I have tried, this week, to do as the Romans do. I have learned to cross streets like motorcycles will stop for me, I know how to order food well enough to trick waiters into thinking I’m fluent (sometimes), and I can now navigate Trastevere without a map. Well, as long as Sep is there to remind me that we should turn right instead of going straight. At least I can say with complete certainty that I’ve figured out the public transportation system.
Above are three sets of pictures. The first is from our visit to the Vatican and to the Castel Sant’Angelo. The Sistine Chapel was closed to the public today as the Pope was visiting with all the teams in the World Cup (which, I believe, is being hosted in Rome this year). We didn’t figure that out until we asked a public service person (security guard?) what the deal with all the colored hats was. Turns out, the hordes of touristy looking people wearing different colored hats based on their group were the families of the members of each World Cup team. They got let into the Vatican, but we did not. We got a good look from afar, though. As I’m not super religious nor an art historian or fanatic, it was fine with me to skip the lines.
We got out of the heat by going to explore the Castel Sant’Angelo. It was beautiful and very interesting, as different regimes modified the castle quite often (even the Catholic Church leaders had a go at it while they were trying to boost the church’s rep during Martin Luther’s time). The most striking room is pictured above, with the gold and white frescoes. The church buffed that room up in order for the Pope at the time to receive guests in a dignified manner. It was their way of saying, and indeed something like this is inscribed along the wall, that, “this room was derelict, basically abandoned, and wholly falling apart and we made a miracle happen and now it’s beautiful. Yay us. Become Catholic, or at least like us more.” It worked, and the room is still just as powerful today. I really wanted to sit down and admire it for a long time, but when I tried to sit on the floor in the corner the guard lady yelled at me and then offered me a chair. I was confused so I left.
We also, more successfully, explored Campo dè Fiori today. The second set of pictures is from there. Lots of spices, olive oils, clothing, and fruits and vegetables. It was fun to see it in full swing instead of during its closing phase as we did the other day. we also participated in our first “aperitivo,” or happy hour buffet. You pay €8 or so and you get a drink and a plate full of whatever you can fit on it from their appetizer bar. It’s pretty great. There were a lot of curious, hungry sparrows around, so I gave them the majority of the pastry I thought was going to be pizza with American pepperoni. It was actually flat, flaky pastry with strangely sweet tomato sauce in the middle in the shape of a pepperoni. They’re so tricky.
We went back to the hostel for our usual rest and recuperation from the hot sun. Afterwards, we went to Trastevere again to have dinner and pick up some wine to take to the top of Janiculum hill (again) to see the sunset. We also wanted to see the botanical gardens (which we did and turned out to be nothing special). While we were there we saw some children playing with enormous bubbles a street performer was making (with a bucket of soap and some rope and other gadgets). Their collective movement was so dance like and joyous I had to take their picture. The sunset ended up being gorgeous, and I even got to stalk a black cat for about an hour while we waited for the sun to go down. I took so many pictures trying to capture it’s beautiful green eyes as it was lying down in the grass, but the one that took the cake was when it sat up and stuck its tongue out just long enough for me to take its picture. Immediately after I got the shot the cat finally looked up at me, noticed I’d witnessed it’s embarrassing moment, and looked mildly affronted before deciding to vacate the area. Roman cats are so fun.
Overall, Rome has been great. It’s given me blisters on my feet, new experiences, a better grasp on a beautiful language, and an appreciation for a new city. I still like the country more than the city, so I’m glad to be going to Elba tomorrow. I’m very excited to meet the professor for whom I’ll be working, but I hope he doesn’t make me cook dinner the night I arrive. If he does, it will be an adventure and you’ll hear about it! For now, buonanotte!