Last night I was awakened twice, first by boisterous, drunken group singing and second by a flock of seagulls (the birds, not the synth-heavy, hairspray-happy 80s band). The seagulls here sound like small children screaming through throats full of mucus, so that was fun. But when I slept, I dreamt of making out with circa-1991 Jason Priestley*. So it evened out.
*Don’t worry, I’m sure he was just you in disguise.
Love, UnaI arrived in Rome on Thursday morning after a long flight, and managed to buy a ticket and get myself to the Stazione Trastevere to meet Momma C. She brought me back to her apartment, on a cute little street in the heart of Trastevere (literally, “across the river”), which is not just a clever name as it’s across the river from the old city of Rome where all the ruins are. We ate gnocchi for lunch since, apparently, all Romans eat gnocchi on Thursdays. We took the "when in Rome" thing super seriously, which meant we also ordered a half-liter of red wine (actually, mom says that Romans don't drink that much, but shit, we were on vacation).
Mom's street in Rome -- maximum quaintness!
I was so busy before I left that I barely thought about the fact that I would be in a foreign country among people who speak a different language. As a result, my Mom talked to everyone - vendors, shopkeepers, people on the street - and I generally stood there, nodding dumbly, her mute, slightly stricken-looking companion, like Beaker from Sesame Street. People might have thought I was simple, but at least I was polite - I said hello, thank you, and, occasionally, “yes.” Mom even gave me a piece of paper with her name, address, and phone number on it to keep in my wallet if I got lost, but at least she didn’t make me wear it pinned to my chest.
Jeff lent me his SLR for the trip, which I used to take portraits of myself looking like a paparazzo.
Normal days went like so: We'd get up, drink rich, delicious espresso brewed in a little double-boiler pot on the stove, shower (which I'll get to in a moment, as it deserves special mention), and head to the Piazza del Campidoglio's open-air market to pick up fruits, vegetables, and flowers if we were feeling whimsical. Then we'd stop at the forno (literally, "the oven," a generic term for any shop selling oven-baked bread, pizza, and the like) and get squares of pizza wrapped in oily wax paper, which we'd eat as a late breakfast. We'd spend the afternoon walking around, seeing sights and stopping occasionally for cappuccino or wine, and then head home, stopping to pick up fresh pasta and prosciutto, which we'd eat (with more wine) up on the terrace. It was a rough life.
P.S. Behold the aforementioned “shower”:
No, MTV, this is what happens when things stop being polite and start getting real.
That there is a shower head over a sink and toilet in a room the size of an airplane bathroom (with a wooden - and not waterproof - door). It requires both flexibility and creativity, and it’s hard to un-learn behaviors like “don’t spray water all over the toilet like you're inside a one-woman naked car wash.”
Artsy photo interlude!
On Saturday we took a Eurostar to Florence. Momma C. lived in Florence for a year in 1972 while on a Fulbright scholarship for painting, so it's a special place for her. We stayed in the Palazzo Guadagni Hotel in the Piazza Santo Spirito, which dates back to 1505! Our room had 20-foot ceilings and a grand fireplace. The street door downstairs was huge and opens automatically but verrrry slowly. (Not a place to duck inside if you are being chased.)
The church in the Piazza Santo Spirito, where we stayed in Florence. It also kind of looks like Teresa's house from Real Housewives of New Jersey.
Ok, so are you ready to have your minds blown? Krista, one of the employees at the Palazzo Guadagni, READS THIS BLOG. On our first night, she was at the front desk, and she was all, "Can I ask where you're from?" And I was jet-lagged and kind of drunk, and all but slurred "New York," and she goes, "Because I read your blog, and I thought you were going to Rome." I have never been recognized by a reader before, and the fact that this happened in Italy made it all the more surreal. Seriously, what are the odds? Krista is an American, from California, but snagged herself a Florentine husband and so now lives there full time. She was lovely, and I'm not just saying that because she made me feel, if only for a moment, like a celebrity. Girl, I'm sorry you got peed on by a homeless person (see above note about that slow-moving door).
In Florence, we went to museums (saw the David, Boticelli's Venus, and lots of baby Jesuses... or Jesi*), took the bus up to Fiesole, the hillside town where Momma C. lived in '72, and ate dinner at Club Paradiso (sadly, not the Club Paradise run by Peter O'Toole), a restaurant owned by mom's old friend Andrea and his wife Manuela. Mom says she met Andrea when he showed up at her door in Fiesole along with another Italian, Roberto, and an American woman also named Ellen. She claims that they showed up for no reason, but that she let them in anyway. This, apparently, is how my mom made friends in the 1970s. She also, I learned, hitchhiked across France in 1966 with two Norwegians and yet another Ellen. I need to get my mom into StoryCorps with a bottle of wine.
*You can only see so many Madonna and Child paintings before you have to start giving them nicknames to differentiate. At the Uffizi Gallery alone I saw Baby Jesus With a Spray Tan, Baby Jesus With Down Syndrome, and a Mary who looked like Mr. Bean wrapped in a Slanket.
Hey, did you know that in addition to his slingshot skills, David owns and operates a leather factory?
Little-known fact: He also celebrated his victory over Goliath with some hits of amyl nitrite.
Or that the famous Hotel California that the Eagles made such a big deal about is actually in Italy?
The paper sign calls into question the four-star rating.
On Sunday, in between museums, mom and I made sure to stop at the statue of the boar in the Mercato Nuovo. People rub the boar's snout for luck, and I wanted to recreate a photo of myself (doing just that) from 1982.
God, I've gained so much weight.
The boar remained, as ever, unmoved by my pilgrimage.
Then, on Monday, before we left Florence, I climbed up to the top of the Duomo... which involved inching sardine-like in a pack of tourists through comically small stone passageways, including a final ascent that recalled The Princess Bride's Cliffs of Insanity:
Momma C. and I then made our way back to Rome, where we spent the final days of my stay eating incredible amounts of cheese and bread and watching the Chilean miners get rescued on BBC World News.
It was pretty great.
I was sad to leave, but I missed Jeff somethin' terrible, so there was a bright spot as I boarded my 9 1/2 hour flight back to JFK. En route, unable to sleep, I watched four full-length movies. Delta's selection was limited, but luckily being on an airplane gives me entertainment beer goggles, so I was able to sit back, relax, and watch Death At A Funeral, Grownups, Just Wright, and Valentine's Day without shame*.
*Okay, actually, I am ashamed about Valentine's Day. But it was either that or The Bounty Hunter, and I just couldn't bring myself to look directly at Jennifer Aniston's melty plastic surgery nose for that long.