Saturday, February 24, 2007

the good book

We left Rome the next morning and headed for Sorrento by way of Naples. Literally every single person who heard we were going to Naples told us to beware of thieves, so I think I was basically vibrating with tension the whole time. If anyone walked anywhere near me I was ready to KICK THEM IN THE TEETH. In retrospect I think I was a little overly cautious, but we didn't get anything stolen so I guess you could say that we were the right amount of cautious.

We checked our bags at the Naples and train station and headed to the Archaeological Museum. On the way we stepped into a cafe for breakfast. A woman passed us as we walked in and I remember thinking there was a lot of commotion and yelling in Italian. I brushed it off until we sat down and Yvette asked us if we had seen that the woman had stolen a piece of pizza. That Snow Pea, she misses nothing. Brie and I split a neopolitan panino (some kind of roll with sausage) and Yvette got what she called a "calzone" but which was really a "ham doughnut." They were playing, like every other cafe in Italy, 80s American music. It was playing "Time After Time" when the waiter came over and changed it to Celine Dion. It was great, our first experience in Naples... a woman just stole pizza, Celine's playing, we're eating ham doughnuts.

Walking to the museum was interesting because Naples is pretty different from Rome. Much crustier, more laundry hanging out windows, virtually no tourists, me glaring at everyone. The museum was fine. It has most of the art and artifacts from Pompeii and other cities destroyed by Vesuvius, but a lot of the displays are poorly lit or only in Italian, so it was hard to really be as interested as I wanted to be. They did have a statue called the Toro that was pretty great, although against the white walls it looked much blander than it should have.

We went on a walk through Naples to see some of the city before heading straight for the pizza (my main objective in going to the city at all.) We saw tons of kids in costumes walking with their parents. Really elaborate costumes. I wanted to get some snapshots but I was afraid the parents would think I was a weirdo. One little girl, maybe 5, was dressed as a carnie vendor and was pushing a miniature popcorn stand. Another little boy was dressed as a doctor and his father was pushing a gurney with a babydoll strapped down to it. It was hilarious and awesome. The piazzas were covered with confetti.

We were walking for a couple of miles, trying to judge whether we had time to see more of the city before getting pizza. The restaurants almost all close between lunch and dinner so you have to be careful not to miss lunch entirely. We decided to walk down to the Bay of Naples, Mt. Vesuvius glowering at us over the water, and then turn around and head to the pizzeria. As I was taking this picture, I thought I felt a drop of rain. I said, "I think I just felt some rain." About fifteen seconds later we were drenched. We tried to move quickly back through the city, but in my hurry and general handicappedness regarding directions, I got us completely lost. For the first time that day. Yvette finally went into a hotel and had them call us a taxi. He raced us through the city and we got to this specific pizzeria that is supposed to be true Naples pizza just in time. The guy said something about closing as we walked towards him, but he must have been telling us that they were about to close, because he let us in. Or else our soaked, driven expressions just scared him. The pizza, unfortunately, was only fine. I mean, good, but not as earth-shattering as I was hoping for. There's actually a place near our apartment in Rome (which we call "Santa Monica Pier" because it's all sort of neon and weird, I'll get a picture when I go back) that has the best pizza I've had so far. We brought Brie there her first night and she agrees.

After lunch I decided I would get us lost in the pouring rain for the second time. We wandered around all over the place, getting directions from a guy who basically made me buy his unused bus ticket, insisting that it wouldn't matter that there was one ticket and three of us. Non c'e problema, non c'e problema. After walking for, oh, quite a while in the wrong direction, we got straightened out and made it back to the station. While we were waiting to leave, a guy came up to Brie and said, "I. Police. You. Beautiful." I let him talk to her for a minute or so (since you could tell from her horrified expression that she loved it), and then said, "Ok, basta. Basta." This means "enough", but Brie thought I was being much ruder. He looked at me like I had just killed his puppy but he did leave.

Sorrento, where we were staying, is a cute and lemony resort. We got moved into our fourth floor room, with the help of a dumbwaiter (the last place, it turns out, where they wouldn't have to lug their duffles up several flights of steps), and tried to decide whether to go out and do something that night. Yvette and I voted nay. Brie kept saying she wanted to and then fell asleep in the middle of a sentence, so that took care of that.

The next day we took a train to Pompeii. It was, shockingly, raining. We decided to buy audio guides since trying to carry a guidebook, a map, an umbrella, and a camera is difficult, and otherwise you can't tell what you're looking at. It turns out, actually, that you can't tell what you're looking at anyway. The audio guide was just like, "The Temple of Jupiter, as you see in this pile of ruined brick, was excavated in blah blah blah" and meanwhile you really have no idea if you're looking at the Temple of Jupiter or an ancient Pompeiian bagno. I think this was objectively difficult, I don't think it's just because I'm retarded with directions.

The first thing we looked at was fine because we all looked sort of confused and American and a tour guide took pity on us and gave us a free little mini-tour through the baths, which was nice. In one room there were some erotic frescoes, not a menu of activities like in the brothel we would see later, but just some friendly locker room decoration. The tour guide said something like, "And the young man in the first fresco is waiting for a surgeon." Then after he left we stared at it for five minutes trying to figure out what he was talking about. We came up with a theory, which I was going to confirm by posting a picture here and asking for opinions, but now looking at the photograph I took, I think it's much clearer when you can zoom in, and I'm afraid it would just be rude. I'll include a different picture of the baths instead.

After that we tried the audio guides, got bored, and wandered around in the rain. It was nice to be there when it was kind of lonely and empty. What's interesting about it is that it's a whole ruined city, so you're wandering through a whole city with roads and intersections and everything. I think if Pompeii were in California they would put you in a little car on a track and have narration in English and Spanish.

After a while of wandering, we started to get kind of frustrated that we couldn't figure out where we were, so I had to give in and pull out Rick Steves' Italy, which we have come to call the Good Book. Things brightened immediately, as they always do when you rely on the Good Book. We were able to actually find the casts of volcano victims, which we had previously walked right past. And the reason we walked right past them was because, even though they're the most interesting thing at the site, they're stuck in what basically seems like a tool shed. One of the casts was literally lying on a shelf below a stack of yellow plastic storage crates.

Just to explain what they are, in case you didn't really know this, which I didn't, the people of Pompeii who died in the eruption (about 2,000 out of a town of 20,000) were smothered by several feet of ash and not killed by lava. The ash clung to them, even filling in the folds of their clothing, and then hardened over the years. The bodies decayed, leaving a Pompeiian-citizen -shaped void, and archaeologists filled the cavities with plaster before chipping away at the ash-rock around them. Hence the plaster casts. They were quite eerie, even with their less than respectful surroundings.

For the rest of the day we wandered around, much happier despite the fact that it was still raining (rivulets of water rushed past on the road in the ridges carved by chariot wheels) and Yvette's map was falling apart. With the help of TGB, we found an ancient brothel with stone beds and stone pillows, an ancient fast food stand with holes cut in the countertops for pots, an Egyptian temple, a pizza place with big brick pizza ovens, and a huge private residence called The House of the Faun, which I may steal as a screenplay title.

That night, back in Sorrento, we took ourselves out to eat to a place called Giardiniello's, where I had really amazing canelloni and the waiter-owner gave us free samples of limoncello, the specialty of the region. His name was Franco I think, he was probably in his late sixties and had once lived in Los Angeles. He told he was wearing black because he had recently lost his father. We gave him our sympathies, and he said, "Well, that's life, you know. He was 92. But... I need him. I need him." On our way out he showed us his father's picture.

(I'm in Venice by now so I'm really far behind on this, but we have free internet access here so I'll try to see if I can can catch up a bit. Sorry, Mom.)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

il papa don't preach

We're sitting in this cool little bar with blue light in Sorrento, where we've been for a couple of days. It's Carnevale, so kids in costumes are walking by the door outside. Bobby Vinton is playing. I just finished working on arbitration stuff... even in Italy. Unfortunately, I've gotten behind on here so I have to back up to Rome before I can talk about Naples and Amalfi. (Note for the VCs: Brie is here, safe and sound, jet-lagged but having a good time. We found her easily at Termini Station. She sends "kisses and squeezes to Schmoopie and Schmooperton" in a kind of high-pitched voice. Schmoopie and Schmooperton, I assume you know who you are.)

Friday night was our last day of school. The teachers gave Yvette and I each homework anyway, but I'm pretty sure I won't be completing it. Maybe Yvette will. That night we walked to the other side of Termini Station to a friend's new apartment, on a kind of creepy path that freaked us both out a little. We finally found our way away from the station, past a medieval wall into the neighborhood, which had a lot of graffiti and seemed rundown but was well-lit. The neighborhood was just off our maps, so it was a little difficult to find the place. An Italian couple came up to me and asked for directions to the exact street we were going. I meant to say, "I don't know, we're looking for it too," but what I said was, "I don't know, we're seeing it too." The guy looked at me for a second, and then said, "Ohhh," like "Ohhh, I get it, you're an idiot", which was pretty fairly well-deserved, and turned around to ask someone else. So then we just followed them and found Vincenzo's. (The New Yorker from my class who got laid off from Chase Morgan and moved here for a year.) We toasted with some wine to christen his new apartment and then walked to an enoteca near his house. We met people from school at this dive bar with no sign that had a band playing "folk Italian", which sounded suspiciously like Celtic Rock to me. It was fun in a surreal sort of way. On the way back a girl named Sara, who's traveling around Italy for a year working on various organic farms, walked with us and we felt a bit safer. (Incidentally, everyone we meet at the school has moved here for at least a year. When we say we're leaving in a month or two, they shake their heads in disappointment and pity.)

We wanted to get up early to hit the Vatican, so obviously I was miserable four hours later when the alarm went off. At the train station I was nearly accosted by a group of Roma girls who wanted to "help" me buy my train ticket, but Yvette gave them the evil eye.

The Vatican is pretty amazing. I guess one would assume that. We had actually gone to see just St. Peter's a few nights before, and were there when it was about to close, and was lovely and nearly empty. Even the courtyard is gorgeous. If you stand in front of St. Peter's you can look up to your right and see the Pope's window. (Il papa, they call him here. I kept hearing references to "papa" in random circumstances and didn't get what they meant for quite a while.) That's his study window, with the light on, and his bedroom to the right.

St. Peter's is built on the spot where Peter was crucified upside-down. His remains, buried in a nearby cemetery for three centuries, were secretly revered by persecuted Christians before Charlemagne made Christianity acceptable, and were eventually moved to the site where the basilica is built. The building is breathtaking in and of itself, especially because mass was ending as we came in and strains of organ music were dying away, but my favorite was Michelagelo's Pietà near the front entrance. It's just one of those things... it looks nice and everything in pictures, Mary looks a little oversized maybe, but when you look at it in the church, it's just... beauty itself. It's silly for me to post a picture after making this point but you should just look at it as much as possible I think.

Anyway, we went back to the Vatican Saturday morning to do the museum itself. We got up early to wait in a long, cold line outside. A Spanish couple stepped in front of us and a German couple behind, but I didn't say anything, because I didn't know how to say "no cutsies, no backsies" in either of those languages.

Our guide book (more on that later) told us to skip around a bit and see the Pinoteca first (paintings from the 13th through 17th centuries... normally you would see things in a chronological order) so we did, and I'm so glad because it was empty. We could walk through the rooms quietly and see the transformation from the pre-Renaissance to the Renaissance and watch the art becomes something else altogether. There was one room with a Caravaggio and another painting with a name I can't remember by a painter I didn't recognize but will figure out, it was of two saints being martyred, tied together and sliced open. It was so realistic and gripping I had tears in my eyes, and my throat is closing a little now thinking of it. It was so amazing to see these incredible pieces and be moved... and not just feel that I am supposed to be moved, which is a more common feeling.

The rest of the Vatican was fascinating but exhausting, because then we hit the crowds. It was really cool to see The School of Athens, for example, but we were basically getting mauled by tour groups. These are some pictures from Yvette:

After that we climbed the dome of St. Peter's. It was 4 euros to take an elevator up the first 200 or so steps and then climb the next 300, and 7 euros to climb the whole thing, which is what we did. The first part was actually the easy part. The last couple of hundred were narrow and either spiraling or sort of slanted sideways, so you hand to bend at a sideways angle at the waist. I don't think Yvette will ever be the same.

The amazing part was really the halfway up part, where you could look down at the inside of St. Peter's. That place is just amazing, looking up or down. There are seven-foot high black letters against a gold background that ring the church, spelling out in Latin everything Christ said to Peter in the Bible. From the floor they don't seem like they could possibly be so tall, but from above them you can get a slightly better idea of the vastness of the church.

The top was fine, but really crowded and sort of claustrophobic. Rome is a little smoggy (like home sweet home) and I'm not sure the view was worth the walk up. Yvette and I walked around the dome for about half an hour looking for each other, probably circling on the other side from one another like a Tom and Jerry cartoon.

That night we headed back to the room and then to the train station to meet our freshman starter, Brienne, looking much cuter in her new boots than us. We began resenting her immediately.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

my pizza doesn't seem to know what it wants

Trying to speak to Italians here is a game... having a whole conversation in Italian wins me points. If the other person switches to English before the end of the conversation, I lose a point. If they speak to me in English as soon as they look at me, it's minus like five points. I'm far, far into the negative now.

I've been studying, obviously, and taking classes, and I think I'm speaking at a fairly decent level, especially just for shopping or eating or everyday sorts of conversations. But I feel like I'm missing some cells in my brain that would allow me to unscramble words that are spoken to me. It's always there that I start losing points. I'm fine with the, oh, what you would you recommend, I think this looks good, or do you have my size in this, or whatever, and then they say something back, and I just have to stare at them with a dumb expression because I NEVER HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT THEY SAID. Usually I just pretend I do, which is a weird sort of stubborn streak I've discovered in myself, and that usually gets me something other than what I've ordered or asked for.

I am thinking a bit in Italian though. The other night I came home an hour or two after Yvette, and realized when I got to our fifth floor apartment door that I didn't gave the keys to get in, because I had left them in the lock of the giant door leading into the whole building, the door that faces a huge busy piazza. I ran down the stairs, I was going the speed of light by the bottom, wondering how on earth I was going to tell Maria that some stranger had her keys because I had left them in the door, and I realized suddenly that the desperate prayer I was whispering under my breath was, "Piacere, piacere, piacere, piacere..." And God apparently speaks Italian because the keys were still in the lock.

Yvette and I went to dinner on Via Veneto the other night, and the waiter sort of tolerated my stabs at Italian and spoke slowly back to me. Later he said my Italian was very "sharp" (I think he said "sharf" actually) and that I was clearly a very intelligent girl. I mean, right, obviously, but it still was nice of him to notice. After we left he followed us out to the sidewalk and wished me a Buon San Valentino and blew me a kiss. That's how well I ordered my Cesare Insalata.

I did buy boots today in Italian. I asked for my size and said some were too tight and everything. I understood nothing of what the salesperson said back to me but it was shoe shopping, so it wasn't really too difficult to guess.

The problem is that everybody in Rome seems to not only speak English but to want to show it off. (The one time I just gave up and decided to speak in English right off the bat was when I needed to buy a phone card for Brie and Heidi and I wasn't sure how to ask for it... I got my whole speech out in English and the woman looked at me and said, "Non capisco." So then I was actually pretty excited because she would have to tolerate my broken Italian, and she did, and we had a little non-fluent conversation.) Many of the menus are also in English as well, though the translations are sometimes kind of funny. We were looking at a list of pizzas the other night and one was translated as "capricious".

Last day of school tomorrow. I'll just try to cram the rest of the language in then.

Monday, February 12, 2007

i would walk five hundred miles and i would walk five hundred more

I've been surprised at how easily we've been able to walk everywhere here. I thought we would be taking taxis or the metro more often, but we basically just schlep. It takes about half an hour to get to school, near the Spanish Steps, from our apartment, which is on the Piazza Santa Maria Maggiore. In the piazza, across the street from our place, is an enormous church decidated to Mary. In the 4th century Mary appeared in a dream to Pope Liberius, asking that a church be built in her name on the spot where he would find snow. The next morning, in August, he found snow on this square and so began building this church. Our landlady's son, who is studying to be a tour guide, told us that every August Rome celebrates this event by making artificial snow and holding mass.

We wanted to go to mass here, so Saturday we walked over to tour the church. In the nave there is a gold and silver sort of urn with what is supposed to be pieces of the manger in it. Before the urn there is a statue of a pope praying. (I'm sure it's a specific pope but I didn't catch which one.) Also in the church, which is decorated in the Baroque style, is the tomb of Bernini. His tomb is a simple step, I was looking for it and still missed it at first. Interesting that the father of baroque would have such an austere resting place.

I looked to see when mass was held, and there was a sign to inquire with the sacristry. I walked towards the sacristy and there was a schedule of times, and below that a sign in Italian that I couldn't quite translate, but was something about persons with documents who are authorized to celebrate the High Religion. This was all very intimidating. I don't know what documents would authorize me to celebrate the high religion, but I'm pretty sure I don't have them. I gave up on the idea. I'm kind of a wimp with stuff like that.

Saturday night we went to see a performance of La Traviata at an Anglican church on the Via Babuino, and got gelato on the way home. (Kristina, the gelato is good enough to make me forget the blisters I was getting walking in my going-to-the-opera shoes, I don't know if that answers your question or not.) Sunday morning our landlady Maria left us a note saying she had a booth at a flea market all day and we should come visit her. We decided to do that, which took us a couple of miles west and out of the city center for the first time. We made our way through the Piazza di Popola (where I saw the Statue of Liberty, thank goodness I can check that one off my sightseeing list) and half a mile into a sleepy area where everything was closed. We found the market and Maria, which I was kind of proud of. Yvette bought a necklace from a vendor, haggling by way of not really understanding the numbers the woman was saying.

After that we took our first metro ride to the Colosseum, arriving in time to see the Roman Forum but not the Colosseum or Palatine Hill. I'm trying to take pictures for you, Bethany. I don't know if 141 A.D. is "really ancient" or not, but this is the Temple of Antoninus and Faustina, the most intact structure in the Forum besides the arches. (You would love it, by the way, and need to come here.) It was very strange to stand there and think about the history of it. Yvette and I were talking about that Hanna-Barbera cartoon where the kids go back in time and meet David, etc., and how it just seems like the world should work that way.

We walked down and saw some of the other ancient sites, like the Circus Maximus, where Ben-Hur and those guys raced their chariots. It's mainly a big park now but you can see how it used to be a track. There was this group of people standing in a circle in the park. At first I thought they were doing calisthenics before a soccer game but then noticed one of the men was wearing a skirt, and they were doing a hokey-pokey type of dance to "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot", with Italian accents. I watched them for a couple of minutes but couldn't figure it out.

Later we did a little night walk and took some pictures. I bought a little mini-tripod from a street vender so I can have a longer shutter speed. Here are some pics...

The Roman Forum:

A crowd at the Trevi Fountain:

Random alley on the way home:

p.s. In case you were concerned, Yvette and I were reunited, and I read 14 pages of Harry Potter in a cozy little pizzeria, the warmest I've been in three days. It was the part where the Prime Minister meets Fudge, or Caramell in this version. I followed it pretty well, probably since I've already read it... twice.

p.p.s. Happy Birthday, Brie!

rainy days and mondays

I've been floating along a few feet above the ground all week, so I guess it was inevitable that my energy would drop at some point. Today Yvette and I were going to go try the Colosseum again (for the third time - we kept going too late in the day) but I just woke up on the wrong side of the letto this morning or something. I was kind of in a fog through class and then decided I needed a quiet day alone. I decided I would go buy "Harry Potter E Il Principe Mezzosangue" and then spend the afternoon trying to get through the first five pages of it.

Yvette left for the Colosseum, after making complicated plans as to what time I should be in the room (we share a room key, it hasn't really been an issue until today) so she can still get in. About two minutes after we parted I realized that she had the room key instead of me. So I figured we'd figure something out later, and walked a long ways to get to a bookstore that I had been told of, found the book, and then left the store and turned left to leave, which was the complete wrong direction.

While Snow Pea, being her usual handy self, has basically been my GPS for this trip, I really didn't think that I wouldn't be able to make my way home from the bookstore (especially since I do have one of those pieces of paper with pictures of the roads drawn on them... maps, I think people use to call them), but somehow turning the wrong way that first time just threw me off. After going for a while in the wrong direction, I realized where I was and that I was near a coffeeshop that had been recommended to me (I had asked about one with couches... here in the cafés, or bars as they're called, you just stand at a counter and throw your espresso back like whiskey) so I looked for that for a long time, with no luck. I was kind of lost in this labyrinth of cute little back streets when it started to rain so I decided to head home (the place I had no key to get into). And that's when the ridiculously circular wandering began. I really don't know what on earth I was doing, but I passed the Pantheon three times. After literally two hours of walking in the rain I emerged from an alley into the piazza WITH THE STORE WHERE I BOUGHT HARRY POTTER. It was like one of those Family Circus cartoons where the mom tells Billy to go do something and come straight back, and you see the little dotted lines where he wanders in little circles all over the place. And it wasn't any funnier today than it is in Family Circus. So anyway, this time I turned right from the bookstore, like I should have done to begin with, and walked my little stubs of feet to this internet cafe near our apartment. Now I'm sitting here waiting to see if Yvette finds me. I hope she's not sitting somewhere else hoping the same thing.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

death and chocolate

I'm enjoying school a lot, which may not shock you. The class is exactly the right level for me, very challenging but I don't get lost. In my class are four women and a one man: Maria (Spanish), Maya (Israeli), Ingrid (German), Vincenzo (New Yorkian), and Patricia (also American, a sculptor/painter who received the prestigious Rome Prize from the American Academy here and is living here for a year to practice her art - very cool, I want to see her studio later since that's a scene in my script). Yesterday we were paired up and had to describe our ideal man. Vincenzo was my partner; his ideal man and mine are fairly similar, but probably with one big difference. After that we did a roleplaying exercise where I had to be a daughter trying to explain to her father why she wants to marry a wonderful but poor young man who hasn't yet finished university. I thought this was good practice. For, you know, my Italian.

Yesterday after class it was raining, like usual it seems (thank you, Heidi, for making me get waterproof boots), so Yvette and I decided to slack off. We picked up a newspaper to get movie times and went back to our room. She took a nap and I translated an article from the paper ("Modella-attrice Ana Nicole: misterioso morte in Florida!"). That's our room, our building, and our room key.

Then we walked to a theater in the Piazza Barberini to see "La Ricerca di Felicità" ("Pursuit of Happiness" dubbed in Italian). It was a good pick because even though I'm terrible at Italian comprehension, I had read the script already. I think some of Will Smith's humor was lost but I was surprised at how emotional it was anyway. On the way home we stopped for some candy (Mars Delight... yum) at a corner store and the guy behind the counter gave me a piece of dark chocolate for free. Finally, my first Roman conquest. I don't see Italian men hitting on anyone. Why even have stereotypes if you're not going to abide by them?

Thursday, February 8, 2007

your panini or your life

It's been a bit rainy here. Not today but yesterday, the day before, and tomorrow and the day after. It's been ok, I bought an umbrella from a guy who was following me. The Spanish girl Maria bought one too and then he followed her for about ten minutes screaming that he'd given her too much change. The streets, especially the cobblestone ones, are pretty in the rain, although I've nearly bitten it approximately 7,000 times.

The first day walking to school I looked down one of the streets we were crossing and saw a statue of a woman riding a chariot on top of one of the buildings a long way down the street. (This is a picture of my viewpoint, only in the evening.) It reminded me so strongly of a dream I had years ago where there were horses riding across the sky. It was this strangely beautiful dream, one of those where it feels normal but something extraordinary is happening. That's how Rome feels to me. You're just walking along past pizzerias and cafes and banks and you get to an intersection with a fountain at each corner. Or you see horses in the distant sky.

Today after class (where I completely rocked indirect pronouns, if you want to know the truth) we went to see some of ancient Rome. Free ancient Rome... we'll pay for some of the rest of it later. The first stop was the Pantheon. Standing outside was kind of incredible. Besides being a little nervous about pickpockets, since that's a notoriously light-fingered area, it gave me chills to think about the people who have walked through those columns, the rituals that have been performed there, the prayers that have been offered up. Inside was somewhat disappointing because part of it had been sectioned off, giving it such a modern air that it was jarring. Raphael is buried in the Pantheon, with a Latin inscription that, translated, reads, "This is Raphael. In life, Nature feared to be outdone by him. In death, Nature feared she too would die."

After stopping off for some gnocchi (Thursday special at an enoteca that I have to take you to, Brie and Heidi) we headed east to Il Colosseo. On the way we saw the building I had seen from far away, an enormous monument built for Victor Emmanuel, Italy's Savoy king. It contains Italy's Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, built just after World War I. Two soldiers stood guard with an eternal flame burning. Apparently the Savoys were maybe not such great leaders (one of them invited Mussolini to set up his own government) but the monument was pretty breathtaking all the same.

Near this was the Roman Forum. We were too late to go in to that or to get our ticket's worth at the Colosseum, so I'll have to enthrall you with that story another time... wait by your computers.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

me and snow pea

I've been trying to find an internet cafe with the ability to upload pictures. The one we were using has that function disabled, but says it doesn't so I had gone through a lot of computer-type heroics before admitting defeat. Now I found a nice touristy one by the Trevi Fountain and it looks, beyond all reasonable hope, like it's working.

The downside of waiting this long (two and half whole days) to write is that already I feel like I have too much to say for someone paying four euros an hour. So here's a very quick rundown of my trip so far, for Mom and Grandma and people who will want to read it.

So you know, this is Yvette, my traveling companion. (I call her Snow Pea because she's so prepared, like a boy scout - this won't make sense to you but that's ok.) Yvette took an early flight to Atlanta, which was freezing, and then what became a red-eye to Roma.
The plane was pretty empty and we both had empty seats next to us, so I slept more. Then we took the Leonardo Express from the Airport to Termini Station, and walked about ten minutes to our apartment. This all went by so much faster than we had planned that we had time to shower and change at our apartment before going to the school. We surprised our landlady/apartmentmate Maria Grazia, who was still in her robe, but she let us in anyway.

Then we went to school, and I took a language test. I was afraid they would listen to me for five seconds and say, "Sei stupida, go back to the beginner's class," but they didn't. And I learned the word for screenplay -- "scenegiattura". We did some orientation stuff and walked down to get a panino for lunch at the Spanish Steps, which are about a block and a half away. This is them. There was a protest, I couldn't quite figure out what it was about. The first day our class took a little tour of il centro of Rome, all in Italian. I couldn't really understand any of it, so basically I was just staring at buildings, trying to look interested. Plus by the afternoon the jet lag was really starting to kick in and everything felt like it was coming through a painful layer of fog. We struggled to stay awake by eating pizza, which was really amazing pizza, and then finally stumbled home. I got halfway undressed and fell asleep in my sweater, mid-sentence.

We both slept about 12 hours and woke up feeling a lot better. I had my first real day of language school. I'm definitely behind where I should be for the level I'm at in class, but I'm a nerd so I like it anyway. I'm learning a lot already and am feeling a lot more comfortable telling, for example, the guy at the gelato counter that he should pick the best flavors for me.

After class Yvette and I went to do a little errand-running with a Spanish girl named Maria, whose voice was so high and squeaky I thought she was kidding at first. (Yvette says she now has veto power over who we bring along with us from class.) I finally found a shop where I could buy a SIM card, so I now have my own Italian phone number! (Mom and Dad, I will be emailing this to you momentarily.) I even made a phone call, to the Villa Borghese Galleria for reservations.

After that, the three of us walked through the park to get to the Borghese Galleria. It's like Rome's Central Park, very beautiful, with a few different museums and many rows of scupltures. The rain and the statues gave it a melancholy feel. I'd like to go back to write there. Brie, I think you might like to run.

The museum was like nothing I've seen before. Every inch of every single room was covered by art. Every ceiling was a fresco, and there were niches with sculptures along many of the walls. It was really beautiful and a lot to absorb. My favorite sculpture was Bernini's Rape of Persephone. I thought they looked like they could have started breathing.

I do have a lot of thoughts and impressions but Yvette's sitting next to me waiting for me to finish so I'm going to end here. A più tardi! (Brie and Heidi, it's amazing, I can't wait for you to come. Bring something very warm to sleep in... in fact, bring something warm for me to sleep in. Also, all the women are wearing high boots with skirts or pants tucked into boots, if you want to look Italian.)