Rome Then and Now

August 30, 2012 19 Comments »

1956 Italians entering the Vatican

1956 Italians entering the Vatican – no metal detectors!

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.

An empty Trevi Fountain 1956

An empty Trevi Fountain in 1956

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.

Tourist take up every square inch of Trevi Fountain

Tourists now take up every square inch of Trevi Fountain 2012

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.

Coliseum in 1956

Coliseum in 1956

Coliseum 2012

Coliseum 2012

My dad at the Coliseum

My father posing in the nearly empty Coliseum 1956

Me at the Coliseum in 2012

Me at the Coliseum in 2012

Coliseum generations - my niece in 2012

Generations of Ott’s at the Coliseum – my niece in 2012

There were no lines at the Vatican and certainly no metal detectors – you could just walk in.

Vatican 1956

Vatican 1956 – people just walked in through the front door!

Vatican 2012

Vatican 2012

The traffic was light and parking was simple.  Crowds were nonexistent and the river was a bit more dirty.

Arch of Constantine 1956 - no gates

Arch of Constantine 1956 – no fencing and no people

Arch of Constantine 2012

Arch of Constantine 2012

Piazza della Republica 1956

Piazza della Republica 1956

Piazza della Republica

Piazza della Republica Now

Spanish Steps 1956

Spanish Steps 1956 – practically empty

Spanish Steps Rome

Spanish Steps – always filled with people now

Piazza Venezia 1956

Old cars parked outside of Piazza Venezia

Piazza Venezia Now

More green space and less cable cars wires – Piazza Venezia

Pyramid of Cestius 1956

Pyramid of Cestius 1956

Pyramid of Cestius

Pyramid of Cestius view from the cemetery 2012

Tiber River 1956

Tiber River 1956

Tiber River Rome

The Tiber River looks a little more inviting today

My father in 1956 at Trevi Fountain

My father in 1956 at Trevi Fountain

Me at Trevi Fountain

Me at Trevi Fountain – in my father’s footsteps…

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?

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