Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Walking the Streets of Rome - into the labyrinth

Scenes from Castel Sant'angelo, the Etruscan Museum, and the Galería_Borghese, the Tiziano_-_Amor_Sacro_y_Amor_Profano_(Roma,_1514). Top and bottom photos by Caroline Shepard

Tuesday, I wandered out of my room to pick up the laundry, greeting Bruno in Campo de’ Fiori, as I always do here. A couple of the waiters were in line for their shirts. One brought the lady running the place a cold bottle of aqua frizzante. I felt like I was a real roman, picking up my laundry. And then I tried to make my way back to the hotel, by the Theater of Pompeii. There are four entrances to the square zigging out in two or three additional directions from each corner, leading in circular directions. I tried each, wandering into the grotto theater of Pompeii to ask for directions for the hotel. After the barber shop. I was told. Nothing there. The waiters were setting up for their shifts. Everyone was busy. The market where I bought my coke was no help. So I circled all four corners to the campo again. Nothing. Finally, a sympathetic woman in a hotel offered a hand. It was around the other corner, she explained. Ahh.... I found it. I know Its ok to be lost. We’re supposed to be ok being lost. But in Rome, there is a feeling that you are reencountering something of the feeling of a city always crumbling and trying to put itself together again, with new rules, new gods, new political structures. I walk by the merchandize shop for the communist party, now the democratic party of the left. I think about the Treaty of Rome of 1955 creating the European Economic Community, the good and the bad evolutions of time. There is always a feeling that you are about to leave something you don’t quite want behind as the road ahead shifts beyond recognition, takes a left, pulling you off track.
I finally return with the laundry and we head out to the Pantheon. A group of college students is sitting there as their professor lectures.
“Youth is wasted on the young,” muses Caroline, looking at the kids not paying attention.
A quarter century ago, I was one of those kids studying art history here, taking as many notes as I could to make sense of it all.
Those days, I sat by the Pantheon and drafted the first notes from my first novel about political intrigue. The Uffizi Gallery had been bombed and David’s toe was knocked off earlier in the year. My novel was about living in history and planning bombing St Peters, thinking about acting in history, as well as growing up.
At the Pantheon, I wondered how this relic to the gods became a monument to a monotheistic god. The story of this almost perfect geometric space of continues to offer questions.
So we were off, all day, trips for pizza, to the Piazza Navona, the Bellini Fountain of Four Rivers, to Hadrian’s tomb, Castel Sant'Angelo. through thrift shops, a nap on the Isola Tiber, reflecting on the mosaics in Santa Maria Trastevere. The church was created in 221 BC. Its mosaics are medieval masterwork.
“When it comes to antiquities, Italy does it big,” reflected Caroline, whose reflected on the rising and ruins of civilization every day.
In between we made our way through the pop culture genius of the junk shops of Rome, looking at glass works, tiles, t shirts, used shoes, jeans and the like.
Off for a nap on the Tiber River, I was thinking of my friends in New York occupying city hall.
On the way to dinner in the Jewish Ghetto, we stumbled into Ostia Antiqua. There was a weird synagogue with a picture of Christ on the front in between the relics.
We ate thinking of Al in New York and rumbled back to the Fiori, where I took in the energy of the space, looking out at things.
Danny and Sophia walked by, greeting us.
“WE leave tomorrow, come have a drink with us.”
So we got a drink, chatted for one more night, reflected on the hike up and down the hills of Italy from Assisi to Rome, and said goodbye to our Scottish friends.
And went to sleep after walking another dozens of kilometers exploring the labyrinth. The next day, we’d walk another eight on a journey through the Borghese Gallery, the Etruscan Museums, a few more churches, and a final majestic dinner in Campo de Fiore with Bruno overlooking the scene. At dinner we talked about the Berninis that we fell in love with in the Borghese Gallery, the city we fell in love with again, we fall in love with again and again. The sun was now setting. A waiter was talking with a few guests. A man was playing an accordion, dancing in the distance. And the night was opening up in this Eternal City.
More mysteries were ahead.

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