Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Roma, Day 5, evening

Sitting in Voglia di Pizza on Via dei Guibbonari near the hotel ... and writing! Just getting the hang of this place, and then off I go. That is the way with short trips. I promise to make a lot of notes to myself on the airplane to get going faster next time.

The curiosity of this trip is the failure of my laptop which forced me to change the way I photograph. That's been a good thing. I have become so used to three exposures a shot, and then all the endless, crazy-making file management. With limited chip space, I have been more careful, and it will probably mean I get a viewable result more quickly and with less time spent. In the modern world, if not always, time is the irreplaceable piece, especially for a working stiff like me.

I ended up retracing the steps of my first day to some degree. Before that, I stopped in the modern glassy container building that houses the remnants of Augustus' Ara Pacis, his "Altar of Peace" temple to his own conceits, frankly. That said, history, at least in the current age, gives too much credit to Julius Caesar and not enough to Augustus. Just as Napoleon rescued the French Revolution by creating an empire on its grave, so Augustus rescued the Republic by remaking it to his own image. In the sense of being a sporting fan of history, I root for him. As a diehard democrat, I have to formally question the victory of the imperial, but it was that victory that provided the broad middle, such as it was, whereby Roman civilization became the founder not only of the Europe we know, and the Christianity we endure, but also the science and literature and thought that has endured.

All that said, inexpertly I admit, I was bored by the interminable audio tour of the Ara Pacis, and my fatigue caught up with me. Had to get back on the road before I fell asleep while pretending to rest.

I picked my way through this maze of a city to the inimitable Giolitti gelato parlor, per my twitter friend @jonvox - I hope his head does not swell, but he has been a fine interlocutor and guide. Again, per my tweet of some time back, I owe you a dinner and drinks whenever you land in San Francisco! I chose to press my way to the second clerk because he was ... o well, I admit it ... really hot. But I think he thought I had jumped the line which was, as is the manner of these things, more a crush than anything else. So he served 4 or 5 folks in front of me, but then graciously took my order for crema and amoretto. And, @jonvox, you are right, after this there is no other gelato that will ever measure up. I took good care not to splooge any of the ambrosia on my nice pressed shirt.

And then I headed back first to the Pantheon, then to San Luigi de Francese to re-review the Caravaggio's, and then to Piazza Navona. I did not actually go into the Pantheon again, but rather wrote the three postcards that I always send from any trip. This viewing of Caravaggio was much more pleasant than the last in the same locale given heightened attention to the imbecilic flash-photo behavior by the custodians. I lingered long. He is an amazing painter whom I have admired from afar for many decades. That said, given all I have experienced here, I have to say that one may come to Rome to worship Caravaggio, but he's have to stay to worship Bernini! That's another story.

The Piazza Navona this time was in its full splendor. The scaffolding that piqued me in my jet lag was gone, and it was wide open this time, filled with throngs. I tarried among the art-sellers, and ended up buying a few souvenir ink drawings - 8 euros each, clearly touristy ... but, jeez, I gotta get some kind of souvenir. I am such a ludicrously bad shopper - I had dawdled in the entrances to several men's shops, my intention being that I would buy a belt if I found one. Notwithstanding my dapper dress - pressed wool slacks and button-down shirt - they paid no attention to me. The camera is a dead giveaway, I guess. I even went into a tourist shop to try to buy T-shirts, but eventually fled in confusion despite the practiced entreaties of the seller.

But I did manage to buy something after all that in the Piazza Navona ... and then bull-headed back to the Campodoglio to complete an interrupted purchase of the massive Italian language catalog of the Faces of Power exhibit I had seen on day 2. It is quite possible that this massive tome will put me over some weight limit on the way back but I just know that I will never forget the book if I do not get it, so get it I did. My fetishism of the book really knows only the bounds of my purse, and then only just barely.

On the way I ventured into (name to be filled in) ookstore in search of relevant works of theater thinking of my great theater pal back home. But since he reads this blog, I must leave my discoveries a mystery.

Speaking of which, earlier today I ventured into an antique booksstore. A 1912 Arthur Rackham illustrated Shakespreare's Tempest went for 300 euros - it was like velvet in my fingers. I craved it, and I could spend 300 euros if I chose to, but I could not afford it. The tempation was only virtual; I never would have pulled the switch. Later I held in my hands a massive 17th century collection of the works of Plautus. Imagine, I thought, having that as warm comfort after I retire. I did not ask the price. She probably would have laughed, and whatever figure she gave would be only what wandered into her head to humiliate me.

My gorgonzola and zucchini pizza has arrived. Roman pizza is quite fine, not the fat paean to the bottomless pit of consumerism that American pizza is. I will pay it the full attention it deserves, and then return to my digs to post this. Well, one quick promised stop at Bar Farnese to sample their finest bourbon on the rocks, if my exhausted feet, further encumbered by a pair of beers here, will allow it.

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