The trip to Rome was marked by searing summer heat and frequent searches for merciful shade. Standing in the colosseum, lounging on the Spanish Steps and sitting by the Trevi Fountain with a gigantic gelato were just some of activities that filled this particular city break. However, for a traveller with an eye for all things literary I quickly found myself on a quest to follow in the footsteps of writers who had walked along the narrow streets of the beautiful city.
Having described words dancing down Dublin’s River Liffey in a previous post, I can only depict the lyrical literature inspired by Rome as like the Tiber – rolling, heady and dense. The city encompasses history, romance and decadence. These characteristics are found within the texts inspired by and produced here. After all, Roman literature provided the cornerstone for the development of language, drama and poetry.
However, it became apparent that Rome had other offerings in relation to its literary past. I found a place that contained works penned by a Romantic traveller who succumbed to the temptation of the warmer climate of Rome. His fate was to find his final resting place in a sun soaked cemetery within the ancient city.
The Keats-Shelley house quickly became a ‘must-see’ spot on the itinerary. The unassuming building by the Spanish Steps seemed like many others that we had seen in the city. However, this house was home to one of my favourite poets. Moreover, it was a sanctuary to him. A final stop on the journey of life for John Keats. It was here that I felt I truly understood his words.
“We read fine things but never feel them to the full until we have gone the same steps as the author.”
– John Keats
The property boasts a beautiful library housing works from the Romantics including Keats, Shelley and Byron amongst others. The room in which Keats lived, suffered and died is a place of quiet contemplation just a moment away from the bustle and dolce vita outside.
The city like the Keats-Shelley house is a cosmopolitan contradiction. On one hand it is bright and full of life but on the other, the spectre of death resides within the ruins, the catacombs and the museums. The very fibre of the city made me consider mortality in a deeper way than any other place I have visited. It is unsurprising that a location so beautiful yet built around, and sometimes literally upon, the bones of so many people should inspire such vivid yet melancholy words.
In conclusion, Rome is nothing short of inspirational for the travelling horror writer. The burning, vivid sunlight is juxtaposed with shadow-cast burial chambers and the towering gruesome arena of death that is the Colosseum. For those seeking the macabre there are places where the architecture is made from skeletons and there are the violent yet vibrant frescoes within the Vatican. They depict such brutal battles and visions of hell so vivid in their detail that to gaze upon them stirs the mind and raises the blood. I would highly recommend a trip to Rome as a journey for those who wish to see a city of two sides. It is a destination for those who want to seek the sun and also a place where you can stare into the deepest, darkest shadows.
NEXT TIME: OXFORD