Monday, January 25, 2016

Roman Holiday

Rome has captured my heart and, meanwhile, I’m trying to capture Rome with my feeble camera. I can’t even begin to convey all the enchantment and fresh mozzarella this city has to offer. 

At the Colosseum today, I saw many people sitting on the ancient steps with sketchpads, drawing the stone walls and arcades. I thought drawing would be a suitable way to honor my surroundings, but I don’t have time to see everything I want to see in Rome and sketch it too. I tossed a coin in the Trevi fountain today, which guarantees I will return to Rome. Hopefully, next time I will stay long enough to draw the sights in addition to snapping some touristy photos.

I did a little bit of research before coming here, mainly watching Mary Beard’s documentary, Meet the Romans, and tuning in to what Rick Steves had to say. However, a different, less scholarly, book set in Rome kept drifting through my mind today. That book is none other than Dodsworth in Rome. I kept thinking about it, worrying that I was like a character known simply as “the duck,” a character which causes all kinds of trouble on the journeys he makes with his mousy friend, Dodsworth. This self-deprecating comparison resulted from not being able to withdraw money Sunday and having to rely on my friends’ generosity for my gelato fix. I also have a poor sense of direction, which makes me feel very duck-like.

Fortunately, I was able to withdraw money today. I guess the ATM machines are refilled every Monday and sometimes will run out of cash before then. The apartment my friends and I are renting is right next to the Capitoline Museum, a neighborhood rich in ruins, but missing some very modern conveniences, like ATM machines, or at least as far as I can see.

Another modern fixture missing from every part of Rome I have seen so far is Starbucks. Not a one. Nowhere. I am very happy that this lovely espresso-rich city has not succumbed to Starbucks. Every latte I have sipped so far on this trip has been an event in and of itself. My taste buds are pleased, triggering dopamine and endorphins in my brain. The sunlight on my walk around the forum and the Colosseum gave my skin some much needed exposure to vitamin d, so all around, I’m very, very happy, especially since I have some euros in my wallet and don’t feel like the duck in the Wordsworth books.
The Capitoline Museum was unexpectedly closed when my friends and I showed up, a message delivered gently to us by a handsome blue-eyed monk in brown robes. Fortunately, the little bit of research I had done helped me think of a plan B. We took a cab to the Spanish Steps, which were gallingly closed for construction, but then went right next door to the Keats-Shelley Memorial House. The staff is knowledgeable and the collection of letters and artifacts is exquisite. We stood in the bedroom with a view of the Spanish Steps where Keats died at the age of 25 of tuberculosis. I read Oscar Wilde’s reflection in his journal of visiting Keats’ grave and another letter from Theodore Roosevelt, who was instrumental in getting the museum up and running. It’s amazing to think that a man whose tombstone reads, “Here lies one whose name was writ in water,” could be so wrong.

We ended our evening with fancy cocktails at the Caffé Greco, the oldest cafe in Europe and the famous hangout of Keats, Byron, Hans Christian Andersen, Henrik Ibsen, Wagner, Liszt, Goethe, and Mendelssohn, just to name a few. The other guests looked cool, calm, and stylish, as if getting a cocktail after work and sitting in the same place as all the aforementioned people were a regular occurrence. They weren’t asking their friends to take photos of them holding up their cocktails. I was the only one doing that. Maybe when I return to Rome, going to the Caffé Greco will be slightly less exciting and I can try to blend in with the other regulars.

The Trevi Fountain 
Me at the Keats-Shelley Memorial House
Keats' death mask

The Piazza Navona

1 comment:

  1. Astoundingly beautiful! Ok, I'm glad you missed a Skype chat with me for all that :)