experienced such a quick dive in temperature in which very old trees survived urban development.

Some of these streets of shade contained trees overtopping five-story buildings on each side. Incredibly tall, dark, dramatic, and just a little eerie. I think they are sycamores, maybe elms, with motley peel-off bark and clear green leaves meeting each row with those on the other side of the boulevard.

The trees seen so often in decorative roles are apparently indeed the Pines of Rome of poetry and song. They’re the ones that almost look like green umbrellas that have had their lower branches and trunks cut intentionally so as to take little space on the street but overlapping dark tops blocking the sun.

Top off your stop with Gelato, that renowned Italian ice cream, and life is good for another 2,000+ years.

So. There you have it. Great cities of the world on a printed shirt: London, Paris, Rome and - oh, the fourth one? Silly me.

Peachtree City, Ga, what else?

All the above components are there: A river runs through it, actually several do, Flat Creek, Line Creek and the Flint River.

Athletics and the arts, education and libraries (well that’s a stretch, but we do have an amphitheater here and another nearby.)

Not as many churches as in Rome, but where would you put 300 churches if you had them? Fountains (got one of them), green spaces (got ’em). Not so sure I could find an Eiffel-like tower in Peachtree City, but we have a few cell towers.

And London? They are proficient in English there.

One plus for Peachtree City:

It’s home.

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