Friday morning, XXX June MMVI. Rome, Day II. Coliseum
Many people had suggestions when I mentioned Italy. I don’t begrudge those tips – far from it, but please excuse me if I purposely forget them. I prefer to go into a trip without having reams of comments and judgements clouding my eyes. Some travel is for exploratory, not certainty. This trip was all about finding the next corner, noticing the subtle points and not racing to a destination. It is early morning, still before tourist time at the Coliseum. Multiple storylines are weaving the day into shape. Archaeological workers are heading to the Palatine Hills for a day of time travel. Horse carriages are gathering within easy sight of the Coliseum entrance. A street vendor is setting up a postcard stand. Life’s subtle points and threads, those moments, thoughts, and actions that weave humanity’s storyline. Some of those threads gain momentum, gathering other threads and becoming life-changing. Some comfortably calm their path. And above these threads surrounding me arcs the Coliseum, a standing pattern in the weave of time.
Friday mid-morning. Piazza Venetia.
I’m sitting, pausing, café-side at the Piazza Venetia. Some things in Italy move quickly. Traffic is quick, breakfast is quick, the language is quick and smiles are quick to be returned. But walking across traffic is not done quickly. It is determined, measured. Much like I learned to walk in New York, I’m learning to walk in Italy, and vicariously learning to drive. The Piazza Venetia is a four or five lane (no lines, just guesses) roundabout surrounding a 10-metre centre of grass. At least five streets feed the circling frenzy. A gentleman, dressed in suit and tie, is walking, nay proceeding, not from sidewalk to grass to sidewalk, but from sidewalk to the inner ‘lane’ and back to the far sidewalk in the most incredible case of free-form crosswalks I’ve witnessed. Cars, trucks and busses pause, manoeuvre, and then move on. No horns, no yelling. My croissant is stationary. I’m impressed.
Friday late morning. House of the Gods
There is no way to see this city in a day. At least, not to truly absorb it. That probably takes months. I feel like I am dropping in on monuments, streets corners and buildings, pausing for a quick hello, a few snaps and then a harried departure. I’m not truly harried, though. I’ve seen many tour guides march past with a determined step, flag in hand and leading a winding group of people as though through a maze. In, talk, out, next, water break, come-on-people-with-cameras-we-have-a-schedule. That’s harried. And a head harried by massive information input on widely varied topics and with lots of random detail. No thanks. I am paused at the Pantheon, contemplating moments, images and motion. The light is incredible, flooding in from the iconic circular skylight and backlit from the massive doorway. The seagull that dropped in through the skylight is still trying to find its way out, chasing the wall in circles. Look at the priest standing patiently over by the paintings, watching the seagull – an entire life of experiences is contained by that patient spirit. How do you even come close to comprehending the 6 billion souls spread over this planet, some harried, some not? And what of the hundreds of generations before? At some point, people and places turn into random detail.
Friday mid-day. Piazza Navona
Stepping into that 747 only a few days ago, I was worried that it would take me a week to ease out of frenetic work mode. For whatever reason, I’m ahead of schedule. At the Pantheon, I looked at my map, paused, and decided that chillin’ was the word of the day. I could try to see an overwhelming number of sights, I could say that I’d been here and been there and done that. Instead, my bum is firmly planted on a Piazza Navona doorstep (different one – change of scenery) and I’m relishing this relaxation, this lack of frenetic motion in my head. I’m chillin’ and I’m thrilled to be here. A half hour ago, a street quartet joined me on the doorstep, waiting for their time in front of the nearby restaurants. Another case of desperately wanting to speak Italian. Instead, I’m speaking rhythm with my hands as the violin and accordion riff and duel for the entertainment of the stand up and electric basses. The electric bassist is turning on his car-battery powered amp. A crowd is slowly gathering…
Friday later afternoon. Stazione Termini
I’m on the train, departing Rome. So soon, yet I’m ready. Rome, like New York, has a pace that is incredible, insatiable. I’m in true travel mode now, avoiding the quick tour bus to Ciampino for the cheaper, slower, more entertaining train and metro bus. More insight, less traffic. I’ll read and snooze for a while in or near the airport, waiting for a particular flight from England to arrive so we can drive north to Tuscany.