My parents recently did a European trip which included Germany and Italy. They had a great time and enjoyed all of the cities and sites…except Rome. This was really surprising since I find Rome to be one of the coolest cities in Europe. How could anyone think that Rome – a city with so much history and character – is awful? Sure, traffic is bad, there’s too much shopping, and it’s crowded…but isn’t that every popular city in Europe? I asked my dad what he didn’t like about Rome and he said it was too crowded. Coming from the man who refused to wait in line at Disneyworld (which meant endless trips on the ‘boring’ rides), this didn’t surprise me.
However, while going through old slides with my father later that week, I realized that it was more than the crowds that soured him about Rome. Amidst all of the family photos of my brother, sister, and me were even older photos of my parent’s wedding and honeymoon. However I was stunned when I came across the photos of my father in the army. He served in the 11th Airborne from in the mid 1950’s luckily missing WWII and the Korean War. He was stationed in Augsburg Germany, but the pictures I found were of his ‘leave’ in Rome in 1956.
I looked at these old grainy images in amazement; this was not the Rome I knew. This was Rome before air travel became affordable. Before millions of people from all countries and all walks of life could get on a metal ‘bullet’ and fly to Rome for a few hundred dollars. Before a few hundred dollars was considered a ‘cheap ticket’. Before we were bombarded with images of Rome on our televisions sets, computers, and phones. This was my father’s Rome – undiscovered.
I stared in amazement at the completely empty Trevi Fountain. In contrast to my photos of the Trevi Fountain from my travels this summer with my niece, it’s a completely different experience.
The Coliseum was no exception either. It was completely empty and my dad roamed around it without waiting in line or even seeing other people. In contrast I don’t think I was ever able to take a photo without people in it at the Coliseum. My niece and I even tried to recreate the photo of my father there – three generations of Otts at the Coliseum.
There were no lines at the Vatican and certainly no metal detectors – you could just walk in.
The traffic was light and parking was simple. Crowds were nonexistent and the river was a bit more dirty.
No wonder why my father didn’t enjoy Rome. The Rome he saw was not the one he remembered. It had changed drastically.
Looking at these pictures of the then and now made me realize just how much air travel has changed the world.
The question is – has it changed for the better or worse?