When in Rome Alone – Day 2
I started my day around 7:00AM, much to early for the Italian population. Their day doesn’t truly started until around 10:00AM, in any other case that would be more than fine with me, but I was on a mission. I woke up in a determined yet relaxed mood, knowing I had the ability to go at my own naturally slow pace, but had a lot to do and see driving me to hasten my impelled steps. I walked and walked without a map, I used the brown signs erected to direct me, and my fellow tourists, around on a predetermined promenade.
My first stop on my list was the Parthenon. I wanted to get there before the flashing crowd so I could really connect with the massive inconceivable structure. On my way I stopped at the Trevi Fountain. I just recently watched the film La Dolce Vita directed by Frederico Fellini, the most famous scene in the movie was filmed here, “Marcello, come here, hurry up”, and it’s a popular spot to throw a coin backwards over your shoulder and make a wish, a nice aesthetic and tradition for visitors. I was only there for a little bit, I did the tourist routine, make the wish, and took some pictures then down to the Parthenon. When I stepped into the Piazza that houses the Parthenon, it was ideally dead; I was one of three people there. I walked hesitantly through the massive doors, my eyes fixated up at the substantial pristine dome from thousands of years ago. I felt like I was in an holy venerable space ship that could detach from Earth any second, so I stepped lightly, not only in fear of disturbing some ethereal alien force, but to not make a sound in one of echoiest buildings I’ve ever set foot in. I poked around, reading descriptions of the tomb lined walls, took a little longer stop in front of Raphael’s sepulcher. I was more taken by the vast structure itself, how heavy it felt from the outside and in, and underlying anxiety of what would happen if its age overcame the foundation and fell in. I sat in there for two hours trying to find a way to draw, but whatever I sketched couldn’t do it justice, it only made me further realize the Parthenon’s sheer mammoth and solid qualities. After walking back outside and around the building I went on to my next destination.
While tooling around I passed the capital building, not wanting to miss at least seeing everything, I walked up the stairs lined with Roman statues to check out the inner Piazza. On my way up there, trying to look up at the capital building, but whenever I raised my head my face would get smacked with rain. An elderly American couple was standing at the top of the stairs, right in the middle, looking around aimlessly. Others with heads down under umbrellas unable to see them, climbed the slippery marble steps up blindly, only until the last second the couples’ feet came into view at the edge of the vinyl umbrella. They quickly redirected themselves, some slipping on the wet stiars trying to dodge the couple. The man tell about my height (6’3″) and filled out, his wife, was short with dyed blonde hair at shoulder length wearing heavy red lipstick and blue eye shadow. The man was a veteran, he had slit eyes, very white hair, and of course, was chewing a toothpick to death. Capping his silver hair was a hat that said “World War II Veteran” covered in pins from front to back (that could not have been comfortable on his head). He turned to his wife and said in his thick Texan accent, “thank god we did bomb this place, its beautiful”, I snickered under my umbrella and looked out to see the view caused him to say such an American comment. It was a nice view I had to admit, thank god we didn’t bomb this place.
Next on my list were Piazza Navona and Campo Di Fiori, two places not far from where I was. Mapless, these places were hard to track down, ancient cities like Rome and even Florence aren’t structured on the grid style plan like Minneapolis and even New York and Chicago. It took me a little wandering to come across Piazza Navona. When I got there, the Piazza was moderately filled, tolerable. There was a klezmer-esque jazz band playing, promoting their recently recorded CD. Along the building facades, over priced cafés and sandwich shops filled the stalls, lined and packed with myself, and fellow tourists. Now being a seasoned café customer here in Italy, I forced my way up through the fishing hat, sunglass wearing, camera necked, tourists with my arm up, tenderly yelling, “un café per favore”, and smiled at the pretty barista. My warm aggressiveness got her acknowledgement and in a split second I had my dainty little cup of espresso. I brought it outside and sat at a cold cast-iron table, wishing this was an extra large Latte from Caribou Coffee so I would have an excuse to sit here and nurse a never ending sixteen ounce fanciful coffee drink, but instead I had one ounce of coffee rubbing alcohol, made solely to do its job, energize, not for pleasure. I drank my espresso as slowly as I could, but only five minutes had elapsed. Re-vitalized from my delicate but harsh boost, I took some pictures of my surroundings, stood and listened to the free music a little, and then I was off to Campo Di Fiori.
Campo Di Fiori was just around the bend. This place had some character, which was a nice contrast from the leather ridden, grey sweater littered markets of Florence. Beautiful fresh flowers and produce were the main attractions here, but in the center was a few men in their late twenties or early thirties selling pasta. These men were a riot, definitely having a blast between themselves, which was fun to watch. Tense and jumpy tourists, not willing to speak Italian because of fear of embarrassment were drawn to the fresh pasta, the fare of Italy. The men behind the goods would yell very loudly, “Bonjourno, como estai?” scaring the high-strung skittish tourists who were too scared to speak. Older couples jumped at the obnoxious greeting, young people looked at them as if they were crazy, but they were just having fun seeing people’s reactions. Before a new group or couple would approach the stand, the men would huddle up, argue over who was going to get these people, and plan out what they were going to say (which ended up being the same thing every time). Surprisingly it didn’t scare people away, it made me feel somewhat comfortable because of the fact that they were having a gas at the expense of tourist’s nerves putting on somewhat of a show. Someone has to push people’s envelopes right? Why can’t it be the pasta makers. I bought some toffee covered almonds and sat down at the foot of the statue at the center of the square and snacked, people watched and continued to observe the pasta stand’s show. I wandered around the market for a little longer snapping pictures and buying snacks. After I headed back to the hotel to relax for a little, get off my feet, and freshen up.
After my short rest I headed across to the other side of town to Villa Borghese and its surrounding gardens. This stop was highly recommended by my grandmother who said that this place really stuck with her when she visited Rome and I can truly see why. I entered the area near the Villa de Medici, the paths were lined with busts of men important to Italian history, Da Vinci, Dante, some silly looking generals with dippy over manicured facial hair, and others whose names I couldn’t recognize, but none the less impactful. The gardens were huge, they seemed never ending, no wonder there was a bike rental kiosk where I entered. I walked around for hours, beautiful aged trees all colors of fall were everywhere towering over me, the slight breeze made their branches fluidly rustle and swish in the wind, sounding as if I had a relaxing nature sound recording playing in my headphones. It was picturesque to the fullest extent. I finally came across the Villa Borghese, a clean cream colored building beautifully contrasting its lush well-retained emerald surroundings. Its gardens were colorful, visually pleasing, lemon trees, and fig bushes were potted all over, I wanted to pick some, but felt bad, it was to perfect. I took a few deep breathes from the garden’s clean air and took a seat on a bench. I should never have sat down. My legs began to register how sore and exhausted they truly were. It was now close to 7:00PM, I had been out walking since 7:00AM. When I got up, I felt crippled, sore, and tender. My ounce purposeful stride was reduced to a steady hunched stroll as I slowly marched back to my hotel where I, once again, passed out from extreme fatigue ending another long full day in Rome.