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Thursday, May 29, 2008

LAST DAYS - draft

These are our last days in Rome, and perhaps appropriately, it is raining a bit. Max and Brittany have trouped off to see St. Peter's Basilica, and I'm home getting ready to pack, doing a last laundry, a last shopping for mortadella, buffalo mozarella and tasty tomatoes, munching a last bite of zucchini flower and anchovy pizza, and making a last trip to the bancomat. It's been a great stay in what is genuinely a city full of wonder. And the wonders are not just the ruins, the art, the Madonninas, the mad traffic, and the politics, but they are most especially the people who opened up to us as soon as they saw us try to make connections with them through their food, their work, even their children and dogs.Last night we had our final Taverna Romana dinner and said thanks to our funny and slightly bossy waiter. We told him that we were headed home. As we got up the man and woman who own the place and the two waiters all came forward to shake our hands and wish us well. I was touched by their smiles and warmth. I'll be sorry to leave them behind. We have a date at Trattoria Monti, our other "neighborhood" restaurant for our last dinner on Friday. I'm looking forward to that as well.

Yesterday was sunny and very hot already, and we went to the Borghese Gallery. Every time I go my appreciation and joy in it goes up. The Bernini sculptures get better the more I feel I get to know them and the painting collection with its many Caravaggios is a tribute to Scipio Borghese's taste. SB, really, must have been an awful person. From the audio guide and other information I got the impression that he stole, extorted and bullied many of these works away from others. I guess I should be grateful for it, but I confess to feeling a bit guilty too.

I'd love to go to the Forum one more time (maybe tomorrow afternoon after I've made some serious progress packing) and to San Carlino alle Quattro Fontane. I'm sorry Fannie and Andrew didn't see this tiny church by Borromini. As the DK guidebook puts it, this church is “so small it would fit inside one of the piers of St. Peter’s.” But it has beautiful curves, all working from an oval plan of which the ceiling is the most evident part. And the light is wonderful! I love the space and find real peace inside. I'm not religious, but this church is almost perfect in some way. And I suspect that perfection is a spiritual dimension, on a real one. It is too small to get good photos but I will include a couple here anyway. The fa├žade, which was one of the last works of Borromini before his suicide, is sadly quite grungy. That and the noise of the street makes it difficult to appreciate for the uninitiated.

I also want to mention one of the other things that we enjoyed here fun and that is some of the books we found related to Italy. For example, we are both mystery fans and discovered Camilleri's Sicilian hero Montalbano on this trip. We have mentioned Camilleri to several of our Italian friends. They are all delighted to hear we have read him and then immediately launch into discussions of the potential difficulties for the translation, the importance of his use of the local dialect, and the complications with understanding the politics.
I think that, while I can't judge the original or the translation as a translation, the result is so good as to be addicting with plenty of use of colloquial language to suggest dialect and character. There are also good notes in the back. (Recipes would have been helpful, too!) I hope that the Brits do a 'Mystery' program project on it, filmed on location in Sicily. There is already an Italian series.

Last weekend the four of us went to Villa Adrianna with Giorgio, a friend and colleague of Bill's who, years ago, went trick-or-treating with the kids on Halloween.
Rather like the Palatine, Hadrian's Villa is a big green park with ruins still being excavated. The Villa features baths, libraries, beautiful pools with live fish and turtles, sculptures and the remains of frescoed walls and mosaic floors.
It is out of Rome near Tivoli, so Giorgio bravely jammed us all in his car and took us there. It was a beautiful day.

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