Extracts from memoirs and diaries on the Eternal Cityby Ian Irvine / March 23, 2011 / Leave a comment
Hitler in springtime: the May 1938 cover of the magazine il Mattino Illustrato marks the dictator’s visit to Rome and welcome by Mussolini
Adolf Hitler observes at dinner, 21st July 1941. (From “Hitler’s Table Talk 1941-1944: His Private Conversations,” ed Hugh Trevor-Roper)
The magic of Florence and Rome, of Ravenna, Siena, Perugia! Tuscany and Umbria, how lovely they are! The smallest palazzo in Florence or Rome is worth more than all Windsor Castle. If the English destroy anything in Florence or Rome, it will be a crime. In Moscow, it wouldn’t do any harm; nor in Berlin, unfortunately.
I’ve seen Rome and Paris, and I must say that Paris, with the exception of the Arc de Triomphe, has nothing on the scale of the Coliseum, or the Castel Sant’Angelo or St Peter’s… There’s something queer about the Paris buildings, whether it’s those oeil de boeuf windows, so badly proportioned, or those gables that obliterate whole facades. If I compare the Pantheon in Rome with the Panthéon in Paris, what a poor building—and what poor sculptures!
My dearest wish would be able to wander about in Italy as an unknown painter.
Jean Cocteau, the French avant-garde artist, writes in his diary, 29th June 1959
The result of this brief stay in Rome is that I have changed my mind… In the Athens-Rome contest it is Rome which wins. Sumptuous Rome with its orange walls wins after this journey. First of all, water flows here and sprinkles everything with its abundance. In Athens, you suffer from drought and in the islands, from being surrounded with salt water and having no drinkable water—which dessicates a whole population to the very marrow of their souls. Wherever the eye falls in Rome, it touches life. Even the russet ruins are mingled with life; they live and serve. In Athens tongues hang around a few scattered bones. If I had to leave Paris and choose some other city, I should choose Rome.”
Michel de Montaigne writes in his journal, Easter 1581
It is a true papal court: the pomp of Rome, and its principal grandeur, lies in displays of devotion. It is fine to see the ardour for religion of so innumerable a people on these days. They have a hundred brotherhoods and more… These private societies perform many acts of religious fellowship, which are principally practiced in Lent, but on this day [Maundy Thursday] they…