Apr 2, 2006

ROME, Italy – The Eternal City is all a glorious jumble, a sensory glut. Yet the chaos somehow charms, where, say, Athens' bruises. I suspect the underlying whimsy here softens the blow.

For example, Ailish – my visiting student – and I were trapped in Volpetti (a renowned deli), being force-fed cheese and amateur philosophy: "Women, what would the world be like without women and good pecorino?"

Nearly an hour of our lives eclipsed, as Claudio waxed rhapsodic about drunken caciocavallo (the bulbous cheese that resembles a summer squash). But I wouldn't trade that for any amount of efficiency. Not today, anyway.

Though only quarter-Italian, I realize my pace is theirs: lounging –  preferably done in bella figura (good style) –  followed by brief bursts of industry and innovation. Unless bullied by power, poverty or conscience, I would probably drowse on a sun-soaked balcony, fine-tuning the odd sentence, until the fat pony sings.

Because the statue crowning Rome's core, the Campidoglio, will warble, according to Eleanor Clark in the superb and shiftless 1950s travelogue Rome and a Villa.

The crag – overlaid with chic Michelangelo architecture – revolves around “Marcus Aurelius on his famous plump-bellied bronze horse, whose forelock was going to sing to announce the end of the world and may still."

I live in hope. As do we all.

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