NOTE TO READERS: The Rome 2014 trip begins with post #30. Posts #10—29 were Rome 2013. Posts 1–9 were Florence 2011. If you'd like to be notified of new postings by email, let me know at

Sunday, April 7, 2013


This will be the last posting from Rome...this trip, anyway.
I threw my coin in the Trevi Fountain with the hope of return.

One final note to my friends in Netarts who feed the gull with the gnarled foot. You all know him by different names, my favorite being Chester. Anyhow, his pigeon cousin over here in Piazza Navona is probably the most well fed bird in the piazza. LIke Chester, he seems to have learned how to evoke sympathy of tourists.

It was warm this afternoon, so I opened my window. I love the sound of Rome in the streets...the language, the cars fitting their way through the narrow streets, the arguments, the enthusiasm for absolutely nothing, and always under it all the lovely symphony of life as expressed through the Italian language.

Passeggiata is a term I've mentioned evening stroll, slow with no particular plan in mind, except perhaps to show off a new romance or a new outfit. Italians always dress up for the passeggiata, whatever dressing up may mean to them. It's a stylin' time. And everyone wears a scarf, men and women. At some point, food and drink are likely to be involved. But there's no fast food here, at least that's evident. In Italian, the kind of slow we're talking about here is piano, piano...the word is repeated. Very slow, as in musical instruction. Passeggiata is not only an evening ritual, but as I see it, a state of mind. Tranquillo.

Perhaps the closest we come in the American culture to passeggiata would be "living in the now." But really, that's not passeggiata because those who are working to live in the now are trying. As Yoda said, one mustn't try; one must do. How do you do Passeggiata? Even the question is ridiculous. The point is you do passeggiata without doing. So is it Zen? No, Zen is a spare, often ironic non activity to empty the mind. I can't imagine an Italian sitting still with an empty mind.

I don't mean to suggest that all Italians are brilliant. Passeggiata has nothing to do with being smart or not smart. Sitting in front of my gluten-free pizza place sipping vino and watching the passeggiata, I see all sorts of Italians, no stereotyping...except as I've said they're all dressed up, whatever dressed up means to each individual, and the scarves, always the scarves. It's the piano, piano that makes the passeggiata. You can spot Americans like me. We're not dressed up and even though we may think we're strolling, we're not piano, piano.

First of all, it's not said piano like the American musical instrument. It's pronounced in a flow...peeahnoh...and gently...and not just spoken on the go but spoken as one physically slows to a stop and gestures downward with the hands, as if telling someone to take it easy. peeahnoh, peeahnoh.

And anyway, where did all those chariot races get those ancient Romans. Just have a look at the Circus Maximus, and imagine those horses and chariots tearing around the long oval track in the heyday of that arena.

Have you noticed that sports arenas tend to fall into ruins. Winners and losers come and go. Even the games change and are forgotten. But the streets remain open, quietly reinventing themselves as piano piano, the human race inches its way forward through the centuries.

To understand passeggiata, you must really believe in the stroll and allow it to take you where it will. Women walk arm in arm. I've seen boys and fathers holding hands. And of course couples pause here and there for the kiss, the caress. It's a gentle time. A sweet time. The night is brimming with friendship. The streets are full of food, as nearly every other establishment is a bar or restaurant. The food is beautiful. The world is lit up. It's as if you're witnessing a world that has been relieved of the anguish of suffering as part of the human condition.

Passeggiata is not what I would call festive. There are festas, or festivals. That's not passeggiata. As I watch passeggiata, I see life moving sweetly, slowly, beautifully against buildings that are old and peeling, their walls buckling outward, worn and stained with the ages. Passeggiata both defies and transcends time, except that isn't entirely correct because both defy and transcend transitive verbs. There is no direct object with passeggiata, only strolling.

Passeggiata is a slow movement of people who come out of their homes to walk about town. Oh, they've got their TVs, their passion for sports, their jobs, their petty annoyances. And don't get me wrong, passeggiata is not just for the pure of heart. Passeggiata provides a great opportunity for gossip.

There's no workbook available to guide the harried American on how to slow down to a stroll, no formula for getting passeggiata right so that you can enjoy the moment. If you're having a conscious moment, it's not passeggiata.

I don't think I'll ever be a stroller who will enjoy spending long slow hours over food late into the evening. I don't like dressing up, especially in the high-heeled shoes that Italian women like to show off. I wear a scarf only when it's cold.

But I do get piano piano....peeahnoh peeahnoh...I typed that slowly, pausing for a moment with my hands over the keyboard, and saying the words in Italian, saying them slowly, savoring the tranquility of the sound. In fact, I think I can say that passeggiata might describe the new way of writing I have discovered here...strolling, letting the stroll take me where it will. I sure do enjoy looking around and am always eager for a chance to gossip. But mostly, words are like food, not fast food but slow food with its savory tastes and fragrances, beautiful food, the embodiment of sun, earth, and rain opening and nurturing the seed...words the color of wine, full of the grape and the vine...words like the sound of that real pizza crust, both crunchy and chewy at once...words pulsing with the perseverance of a heart in defiance of time, making their way through the ruins breathing air full of the whispers of history, turning those whispers into the language of whatever the moment brings to mind....

I thought I was going to learn huge important things during my stay here. Maybe I did, maybe I didn't. I will say that on my final stroll, I bought myself a bracelet that I'm now wearing. It's a simple narrow strap with a snap created by a happy man made happy by making these bracelets with scores of Italian sayings. He also seems to take great pleasure in matching people to his bracelets. I held several up to my arm before this one. However, the moment I lay this one across my wrist, he reached over, snapped it on, and that was that: a bracelet, along with my mind read and my fortune told, a mere 8 €.

Il mio braccialetto dice:
"La cosa piu' bella? Avere un cuore grande e saperlo donare con semplicita'."

Or, as the bracelet would say in English:
The most beautiful thing? To have a big heart and to know how to give it with simplicity....

So then, dear friends, it's ciao for now from the Eternal City. If Delta Air does what its flight plan promises, I should be home with my cats for dinner on Monday. It breaks my heart to leave Rome, but it's time to go home. And oh, by the way, if you find some discrepancies in my blog numbering system, just tell yourself it could have been a lot worse if I'd used Roman numerals.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

1 comment:

  1. Joan, this is Brent and Dodie's daughter Ashley. I received your precious gifts from Rome today and am beyond shocked at your thoughtfulness. Thank you so very very much. It's evident that you are a very beautiful person to go out of your way to do something so kind, knowing what a treasure these items would be to me. Words cannot describe how blessed I feel by your kindness. I see that you had a wonderful trip, what great experiences! Thank you Joan