Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Probably not the first person to write about this.

The most distressing part of my job is waking at 6am every morning. More calamitous still is that my body, even when on holidays, chooses to stir at the very same hour. I tossed and turned in my comfortable bed for about ten minutes until giving in to the fact that I was not going to get a sleep in. My body wouldn't allow it.

A lot of old things without much town planning.

Showered, shampoo-ed and shaved I went downstairs to my Internet-booked hotel marble lobby where breakfast awaited me. Italians need sugar for breakfast like a smack addict craves heroin. After a couple of fresh doughy puffed donut-shaped things and three caffe lattes, I was high and pumped on a sugar fix that made me feel strangely energetic yet aggressive and belligerent at the same time. I was ready to conquer the Forum.

Looking across the lower level of the Vittorio Emanuele memorial to Trajan's Column.

I retraced my steps from the previous day and worked my way over to Trajan's Market and more history that any one soul can inhale in a single breath. The vista of the Fori Imperiali from the wide main thoroughfare is one of the most dazzling steps back into our humanity's past. The Forum was once the centre of political, judicial and commercial life in the largest city of the most powerful empire the world had known. What remains still commands my respect; what must have been is beyond my imagination. However, clearly not beyond that of a number of erudite archaeologists and historians who together with some clever publishers have put together one of those smart little tourist publications to present a then-and-now portrait of the Eternal City. I browsed through the book stands for a while, eventually deciding that it was indeed foolish to waste further time perusing when the ruins actually it stood before me. I just lack imagination, and that, no money can buy.

Either Castor or Pollux gracing the entrance to the Piazza Senatorio.

I picked up the pace and raced about. The temple of Saturn aside that dedicated to Castor and Pollux, buildings raised and then fallen to the worship of Gods long discredited (see, it happens to all of them sooner or later). Rome's beauty is bewildering. I wandered about trying to reach what I considered would be the best vantage points for photographs, somehow ending up in front of the country's foremost monument to an over-sized ego - the massive white colossus to Vittorio Emanuele that backs onto the Campidoglio. And adfter climbing the stairway I admired both sides of the Piazza Senatorio structures designed by Michelangelo. Impressive.

Looking west from the Campidoglio.

I got waylaid while heading for the Vatican and ended up in across the Tiber in Trastevere, though I did manage to visit the fab Santa Maria in Cosmedin before completely losing my way. In Australia my hometown was at one time considered the City of Churches but that is one Hell of a misnomer. More truthfully it's home to the mullet people who like cars even if other cities might also fight for such an honorific title. After admiring a mosaic floor that was about a millenium older than any structure at home, my stomach cried out for foccacia.

God, Italian food is scrumptious. Even the take-away version is spectacular in comparison to what I suffer in Istanbul. Don't get me wrong, it's just that after two years I have no desire to fill my belly ever again with döner or dürüm. Sated with Parmesan and prosciutto, I moved progressively into shabbier picaresque neighbourhoods, decrepit buildings the colour of rich ochre ever so patiently awaiting renovation. Unlike Sydney, it'll be some time before the chrome and pine wood craze materialises here.

After gaining two kilograms from a single Italian breakfast. I resolved to diet immediately. The temple of Vespasian and Arch of Septimus Severus are in the background.

At some stage in the afternoon the river re-appeared. I crossed it and spent the rest of the afternoon in near-postcard-perfecto Rome. Campo di' Fiori, the Fontana di Trevi and the Piazza Navona, where Bernini's masterpiece stood unhappy, shrouded in scaffolding while encircled by a market hawking every Christmas stocking stuffer that 10 Euro could buy. While I was desperate to grab a Pope Benedict dartboard, as luck would have no-one would change a 100 Euro note, which is strange in a city where everything costs more than that. I settled for some chocolate for friends at home but unfortunately had consumed it before exiting the square.

The bell tower of Santa Maria in Cosmedin and the Temple of Hercules.

Intoxicated from history and European glamour, I did what I always do when visiting another city; looked for work. Born without the right to a European passport was once the bane of my existence. I think differently now, but for many years it was my sole focus and a debilitating chip on my shoulder. Yet again I was turned away from the reception of a reputable Roman English teaching school for mot having the correct working papers. These days I don't worry so much. Istanbul remains, 9 days out of 10, where I want to be. It would be just be pleasant to have some options from time to time. But I no longer wish for Europe to cave in on itself. Well, not that frequently.

And so my day ended. My feet very sore. I felt elated. I was asleep in the hotel by 10pm. Ready to awake for sugar at 6am.

Fontana di Trevi.

No comments: