a Roma, Day Three

After ignoring the elevator and climbing five flights of stairs to our hotel room, which was after visiting five churches and walking from central Rome to San Giovanni in Laterano to Trastevere and back, Judy noted “We don’t go on vacation to relax.”

No.  We don’t.

Random observations:

  • Being a Boston pedestrian is good training for walking in Rome.  Pedestrians here step into oncoming traffic confident they won’t be hit–which is a gamble, given Roman traffic.  No close calls so far.
  • In the week she was here before I arrived Judy asked for directions often.  The answer was always “sempre diretto,” straight ahead, which is a Roman in-joke.  You can never walk straight ahead to get from where you are to where you want to be.  Think of Boston’s most non-linear street layouts–the North End, downtown between Washington Street and the harbor.  Narrow the streets. Multiply by a thousand. Lard with tourists, season with Vespas, and sprinkle with North Africans selling umbrellas, scarves, and toys near every tourist site.
  • You could retire and set up your heirs forever with the wealth contained in any random church.  Mosaics, frescoes, statues, paintings, reliquaries, precious stones, carvings, marble, gilt . . . staggering sumptuousness everywhere.
  • In one of the last rooms on the tour of the Palazzo Doria-Pamphilij you find some Caravaggios hanging alongside a dozens of other paintings lining the walls in multiple rows.  If hung in a museum they would be set apart in a focused display.  The casualness with which you encounter them, after seeing hundreds of other items in the family holdings, is very Roman to me.  The tour’s audio guide by a member of the Doria-Pamphilij family reminds you that real people still live in this Palazzo–although not as part of the tour.
  • I’m haunted by the smell of roast chestnuts from vendors around central Rome.

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