A Welcome Note: On Filling the Gaps

Dear Friends and Family:

Although I haven't added any posts since the summer of 2007, this blog continues to be a warehouse of my thoughts and experiences from my time abroad.


Sunday, February 4, 2007

A Day in the Life: Wednesday, January 31, 2007

My day began among the fresh vegetable, fruit, and fish stalls of the open marketplace in Campo dei Fiori where I was to meet my art history class for one of our weekly outings. I arrived especially early on this particular morning. The bus—which last Wednesday took over an hour to arrive at the stop and transport me to my desired destination—was actually running on schedule (as if that word existed in the Italian lexicon) for once. The chilly morning air was crisp, and sidestepping around the discarded milk crates and mini “Teveres” flowing from the public fountains, I made my way over to the bronze Giordano Bruno statue, set squarely in the piazza’s center. Perched on the martyr’s pediment, I occasionally snuck behind the stalls to warm my frigid fingers over the flickering flames that were consuming the hot coals and dismantled produce crates in one of the cylindrical metal basins the vendors use as makeshift space-heaters. Finally, my class and professor arrived. We made our way to a piazza created by the Palazzo Farnese (the building’s finishing touches were done by Michelangelo). After spending about 30 minutes in front of the fa├žade, we moved around the building to a beautiful street created in the 1500s by one of the Farnese Popes to connect the various business centers in Rome. My art history teacher, who like most of the Italians (especially professors) I’ve met, is not one to be shy about his opinions, and bluntly scorned the solitary detractor from the historic street’s sublime beauty, the Cavalieri Hilton, that ugly, boring monstrosity that when built in the 1950s on a distant hill, contaminated the would-be-picturesque-view through an archway on the avenue. The Italians are also quick to point out how much they despise the monument to Vittorio Emanuelle II, the king who reunified Italy in 1870. This gaudy, eclectic . . . thing is also known as the typewriter or wedding cake, built with no connection to Mussolini, contrary to popular belief. Considered one of the many “rapes” of Rome, part of the reason the Romans can’t stand it, is because it was built out of ultra-bright white marble found in the north of Italy, and not the soft Travertino, the marble used in the Colosseum and found locally in the Tivoli region. We later crossed the Tevere and visited the Farnese summer home, which reminded me of the house on our old street, Auburn Road, where there lived a family that had its “summer home” just down the block, though sans Raphael frescos. We learned that the same Pope who built the road for commerce, built a parallel road across the river, Via Ostia, or “road of leisure”.

When the class ended, I wandered back to school, through Piazza, Navona, by the Pantheon, through Piazza Popolo, and finally to Temple Rome. There, I grabbed my camera to finish the 20 or so exposures left on my most recent roll of film. I headed down to the Tevere and at the very end of the roll, came across a sort of floating social club, a boathouse that served as both a launching point for rowers and a clubhouse. Opposite the boathouse was a set of concrete stairs, and above I could hear voices, so I ventured up, ignoring property rights as usual (oh well). At the top I discovered 15 or so Italian men, almost all over the age of 60, fiercely engaged in an incredibly captivating soccer game (I later learned this was actually calcino, a variation on the sport) on an overgrown, caged-in, shrunken field. After asking permission from one of the spectators who looked as though he had some authority, I snapped a few shots and hurriedly popped in a second roll to capture the excitement. I took an entire roll of the game, and got some spectacular shots with my zoom lens. I ultimately failed myself however, because in my rush to load the second roll, I carelessly forgot to make sure the fill caught and ended up exposing nothing! Well, at least I have some inspiration for future pictures. I must return!

Wednesday night, I saw my first real soccer game in all its glory. What a match! For 10 euros each, Hannah, Brent, a girl named Christine and I got a true Roman experience. It was Roma v. Milano in the enormous Olympic Stadium just outside Rome proper and a quick (though crammed) tram ride from Piazza Popolo. At least it was easy to know when to get off—everyone going to the game was wearing a Roma scarf and the whole tram emptied out when we arrived. And the game? Incredible! There were 3 goals in the first sixteen minutes and Roma won, 3-1. And even more crazy were the fans: They were climbing over the glass partitions in the stadium, shooting off flares and smoke candles that the Vigili di Fuoco stood ready to extinguish. They even fired blank cannon shots that shook the whole stadium and sang from a whole repertoire of cheers and songs. When a few days later I read online in the Italian newspaper that during a game between two teams from Sicily a similar show of spirit had turned sour and caused a major fire and a number of injuries I was hardly surprised. Unfortunately this catastrophe has prompted the government to halt all future games indefinitely until further investigation. Hopefully the actions of a few overzealous fans won’t ruin it for everyone and I’ll be able to see another game soon enough.
Thanks for visitng!