Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Moments with Keats, Gypsies, and Superman
Many more miles of wandering this afternoon, and the sore feet and aching back to prove it. My camera died after I wrote the last entry, but not before I got these great shots of the bastione around the top of Castel Sant'Angelo. It's awesome for history's sake, of course, but also because of the many Monty Python quotes that come to mind ("fetchez la vache!").
My next stop was Piazza del Popolo - partly because it's something you're supposed to see in Rome but mostly because it was the closest metro stop. And thanks to the metro, I finally got to meet gypsies.
I've been warned about the gypsies in Rome, who are reputed to be pickpockets, beggars and all-around nightmares for the naive tourist. My first encounter with one of these golden-skinned women, however, was very appreciated. I should confess that I love gypsies. Love the legends about them, love the warnings about them, even love the fear of them. I've always wanted to be a gypsy like those glorified by Aladdin or Shakira: wild, exciting, unpredictable and brave when it matters. So I was somewhat determined to like these women no matter what. My first gypsy friend rescued me when I was gazing with bewilderment at the maachine that was supposed to easily sell me my train ticket to Cortona. She appeared behind me and patiently walked me through the process; only after my ticket had printed did she ask for money and only then did I realize she was not just another helpful Italian. I assume that no one who knows my crazy belief that I can help those who may or may not deserve it will be surprised that I gave her a couple of euros; I did, however, manage to say "no" to all the other gypsies who continued to appear at metro stops.
Armed with a fully-charged camera and a fresh pair of shoes, I journeyed to the Spanish Steps...kind of. I actually got deliciously lost and walked by many of the over-fancy hotels and even, I think, an embassy or two. After such grandeur perhaps it's no surprise that the Spanish Steps were an enormous disappointment. They're steps and, even when backed by a fancy building, are not unlike the amazing architecture all over the city - I really don't understand the fascination they hold for many. As I was dodging groups of tourists on the Steps, however, I did meet Pietro - a very nice older Italian guy (not that kind of older, Suzanne! Just old-enough-to-not-be-threatening kind of older) who lived outside of Rome but had just ridden his Vespa into town to pay bills. (Which does beg the question: what bills are paid near the Spanish Steps?) He quickly gave up on my horrifically basic Italian (every time an Italian breaks into flawless English, I feel a little bit smaller as a person), but before he ran to pay his bills he did make sure that I was able to say what he believed to be the most important Italian phrase: Mi scusi, un caffe, per piacere!
My five-minute chat with Mr. Vespa ended at Piazza Spagna 26, the house that contains the Keats-Shelley museum and an address that had me baffled until Pierto pointed it out. Keats died there which is, of course, slightly depressing - especially in the room that contains his old bed and a death mask. But the libraries in the museum were amazing and it was worth a few euro to spend some time with the guy who wrote something as wonderful as "A thing of beauty is a joy forever."
Another hour of being completely lost, this time in the upper-end shopping district. My enjoyment of the window shopping was dimmed slightly by the crowds and constant threat of being run over by a Mercedes. (If I'm going to be hit by a car, I'd really prefer if it were something more unique than a Mercedes. A Ferrari, perhaps?) I did greatly enjoy seeing Superman walking down the street, though - after all, surely he could prevent random Mercedes-linked killings on the street? A small film crew followed him but didn't provide any clues as to what they were doing.
After resorting to tourist-style map glancing and street sign gazing, I was still lost. Every street I thought would take me home instead led further away. Being lost is very enjoyable, though, and every street made it worth the effort. A side street somewhere along Via del Corso became crowded with dozens of people standing in the street, all eating multi-colored gelato. I figured anything worthy of that much attention must be worth trying, so I joined the extremely long line down the street. After all, it had been at least two hours since I'd had gelato. (Nope, I'm not exaggerating the degree of my gelato addiction!) This gelato was indeed worth the wait (when I got to the hotel, I discovered that the place was Giolitti, a place that has served gelatto in that spot since 1900!) Over 60 flavors from which the baffled mind must choose - I commiserated with a honeymooning American couple who were with me in line, but in the end, of course, we were each on our own for this difficult life decision. I finally ended up with lampone and melone - raspberry and canteloupe - and yes, I managed to order the whole thing in Italian! There are no words for how good good gelatto is so I won't even try to express it.
Now I'm "home," relaxing in my hotel while listening to the conversations in the street below my window. I was supposed to join a three-hour walking tour of the city tonight - I'd made reservations before I left Arizona - but just couldn't bear to go. I've been walking around Rome for over 12 hours almost without stop, but mostly I just don't want to share this city with a group of strangers. It was undoubtedly worth the money I'd already paid for the tour to be able to avoid anything that begins with the spine-chilling phrase "Your guide will be carrying a blue folder." Quelle horreur! (Wrong language but I don't know an equally-useful Italian phrase.)
Posted by Beth at 11:28 AM