Rome has steps. Everywhere. A lot of steps. (Yes, I can confirm for Mrs. Reeves, my sophomore English teacher, that I know a “lot” is a field and not “many” but I like the way “a lot of steps” sounds.)
So begins this edition of “Observations from the Road” (or “The Pedometer is Getting a Workout” edition). For those who may be new to More to Come…, the “Observations from…” series are short – often meaningless – comments that don’t deserve a full blog post (or perhaps even the light of day) but that hasn’t stopped me from posting them in the past. So here goes with the current edition.
I’m going to break the pedometer – Everyone who has been to Rome told us that we’d walk a great deal…but I guess I didn’t really believe it until we arrived and started walking. And believe me, I love to walk. Rome is a wonderful city to see from the sidewalk (or the middle of the street, where a great deal of walking appears to take place). I can’t say the same for the few cab rides we’ve taken. In the course of our first ten days here, we have been on guided walks (more on that in a minute), purposeful walks (usually to find the next gelato stand, truth be told), a couple of exercise walks (although that seems to be unnecessary), and many others. Two quick observations. First, there isn’t a soft surface in the entire city (which is hard on 60-year-old knees). Second, there are more steps than pigeons. Today’s count – which wasn’t exceptionally extensive: 22 flights of stairs. And we still have 4-5 more to face, as we’re on a third-floor walk-up. The picture at the top of the post shows Claire about half-way up the main staircase from the neighborhood directly below the Academy to our apartment. Short of a cab ride, that’s the only way to get home.
The only thing that will keep me from losing 10 pounds while I’m here is the food and drink – Yes, we walk a great deal. But I’ve also become very fond of the local vino and food. Perhaps I was meant to be Italian instead of a white Anglo-Saxon Southern protestant! In terms of wine, I tend to order “whatever you recommend to go with this meal” and I haven’t been disappointed yet.
Invite a family member to visit you if you want to check off the bucket list items in short order – We have found in Washington that when friends and relatives visit, we tend to take them to places that we would like to see “at some point” but have never actually made the visit. You know, like the Washington Monument. So when Claire came to Rome for a week, we found that the same dynamic was in action.
Want to go to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel? Check!
Ensure that you’ve seen Michelangelo’s Pietà in St. Peter’s Basilica – not to mention the Basilica itself? Check and check!
Colosseum? Check, check, and check!
And that combination of landmark and pop culture, Trevi Fountain? Check, check, check, and check! (Three checks are for the three coins and the fourth is for good luck, I suppose.)
You cannot get enough of the Pantheon – This will, no doubt, come as no surprise to long-time readers, but I think the Pantheon is an incredible space. In the first ten days in Rome, I’ve visited the Pantheon twice…and expect to go back about once per week for the rest of the time we’re here. Now that I’ve seen this architectural icon twice in the sunshine, I want to go back on a rainy day and watch the light and rain interact inside the building. I want to see it in the morning. At noon day. In the early evening. Our friend Rod indicated that it could be addictive, and I suspect he is right.
It pays to walk with some very smart people – I’ll end where I began…with walking. Every Friday the American Academy has a guided walk for fellows and fellow travelers. We made the first one last Friday, focused on the national churches of Rome, we are signed up for tomorrow’s walk, and we intend to try to catch every one for the next five weeks. Tying in with the historical and current issues around immigration, our guides last Friday led us to nine different national churches in Rome. We saw terrific art – such as the oil paintings by Caravaggio dedicated to St. Matthew in San Luigi Dei Francesi (St. Louis of the French). Some of the architecture was excellent. I had a chance to view preservation in action in the city. And all of the conversation – including a continuing conversation over dinner that evening about whether national churches in the Catholic context even constituted immigration – was stimulating and thoughtful.
That’s it for now. In the meantime, I’ll keep you posted on the health of my pedometer.
More to come…