Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Two Days of Watching the Stars on the Trail in Rome

A few favorite places in Rome!
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.” 
Marcus AureliusMeditations
Its like a homecoming to be back in Rome at Theatre Pompeii, a city we have visited on countless occasions in the last three decades, four times since Caroline and have been together.
The rooms of the old hotel feel familiar.  The space was literally built on an ancient Roman theater.  I took the little one there when she was a baby.  They gave her wine at the restaurant next door, like they did for me when I was a kid here.
Arriving, we walked to visit Bruno, the statue at Compo de Fiori, we always toast when in town.
Two decades ago when we first started coming, it felt empty and earie here.  Today, the square is full of people from everywhere.
Dinner at Los Palommas next door was one of the best meals of the trip.
Lentils, I could not believe they brought us lentils and rounds of pasta.  The chef came out to greet everyone.
Strolling after dinner, Caroline and I continued visiting old friends, including il gatto, the cats at L Argo D’Argentina mingling with the Greek, Etruscan and Roman ruins, along with the Roman Republic temples and the Pompey Theater, before making our way to the Pantheon where I started the first draft of my first novel back in the summer of 1991.
After breakfast the next morning, Mom and I made our way to the Capitoline Museums at Piazza del Campidoglio, on top of the Capitoline Hill in Rome.
Fragments from a once colossal statue of Constatine, a foot, a finger, a head, lay about in the palazzo.
I just want to see the Dying Gaul, noted mom, referring to an Roman marble replica of a Hellenistic sculpture, making our way through floor after floor of statues of Bacchus, sexy St Sebastion portraits, Cardivaggios, Tinterettos, Venus in various states of undress.  Sublime is an understatement for some of this work.
Standing in front of the statue of Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor from 161-80, Mom recalled a moment.
“Sit down and look at that statue…Your grandfather used to have a copy of his book, Meditations on his toilet.”
Funny how memories go.
Grandads been dead for well over three decades and I’m still learning things about him.
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking,” Aurelius wrote.
I wonder if grandad thought that same way.
We kept on exploring the corridor after corridor of works.
But where is the Dying Gaul wondered mom, standing in front of a group of Tinterettos.
“He’s in the new building,” noted one of the staff, the one designed by Michaelangelo.
She took us to an elevator, down, outside, across the piazza, and past the replica of the Marcus Aurelius statue. Outside, we paused at the statue of the River and made our way up another elevator, past hall after hall of statues, delirious, wonderful Eros and Thanatos.
You sure its here?
There it is, noted Mom, pointing to the statue of an ancient Roman sculpture of a naked French man with life leaving his body, a choker around his neck and a handlebar moustache, both modern and classical, thought to be replica of a Hellenistic sculpture of a dying gladiator.
Mom and I just looked, taken aback.
Thanks for taking me to this, I said.
I would have gone without you.
Then I looked up at the window revealing majestic Rome smiling at us.
We talked and looked at the rest of the works making our way to the gift shop.
With art coursing through us, we ate Compo di Fiori, joined by the girls, who’d walked some ten k that morning.
One of the waiters told us a story about the square.
Everyone here bullshit story here, muttered Caroline.
And it doesn’t matter.
We’d spend the afternoon zigging and zagging up and down and around the Pantheon, looking for a street where we found a magic little shop, selling glass and tile works two years ago.
The rain started as we walked past the river, between ruins, past the old synagogue, the Grotto in the Ghetto, where we ate that day two years ago.
A sign showed a picture of Anthony Bourdaine, who ate there.
Why Tony? The horrible news of his suicide seemed like a long time ago, summer passing.  It was raining and the tourists seemed to have disappeared.
A woman was riding her scooter alone across the slick cobblestones, the city aflush in light.
There is a bookstore.
Lets look inside.
We ducked into Antica Libreria  Cascianelli, making our way through piles of treasures, postcards and old paintings, a formaldehyde elephant foot, etc.
Rome is changing, noted the woman who worked there.
So are all cities.
But we still love it.
There are still treasures here.
I took a few pictures.
Do you know an old store full of glass where we can buy tiles?  We explored it last time we were here.  But we can’t find it.
I know exactly the store you are talking about on Via Del Pelligrino, try that.
Making our way, we stopped in Lavori in Corso Vintage, picking up a trompe l’oeil.
And then made our way to Via Del Pelligrino.
And there it was Sciam to Youssef Hallack, on Via Del Pelligrino.
I greeted Youssef who has worked there since 1980, by way of Brooklyn New York and Syria.
And his son took us downstairs to take in the treasures.
We spend the next two hours, making our way through the tiles and glassworks from Syria.
Good sleuth work, noted Caroline walking home.
We have to come back and stay. The US has become too crazy.
“The highlights of my trip were seeing the Basilica of St Nicholas and Monte Cassino,” smiled Mom at dinner later that.
A couple were sitting by us talking, their voices sounded like singing.
It was time to go. But leaving Italia is hard.

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