Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Rome is like a drug. It's frightening and threatening at first, but it gets into your blood quickly and then you're hooked. (Note: lest you worry, I have never used nor been addicted to drugs. File this under "imaginative ramblings.") The addiction makes you do crazy things, like spring out of bed before dawn because, despite your still-asleep state and comfortable bed, you suddenly realize that you MUST get to Fontana di Trevi in time to watch the sun's first rays highlight the sculptures. It makes you skip a free breakfast because you need to feel cobblestones under your feet. It makes even the most minimal of preparation routines seem to take forever, because each moment getting ready deducts a moment from time spent out in the car exhaust-filled Roman air. It even causes questioning of basic necessities...do I really need to take a shower and brush my teeth?! (Never fear - I do, and I did.)
After my pilgrimage to "my" Trevi (where I threw in a 2 euro coin - since a small coin is supposed to ensure your return to Roam, I thought I'd up the odds just to make sure I really do get to come back), I wandered through the streets toward the Vatican, watching the city come alive. It was exactly like the opening act of My Fair Lady: store doors rolling open, fruit vendors pulling from their vans brilliantly red berries, fluffy green lettuce and their famous green-purple artichokes from their vans, newspaper deliveries being tossed from the open windows of cars so small I'm not sure how many newspapers they could hold. It took all my energy to keep from bursting into a loud and possibly on-key version of "Wouldn't It Be Loverlyy," but I managed to only hum it as I walked around.
I made it to Vatican City before 7, but not before the international crowds had begun to arrive. (Note to Katy: prepare youself. This story doesn't end well for good Catholics.) I had my first conversation with a group of truly wonderful nuns from all over the world - I was directed to the group by a nun who spoke no English. I complimented the nun who answered my questions on her impeccable English, only to realize that she was holding an American flag. I guess all roads really do lead to Rome! I felt very foolish...next time, I'll just stick to the question about habit-covered hairstyles! Anyway, after brainstorming with a whole group of nuns, a lovely gentleman from Spain and an even lovelier Swiss Guard (how DO they make those tutu-like uniforms look masculine?), I discovered that I was supposed to be standing in the line with the nuns and Spanish man and that my advance order of a ticket for the Papal audience didn't let me cut in line at all. So I joined the line (I'm stalling because I'm trying to break this to you gently, Katy.) After only 10 minutes of standing in front of a loud eastern European couple (who didn't speak English but were covered head-to-toe in New York City tourist apparel so I guess they're on quite a vacation!) and in back of an entire group of teenagers from somewhere (I don't know what language they were speaking but then again, I never understand a word teenagers say even in America), I gave up and wandered down Via Borgo Pio toward the river. It was a decidedly sacreligious decision, but I didn't want to spend the whole morning in line with 10,000 others. (I'm really sorry, Katy! I have carried postcards around for you and Bill, though, so they will at least have the aura of the Vatican. It's certainly not the same as a blessing, but since I threw 2 euro into Trevi, I'm pretty confident that I'll be back to hear the Pope another time.)
My destination after leaving the Vatican was Castel Sant'Angelo, which I expected to be worth a glance before heading across the lovely Ponte Sant'Angelo. I fell in love, though - even more so than when I met "my" Trevi. Castel Sant'Angelo is the remains of years of really rich, powerful people trying to one-up the former rich, powerful people. (For a more accurate and thorough description of this building's amazing history, visit wikipedia.) Whether due to the early hour or the draw of more famous sites, there were no other tourists anywhere to be seen. Instead, I was accompanied only by Italians out for morning runs and dogs out for...well, you know what dogs do on morning walks. (Feel like relieving yourself, Fido? Let's go to the place that was built in 135 AD...ahhh now that's a good boy, now I have to go to work. Ciao!) I walked around the entire building, every step more enthralled with this place that seemed to be forgotten. So imagine my joy when I sighed, put away my camera and prepared to step across to the bridge...then found the door to a museum that's inside the castle!!! I didn't get far, since I was shooed out until the museum opens at 9:00. But my quick glimpse of inner stone stairways and aging statues tells me it will be worth the wait.
In the meantime, I've wandered. I crossed the Ponte Sant'Angelo, guarded by angels who each have their own personality. (I'll let you guess which I labeled "Holy Angel," "Angry Angel," "Perch Angel," and "Gay Angel." The real guards of the bridge, though, are St. Peter and St. Paul. I took a photo of one of them but felt as if he wasn't pleased by it. They're both quite stern.
Many streets and several bridges later, I finally reached Ponte Sisto, the entrance to the Trastavere neighborhood. I've been sitting on a lovely cafe patio for awhile now, surrounded by the sexy magic of Italian conversation as I watch people live their lives right in front of me. The woman walking the black and white dog with only three legs...the polizia popping in for a quick espresso before returning to their task of sitting in their cars on street corners smoking and watching tourists try to navigate walking through traffic...the three women laughing at their small children who swing their feet from stroller seats, then those same women laughing at each other as they return with empty strollers after dropping their kids off at daycare...the big group of art students who are standing in themiddle of the road sketching a building...the man walking back and forth with countless boxes of San Pelligrino bottles for delivery to a ristorante behind me...all of it has a calm, yet bustling rhythm of its own.
And it turns out to be okay that I left my watch at home, since I didn't need it anyway. Not only do the glorious church bells toll each hour all over town - they also ring to mark each 15-minute increment! It's amazing and very useful. They were looking out for me, those ancient Romans who built all these wonderful churches.
Now my iced tea is gone and the art class has finished their sketching and moved out of the street, so it's time for me to begin my wanderings again. On to the Castel Sant'Angelo museum!
P.S. After I typed all this, I realized that there are two different people named Kathy who I know are reading at least some of these blog entries. Aunt Katy, I'm sorry if you thought I kept dropping your name in vain! Though you are much more patient than I am and would have probably stuck around to hear from the Pope, my apologies in the initial entry were targeted at Katy the Senate Ruler.
P.P.S. Craig, remember how you got that graffiti-removal program through the legislature a few years ago for Pima County? I think there's a career for you if you ever want to move to Trastavere!
Posted by Beth at 6:07 AM