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

Saturday, November 8, 2014

35—Il Raffreddore

Which would you rather have? A cold or un raffreddore? oon rah-frehd-‘dohreh—go ahead, my American friends, say it before you decide. 

Since I’ve had to choose, I’m going with un raffreddore. 

As it turns out, they’re the same. Except when you’re lying alone, entombed in an apartment in the center of a fallen empire, it’s hard not to think of the thousands of dollars you spent for the experience and then begin excavating the ruins of your tragic life. But Italia is also the land of opera, and raffreddore is way more Pucciniesque than an achy old cold.

“I need an angel,” I said out loud yesterday morning to the 15th-century wall outside my barred window. Yes, I have begun
Looking tired at the end of a climb up the mountain behind
and a trek through the once-buried town to the forum—the once
bustling market place...
imagine how it was once filled with goods and the spirt of
gods honored in the temples all around. To the right,
the names of teachers inscribed to honor them
and the profession.
talking to the wall. 
Fresh from the site where Vesuvius buried Pompeii in molten ash on August 24, 79, I’d become suddenly terrified of being lost to the world. The ruins of Pompeii were not discovered until the late 16th century. And by accident. They were looking in the wrong place—by the sea, where the city had been. But the volcanic matter had filled in the bay so that Pompeii was now inland.

Pompeiians had a warning in the form of an earthquake seventeen years before the eruption. But hey, in 79, who knew about volcanology? And what was an earthquake but an angry god.
On the other hand, even with all our advanced warning systems and self-help books, are we any better at paying attention?  

Fast food at McPompeii A.D. 79
exactly as it was buried

Russell C notwithstanding
gladiators, like others of the
time were not tall people.
Imagine, getting up one morning, heading off to the Pompeii Starbucks or McPompeiis. Yes, they had fast-food places in Pompeii. The houses were small, fire was a hazard, cooking difficult, so many people often ate out, as it were. So anyway, there you are, a regular Mad Man in the Pompeii PR business and running late for a meeting with a local politician. The guy is up for reelection and wants you to promote hims by reminding the people of all the really fun gladiatorial spectacles he’s brought them—and like how totally awesome is it to watch a guy armed with a short sword and body armor matched in a death fight against a guy with a long sword and shield.

Gladiator training field
So now you see the big man standing by the wall in the street where you plan to paint his political ad when !BAM! the mountain behind you blows its f'n top. ! WTF!

And for two days, the mountain keeps majorly barfing up this flowing fire river of rock and shit. But hey, it will never reach you. Some wimps are running. But not you. You move with the power people and have things to do. Plus you’re a Pompeiian, tough, not like those rich second-home vacationers from Rome over in Herculaneum. You’re not going to let the terrorist mountain win. Except by the time the rock fire flows into town like your god of war gone mad, you’re folly’s fried and cast in stone….

Signs were painted
right on walls

Tired of talking to myself and my huddled mass wishing to breathe free, I took my huddled mass forth to find an angel, or at the very least a pharmacy. And OMG, across from the Museum of Rome, there beside the big green cross signifying una farmacia was the name Langeli. 
(one angel: angelo, more than one: angeli)  
Inside, a kind woman: But would she have something for me without gluten. 
It’s terrifying to be afraid of your food and your medicine.

“Ah, celiaca,” she said with a tragic sigh straight from Puccini, “senza glutine…” 
Then turning to the boxes lining the shelf, she searched. ” Ah,” she said with a triumphant glimmer of Verdi, “senza glutine!”

Well, people, there are nasal decongestants and then there’s Fluimucil, una compresse effervescente. (Fleu-moo-cheel—oona cohmprehseh ehfehr-vesh-‘shenteh) Go ahead, don’t be shy, try it.

Allowing it to flow off the tongue is second only to the superior lemon tang of this round tablet resembling an Alka-Seltzer. Just watching and listening to it go all fizzy in the glass gave the promise that this lemon of a holiday may yet turn into limonata.

Just across the Tiber is the Castel Sant’Angelo where the dance scene took place in the movie Roman Holiday. That 1953 film tells the story of a princess, Audrey Hepburn, on tour in Rome. She secretly escapes the prison of her royal duties for a day on the town and by chance meets a journalist, Gregory Peck. He plans to scoop the story on the missing princess but then falls in love with her. In the end, he gives up the scoop; she, her freedom. And so they sadly part. Sometimes reality sucks.

The rooftop on the middle level 
Prior to the onset of il raffreddore, I set out to track down the apartment on Via Margutta where journalist Peck lived. Nothing looked remotely like the movie. So I wandered into what appeared to be the courtyard of an artist coop. A man came out of the contemporary art building, and I started to ask in Italia, “Do you know where the film…”
“Ah! Grehghoree Peck!” he exclaimed and then pointed upward to the balcony which I recognized at once from the movie.

My dad loved that movie. We watched it every time I visited. Once we rewound the tape and watched it again. He loved those old black and white romances. We always clapped at the happy endings. I’m not sure why we clapped for Roman Holiday. It’s sad when duty wins out over love. Perhaps it didn’t seem so in this movie, as there was both elegance and fun surrounding the difficult but heartfelt integrity of princess and journalist.

Castel Sant’Angelo was also the scene where Tosca threw herself off the parapet.
Floria Tosca—talk about molto effervescente!—was bummed out because she had given her life to art, only to be rewarded with grief and misfortune. 
But, of course, Floria was also a flawed woman whose doubt and selfie-ness withered the flowers of all she loved and believed. 

No one does tragedy like the Italians. I was born to it. Give me a parapet, and I can find a reason to jump. Bury me under hot ash, and I will cast my bones in plaster and lay myself out in a glass case for you to contemplate. Afflict me with un raffreddore, and I will hear musica in the fizz of una compresse effervescenti. 

Still, this f’n cold is really putting my American me in a bad mood, and so I'm just going to say it: What's with our government, people? There's a mountain at our back that's like Vesuvius—it's not if but when the thing is going to blow up.

No comments:

Post a Comment