My Monday morning begins with a worried phone call from Diane. I’m sorry if I scared people with the Beige Spectre blog –I’m fine, he’s gone!
He’s actually long gone now, since the last blog I posted was nearly a week ago. There is no particular reason for my lack of blogging over the last few days; for some reason I just haven’t got round to it. The Indian Highways article seemed to take a long time to finish, so I’ll blame my inefficiency on that.
Nothing much of note happens on Monday; on Tuesday I decide to visit the Mel Bookstore to take advantage of its sale in big arty hardbacks, followed by Piazza Navona and San Luigi dei Francesci. The latter is a French church tucked in between Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, and Lidia has recommended that I go because it holds the three Caravaggios depicting the life of Saint Matthew – The Calling of Saint Matthew, The Inspiration of Saint Matthew, and The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew. Apparently they are fairly important and are one of the things I should’ve done first, if I hadn’t been spending my time staring at modern art instead. Oops.
The letching is out in full force today. On my way to the bus (five minutes) I get a ‘you so lovelyyy’ and an inexplicable ‘eyyyyy!’. The Chinese are unquestionably the worst. I think it’s the massive Indian palazzo pants. They give off an attitude.
I get off the bus at Via Nazionale and at the Mel Bookstore quickly dismiss, because I haven’t got that much time, all the art books that are in Italian. Eventually I select a book of Polaroid stills and a hardback on Japanese printing. It has dawned on me that the things I’m finding interesting in Rome – Georgia O’Keeffe, Indian 21st century sculpture, Japanese art– have nothing to do with the city itself. I don’t think Lidia is enjoying this, hence why she keeps directing me towards Caravaggios. However, in my defence I will point out that the classic art that is everywhere in Rome has probably been written about a thousand times; the current exhibitions that are showing at the Fondazione and the other smaller museums are what need to be written about. It isn’t like I can review a Michelangelo fresco and publish it on The Flaneur.
Back on Via Nazionale, a random man blows me a kiss and another tells me that I am ‘wonderful’. It is as if they’re taking the piss, to be honest.
And this is when I commit sacrilege.
I’m in Rome. I go to Burger King.
I’m sorry, I know it’s wrong. It is so very, very wrong. However, they keep feeding me sauce-less wholegrain vegetable pasta and minestrone and I want to eat something that is fatty and lovely and bad.
I am salivating for a Chicken Royale. I buy one. With French fries. They are so good I can’t even explain.
Afterwards I carry on down past Piazza Venezia and go into Arte 5, where I find a delightful exhibition depicting a photographer’s journey from Kenya to New York, and then discover that San Luigi dei Francesci is unfortunately closed – I’m guessing for lunch. I go straight to Piazza Navona instead. The Piazza is worth the wait: two impressive statues, one by Bernini, an obelisk, a huge dome sat on top of the former home of the notable Pamphilj family, and abundant flowers and restaurants all strike me as I turn the corner. There are artists selling their work all over the square, and despite the thousands of tourists that are milling around I have a wander around the outside feeling like I have found a tiny little bit of heaven. It would be a lovely place to sit with wine and people watch, which is one of my favourite European capital city activities. Bear this in mind for the future.
At one end is the Museo di Roma. I spent a while looking around. The Museum is ok, but I’m glad I don’t spend more than five fifty euros on the entrance. It is mainly portraits depicting the changing status of the artist in the late 18th century, as a result of the French Revolution. The artists, no longer relying on the nobility to commission their work, found themselves with higher status and better financial security. Thus, they and their families often became the subject of paintings instead of just being the ones behind the brush.
The second floor offers more portraits, of influential families of la belle époque (thank god for modernism last year; I wouldn’t understand a thing without it). There are also late nineteenth century photographs of Piazza Navona, which are fairly interesting.
Cultural learning satisfied for today, it is time to head back to the hotel.
At gymnastics, the corridors are decorated for Halloween. B&B are in a mythical orange and black wonderland, oohing and ahhing at spiders and pumpkins and crepe papers lanterns all the way to the changing room.
Later, I beat Wench at virtual Scrabble with 348 points. It is a good day.
On Wednesday it rains, and B&B don’t go to school. I am still free though, and brave the mild drizzle (these Italians would have a fit if they were dropped in the middle of Lancaster in October) to meet Ashley and Laura for lunch, as per Wednesday tradition.
My mother rings me before I leave, in order to check that I am still alive, because I posted nothing on Facebook for the whole of yesterday. Clearly that I am a slave to Facebook has been well noted.
The bus ride to Largo Argentina is very, very bad. A man behind me is talking on the phone and leaning forward – I can smell his breath. It smells like dirt. Disgusted? You didn’t live it down two miles of windy cobbled streets. When I get off the bus I am almost ready to vomit.
I wait for Ashley and Laura in Feltrinelli, and pick up a Jeffrey Eugenides (‘Middlesex’) in anticipation of finishing my Forster. When they arrive we head towards the ghetto, and a pasta restaurant that Ashley knows. When we get there is turns out there is a powercut, and we end up at a table in the corner, eating broccoli fusilli and drinking wine by candlelight, thoroughly hemmed in by Rome’s Jewish community. It is a slightly surreal experience, but the pasta and wine are good, and we make vague plans for the International Film Festival that is starting in Rome in a few days time.
Heading back through the square, Ashley tells us that the sacred area in the middle, which I had previously thought was a generic collection of Roman ruins, is actually the spot in which Julius Caesar was killed. This is fairly monumental, I think, especially since the information boards make no mention of it at all. I would’ve thought they might point it out; it’s a slightly important part of history. Ashley says she is unsure why it isn’t better known, but that the Italians in her office believe it to be common knowledge.
When she has gone back to work Laura and I head towards the Spanish Steps, passing the Trevi Fountain on the way. We are going to a cake shop that she promises is magnificent. We find it after a short sojourn in an antiquarian bookshop, and I am not let down on the cake front. Even if it is heinously expensive (ten euros for a fairly large wodge; six euros for my espresso) I would recommend that every visitor to Rome goes once. The cake (pistachio with vanilla cream) was just as good as any gelato I’ve tasted, the servings are big enough for two, your surroundings are fairly sumptuous, and you’ll be sat in one of the nicest parts of Rome, opposite the Spanish Steps and Keats’ house. It’s a nice place to go, as a one off – although I can’t guarantee that the pistachio cake won’t be luring me back. Cafe Greco, Via Dei Condotti.
Afterwards I have to head back, and I catch the metro at Spagna after leaving Laura bargaining with a stallholder over the price of the pumpkins that she needs for her Thanksgiving meal.
At London Underground stations, the ticket/ Oyster is needed at both ends of the line. In Rome, this is not the case – usually. Every time I have been on the metro the barriers have opened automatically, letting me sail straight through; consequently, in order to avoid clutching my ticket like a tourist for multiple stops, I have taken to throwing it in my bag.
This is a bad choice today, because when I get off at Vittorio Emanuele there are guards at the barriers. I have a huge shoulder bag, as well as two shopping bags. My ticket could be in any one of them; I wasn’t really paying attention. I’m pretty sure the guards could not be so bloody jobsworth and let me go – why are they checking anyway? They never have before, and how on earth would I have got on at the other end without paying? – but they don’t, and it is a good few minutes before I actually find my ticket. Annoying.
At the Bellomos Lidia and Alberto head out to parents’ evening and I occupy B&B with sticker books for a while. Bea gets to work sticking helmets and swords and chainmail in a book based on every conflict from Ancient Greece to the Second World War; Bene has Polly Pocket and Friends picking outfits for a disco, then a picnic, then a birthday party. Afterwards we make glove puppets (tiger for Bea; monkey for Bene) and Bene actually manages to sew part of the puppet herself. Hello A* in GCSE Textiles, you’ve finally made use of yourself! I feel like I may actually have imparted a skill, even if it is sewing (zero points feminism).
Anna is snapping green beans (not sure why) for dinner when Bea, who has been good all evening, decides that it would be a good idea to take a handful and throw them all over the floor. I am unsure why she does this (the same unsure as when she pushed the tortoise in the pond) because afterwards she picks them all up again and later, after we have made bracelets, she sweeps the floor without being asked.
Smurf memory game with Bene once again before dinner, and again we tie – how this has happened for a second time I have no idea.
I go down to reception after my duties are finished, and wait for a while before the internet sorts its stability out. Miguel comes and sits with me and tells me that he is working at the hotel for the rest of the season, in order to get money together to build a home recording studio in Perugia, where he is from. We then have a conversation about how sad it is that Perugia will not only ever be thought of in tragic terms, and he makes his opinion on the release of Amanda Knox and Raffaelle Sollecito very clear. Before I can discover exactly why he is so convinced of their guilt, however, he is called away by some relentlessly demanding German guests. I am left intrigued.
I am on rota on Thursday morning for Women’s Views on News, and since I am on a roll I keep writing after lunch too. Back in reception I finish my Indian Highways article, whilst blasting some 80s Manc through the BBC controller headset. A very strange debate over the situation of stray dogs in India then occurs over Facebook, with a Goenka student called Mudit. There are a lot of things that I could say about this, but since the debate is now fully over and the points have been made I won’t reignite it.
After the bizarre dog related interlude I decide that looking into the plight of stray animals in India might actually not be a bad idea, since they were so obvious when we were there. Emily very kindly sends me some links, and it doesn’t take much Googling before a wealth of information on the dog situation presents itself. Research done, and with an article structure in my head, I head up to my room. Unsure of where I will publish the article when it is written – stray Indian dogs have little to do with art (The Flaneur) or women (WVoN), my two main publishing platforms aside from my blog. However, I have been journo-ing for ten and a half hours and by half past six it is definitely time for a break, so this problem can wait. In Alphabet House, I dedicate my evening to reading my new Polaroid book, and then fall asleep early.
On Friday, something really good happens. However, I’m afraid I’ve reached over two thousand words for this particular entry, and Friday and the weekend will therefore have to wait. A lot happens! Check back soon J