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Thursday 10 September

Tuesday was the day I finally went to Rome; sore throat and stuff, but at least I didn't turn off the alarm clock. 7:30 — the trains seem this year all to be running nicely again like in '94: and last year I'd heard rumors that there was an ongoing slowdown — and I suddenly realized I'd forgot to pack both my map and my book on the walls.

I started heading down the v. Giolitti to the Pta. Maggiore anyway, with the idea of turning S towards the Castrense then I just didn't, I had a feeling I shouldn't, so I turned around and had breakfast at McDonald's of all places, mostly out of curiosity. Well, the place was clean and air-conditioned and could have been anywhere in the States (except for some Italian, and beer on the menuboard). On the other hand, having ordered Il Big Breakfast, I waited 14 minutes. . . they looked very disorganized. . . . 7400 lire.

From there to the piazza Esquilina — no idea why I like that messy little square so much — and had an unidentifiable panino (mayonnaise, tomatoes, something else) and a cold coffee — instant service, 8000 lire —

Down the street (up, actually, then down) to the Palazzo Barberini. After all these years, I finally said what the heck and went in. 8000 lire. Huge frescoed ceiling by Pietro da Cortona, rather beauti­ful from the standpoint of color and forms, but the most ghastly piece of kitsch the instant you look at the subject matter. Tormented angels proffering gigantic keys; golden bees — gotta remember who we're glorifying here — six feet long; drunken Silene and cavorting nymphettes supposedly illustrating the triumph of temperance and chastity; a terrific hotchpotch of subjects, and trompe-l'oeil sculpture (actually grisaille painting) holding up the corners. . ..

In the museum, basically level 2 or 3 stuff, with a coupla exceptions. Among the exceptions, a painting the title of which I instantly recognised, but I definitely didn't like it: Raphael's La Fornarina — an unpleasantly cold portrait, really nasty. I did like a St. Jerome by Tintoretto, and the famous portrait of Erasmus by Quentin Matsys; also a small portrait of an adolescent wearing a turban, tucked away in a corner, by Guido Reni; a coupla other Reni's left me quite cold though.

Picking up my skatebag again at the little checkroom, I was surprised to hear the old man in charge proposition me with a private visit of some antiquities he knew of. . . I got out of this unpleasant suggestion by saying I was only in Rome for a day (which of course was true) — Don't know what that was about, but didn't like it.

Down the v. del Tritone, knowing I was heading downtown but not remembering quite where I'd wind up; found myself at the p.zza Colonna, so did almost 360° around the Column shooting pix: the W side will have to wait for some other time, late afternoon so I won't have the sun in the lens.

From there to the Pantheon: this time I got the essential pictures — typically, I found myself fascinated by the doors, the hinges, etc. . . . The usual zoo in there, as in the piazza, and in fact something about the piazza del Pantheon must bring out the eccentric in me as well — I promptly sat myself down at the same ristorante-pasticceria as last time, and, remembering that the meals are indifferent there but the pastry very good, ordered six pastries and a coffee. No point in being virtuous to feed myself a poor meal. The pastries were excellent; in order: a vantaglio, a little tartlet of strawberry kiwi and melon on crème pâtissière, a slice of apricot jam tart, a torta ai pinoli on custard, a large blob of mimosa (really excellent) and finally their version of tiramisú, quite good but not really legit . . . I was sworn up and down a decent grappa, but I might as well have swilled down a Julia — some acetone from Segni . . .

[image ALT: A city square with a large fountain in the center, on the steps of which several dozen people are sitting. It is the Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon in Rome.]

The Piazza della Rotonda in front of the Pantheon, with gathering rain.

Did a 360° of the Largo Argentina; actually a bit more because it was drizzling then cleared up. Absolutely can't resist animal shots — all those cats — V. delle Botteghe Oscure (with a tempio oscuro at the corner of the v. Celsa) to the Campidoglio; the S half of the tip of the stairs under wraps including Mile I of the Appia; took a shot or two of Mile VII; checked — yes — that photography is permitted of stones and inscriptions still (but no flash of paintings; that's fine, that's not what I'm interested in).

[image ALT: The ruins of a circular temple about 8 meters in diameter, showing six grooved columns around part of the periphery. The temple is in a rather messy landscape of other ruins and pine trees, in a block-sized oblong pit about 4 meters below the level of the surrounding city. It is the Area Sacra Repubblicana of the Largo Argentina, in Rome.]

Largo della Torre Argentina: in the foreground, Temple B seen from the rear.

3:30 past: prudence dictated a cab to Termini to catch my 4:06 train, and moved into skate mode. On the train first, though, I learned — finally — from a woman who lives there, that that stink is from at S. Maria delle Mole: a natural spring of sulfureous water; here I'd been thinking all this time there was a paper factory or some particularly obnoxious dump.

At the rink in essence I decided not to go to Spain this year: it's just too expensive. It'd probably cost about $3500 over what I'll be spending here (transportation; hotels instead of rental lodgings). Pretty disappointed, but it's completely unreasonable. Anyhow, I bought a monthly pass thru Oct. 8th.

A crowded rink full of people who don't know how to skate is no place to work on jumps and stuff; although (a) the level of the recreational skaters at Marino seems to have improved since last year, and (b) the rules seem to have changed: safe jumping and spirals seem to be allowed now? Anyway, I did a few waltz jumps and a very timid salchow — there really were too many people on the ice to do anything I'm not totally sure of — but mostly concentrated on getting my edges and control back. I think it's time to set some goals — waltz, salchow, and full control of all 4 edges and both crossovers. My basic spin needs work, too — on the other hand, much to my surprise, my flexibility is back without pain in the hip joint: which is really nice. Anyway, it was the least unhappy and introspective skate I've had in years, since the catastrophe: it just might be possible to get somewhere this time.

The train schedules seem to have changed, so that the Velletri train after the session doesn't connect with anything to Foligno; so now I might as well sit at the rink well past 7 — and I don't get back to Spello station 'til 2324h, i.e., home at about 2345. Add to that the heat of Rome plus carrying around my skatebag and camera bag (and sometimes books, like this time), followed by vigorous skating in a warm rink. . . . and I'm unpleasantly sweaty; no solution in sight, there seem to be no showers at the rink.

Anyway, that was Tuesday.

[image ALT: Two cats poking about in the grass around several large marble blocks from Antiquity: view from about 3 meters above. It is a typical scene at the Largo Argentina, in Rome.]

Cats in the Largo Argentina. A bird's-eye view, so to speak.

Yesterday Wednesday is easy to report. I got up late, ate a bit, washed eight socks, and slept for 3½ hours again: that damn sore throat still, etc. Dinner at the Pinturicchio: coratella, a risotto al radicchio, filetto al pepe verde, patate al tartufo (a touch of olive oil and rugola — excellent mix), a tangerine sherbet; prime uve bottled in Treviso, less good than the Demanis of the other night.

Tried to reach James several times last night (as again tonight) but the switchboard here keeps on refusing to give me a line, just goes fast beep-beep-beep-beep —

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Page updated: 23 Feb 22