National Geographic : 1961 Nov
logna, where not even the Italian look can conceal the medieval flavor inherent in nar row, arcaded streets. We took rural roads across half the Italian peninsula until we came to the shores of the Tyrrhenian Sea and turned south along the coast road to Rome. On the way we checked the tower in Pisa (page 600). It is still leaning. The people would not have it otherwise, for who would come to see an ordinary straight tower? I remember in war days how a mischievous group of G. I.'s went to Pisa and pretended they were going to straighten the tower with complicated blocks and tackles attached to powerful trucks. They called off the joke quickly when the Pisans came in tears to see their chief tourist attraction ruined. South of Leghorn, seat of the Italian naval academy, and across the blue water beyond the beaches lie big Sardinia and tiny Elba, two of Italy's cherished islands. With Sicily and many near-by islets like Pantelleria and the Lipari group, they comprise all the Italian territory off the mainland. Before World War II, Italy's empire extend ed to North and East Africa. Many Italians, even ranking government officials, believe the loss of those colonies was a good thing for Italy economically. The offshore lands, how ever, pay their way. Of the 18,000,000 for eigners who come to Italy each year as tour ists, for example, more and more go to these islands. I heard a hotelkeeper on fabled Capri complain that several long-faithful paying guests had deserted him for Elba. Floodlights Brighten Roman Landmark Our road to Rome took us by the new Leo nardo da Vinci Airport at Fiumicino. Leo nardo's heroic statue and the beautiful new buildings stood all but deserted at the time; the planes did not come until the radar and communication systems were completed last January. We drove into the capital of 51,000,000 Italians, and once of the whole Western World, by way of the Via Claudia. Already in early evening the familiar Colosseum stood stark in the glare of the new floodlights, which needlessly horrify some purists. Flavian em perors floodlighted it, too, perforce with torches; the modern city is only doing the same thing better. The Roman does not enshrine his past, but lives with it. He blends an ancient wall into his new railroad station. He stages Aida with real camels-in the Baths of Caracalla. He thrills to the electronic sound-and-light 604 performances in the Roman Forum (page 602), and converts the home of a Medici on the Via Giulia into an apartment building.* And so the centuries that lie between old and new in Rome are not readily seen, and this is an ingredient of the Eternal City's fascination for the holidaymakers from all corners of the earth. Time, even when it is important, does not seem so; hours spent watching the horses in the Villa Borghese or the scene from the Spanish Steps sit lightly upon the conscience. But government offices blaze with lights at midnight. Someone is keeping the wheels of the second Risorgimento turning, and I do mean wheels: traffic, modern symbol of prog ress, is bedlam in Rome. Roman traffic somehow lacks malevolence. Bachelor Jim Blair said he thought this was because there are so many motor scooters with pretty girls riding sidesaddle on the tan dem seats, feet sticking out into traffic. "Italians are gallant," Jim said. "No driv er would dream of tipping these girls over." *Harnett T. Kane gives a vivid picture of present-day Rome in "Eternal City With a Modern Air," NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, April, 1957.