Rome Travel Guide

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Saturday, December 11, 2010

Two Stairways in the Heart of Rome

Georgina Masson's The Companion Guide to Rome, first published in 1965, has always been our favorite "serious" guide to Rome the FIRST time, and today's post is all Georgina.  While Dianne is generally the guidebook user, even Bill--indeed, especially Bill--was fascinated with Masson's commentary on two side-by-side stairways, one to the church of S. Maria d'Aracoeli, the other to the Piazza del Campidoglio (the Capitol), both ascending from the curve of the via del Teatro di Marcello. 

Masson writes: 

To S. Maria d'Aracoeli

"....the first soaring upward like the side of a mountain, the second ascending gradually to an elysian world of golden-hued palaces silhouetted against the translucent aquamarine of the twilight sky." 

Michelangelo's staircase to the Campidoglio
 "The difference between the two epochs that produced them is implicit even in this first glimpse of these two staircases; the one hundred and twenty-two steps of the Aracoeli suggesting the medieval concept of life as a weary pilgrimage leading ultimately to heaven, while the cordonata, the gently inclined ramp before the Capitol, is very much of the splendour and glory of this world.  It is understandable that this should be so, as the Aracoeli stairs were built in 1348 as a thanks-offering for Rome's delivery from the black death, while the cordonata was originally designed by Michelangelo in 1536 for the reception of an emperor." 

Vintage Masson.  Complimenti, Georgina.

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