Monday, July 21, 2008


The city is visibly emptying of actual Italians. This morning I walked up a major street near here, the Via Merulana, and realized that I was seeing fewer Romans and a lot more tourists, inevitably walking in pairs and packs. It is not a good feeling. It's like you've moved into Euro Disney, where the only locals are waiters and assorted colorful characters who dress up for your benefit.

To make matters worse, the sun and heat have returned, exacerbating my natural laziness. It's not unbearably hot, really; walking on the shady side of narrow streets helps a great deal, and broad streets without shade usually have a decent breeze. But it is just hot enough not to want to tromp through a bunch of sun-baked ruins. My first out-of-town trip is to be Pompeii, but I'm still waiting for a cooler day and better directions. My guidebook's advice is to take the Intercity train to Naples, and then "a local train to Pompeii." Gee thanks. Why not just tell me to construct a divining wand?

So I've been staying close to the neighborhood, and primarily indoors. Yesterday's main attraction: The Capitoline Museums, which you may recall were closed on Monday. They reside in palazzos on the Campidoglio, a piazza designed by Michelangelo for the Roman city government. (Love Italian, so many words with z.) The setting is very cool: you walk up a steep street behind the Piazza Venezia (which is admittedly hideous), and get a great view of the Forum on the way up. Suddenly you land in this flat, quiet piazza that almost seems to float over the rest of the city. In the middle is a fake horsey sculpture of Marcus Aurelius, the real one residing inside the museum in air-conditioned comfort.

The inside is split between two of the palazzos, one containing primarily Roman sculptures by the hundred, the other fancy apartments used by the former Roman city council. The apartments contain amazing painted murals of the early days of Rome. I didn't get everything, but apparently young boys spent a lot of time suckling on she-wolves for nourishment. World-class artists and sculptors were brought in to decorate the apartments, from Michelangelo to Bernini. The engraved staircase took 24 years to construct alone, casting new light on that kitchen remodel.

At the end, if you are willing to spend 15 minutes playing "find the staircase," you can enjoy panoramic views of the city from the palazzo's terrace. There is about to be a wedding reception here, adding soothing live jazz to the lovely view of St. Peter's. On the way out, I see the joyous couple taking pictures in front of fake Marcus. Taking a chance to look over my pictures before I walk back home, I sit down. But it is hard to focus on the camera when a different couple is against the wall, their tongues latched deep within each others' throats.

Look, Rome, I get it: I'm solo. You don't have to make everyone waddle around here, two-by-two, like The March of the Penguins.

I'm not entirely alone here. One of the odd side effects of writing a blog is that I find myself accompanied by a narrator that speaks only to me, largely in the third person. A lot of what he says gets put in the blog. The narrator is kind of a snide version of myself, somewhat embodied by me, but also somewhat external to me. Sounds like a mental disorder, I know.

I already miss playing tennis, which at home I do two or three times a week. I've had to replace it with an old favorite, Jennifer Capriati Tennis, a video game I used to play in college on my Genesis. The designers were too cheap to pay anyone but Capriati, so the character names are all sound-alikes. Jennifer has long pissed away her Sega money on Prada and pot, but I still find the game calming. Even while screaming, "Nobody takes a set from Monica Sellers! NOBODY!"

Today I sealed a victory with a thorough dismantling of Martina Martilova. The game announces my victory with one of those delightful Japanese video-game translations: "The world looks up to you with admiration. Your stately persona will be remembered for years to come."

Hey, Rome: I'm stately.


At 3:23 PM, Blogger Mrs Pinchloaf said...

I remember playing that tennis game with you and Amy eons ago. I'd always make Jen run off-court for tokes between sets. Ah, such fond memories!

I'm enjoying reading about your Roman escapades!


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