Sunday, February 2, 2014

Walking the Walking City

The most walked walkable city in the world.  Even in the lowest season of all, with rain coming down all day, there was a good trickle of visitors to each of the sites I went to.  And the Via Condotti and the Spanish steps were bustling.  Perhaps thousands upon thousands took exactly my route yesterday.  And yet, of course, no two walks were the same.  Here's some of what I saw in a rain-filled afternoon on Saturday.

I saw the Tiber rushing by, desperately wishing it could overflow the 19th century walls that have turned it into a luge run of brown water, tables, chairs, beaches, and plastic bottles.  I saw thousands upon thousands of black cobblestones, with a few stolpersteine mixed in. I saw the ruins of the entrance to the Theater of Marcellus at the edge of the Jewish Ghetto, and the impossibly heavy foundation stones of the arcade, with the Victor Emanuel monument in the distance.  I walked around the Campidoglio and Trajan's column, looking down at the rich emerald green of the grass that is overtaking the ruins, up a narrow vicolo (little via, or alley) to a heartbreakingly cute little square. I found my way to San Pietro in Vincoli and found Michelangelo's Moses with horns, down from Sinai with tablets, awestruck at the sight of the Golden Calf.  Santa Maria Maggiore's epic size was neatly tempered by the sounds of a tiny, soaked protest by liberal party supporters...of Egypt.  Up and down the hills of Via Sistina, with another duck into San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane and into bar for a quick macchiato and a peek at the rugby match on the television.  Palazzo Barberini, a plaque to one killed at Fosse Ardeatine (a German massacre of Italian civilians), another to mark where Gogol lived and wrote.  I saw Via Gregorianna, where my family stayed thirty years ago, at the top of the Spanish Steps.  I found what was perhaps the most memorable building of our entire stay, just steps from our pensione:

Keat never saw East Asian immigrants selling fluorescent green blobs that splat on the ground and light up and then re-form into spheres.  That's what I saw as I descended the Spanish Steps with Keats' house in the background. (In half an hour I head off to the "Non-Catholic Cemetery" and Keats' mournful grave).  Down the elegant Via Condotti (Rome's Ginza district) I walked before turning off to pursue my fascist fetish -- ghostly remains of that time, this time in the words "Mussolini Dux" in the Piazza Augusto Imperatore.  I marveled at the Getty On the Tiber -- the Ara Pacis by Richard Meier -- but did not go in, walking instead to S. Luigi Dei Francesi and its chapel of three Caravaggio paintings of the life of St. Matthew.  Dark and raining a bit harder, I walked through Campo dei Fiori and Giusseppe Bruno's relentless, accusing gaze to a shockingly untouristy Dar Filettaro a Santa Barbara and a meal of Roman specialties -- puntarelle alla Romana (a celery-like vegetable, peeled into circular slivers, with anchovy sauce) and baccalà (fried cod). 

I walked over the Ponte Sisto -- still standing, but the water so close by -- and then up, up the cobblestone streets of Trastevere, and the final, heart-pumping steps at the Spanish Embassy,  back to what is temporarily home.

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