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

Friday, November 14, 2014

40—Walkabout Rome with Cutuli the Unruli

Welcome, groovy ones, to our Walkabout Rome.
My name is Cutuli the Unruli, and I'll be your guide.

On this Walkabout Rome, we skip the big things. So our day is especially geared for those who are travel weary and tired of paying a bunch of euros to see a lot of stuff that's falling apart.

We begin with that one and only mood setter for an unruli Walkabout: gelato. So here we are in the heart of Rome in Piazza Navona at the Tre Scalini gelato counter.

I like to start with cioccolato (rich and dark, although the one with hazelnut chips is fabuloso) and amarena (black cherry). The little cup is paper, and you get a tiny plastic spoon. Then you go out into the pizza to savor the experience. And people, do not think gelato is ice cream. Gelato is grace that is beyond amazing, remission from repentance, an invitation to believe in the glory of sensory experience beyond thought, reason, or cholesterol. Of course a cone is good. But a cup is better because the tiny spoon keeps you from behaving rashly with your tongue in public.

And do not people watch while eating gelato. Unless of course, you want to learn what those long thin poles are that hucksters are selling in every piazza. When the ideal selfie is beyond reach, do not believe it.

Do not look at the Bernini fountain and marvel at the power of the gods. You have all that the gods ever had right in your little cup. Besides, you will miss the pigeons watching the tourists from the leg of the river god.

Do look up at the far end of Piazza Navona to the rooftop of the apartment building—the setting for one part of the three-part film starring Sophia and Marcello: Ieri, Oggi, Domani...Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

So now enlivened by Spirit of Gelato, we leave the piazza, reminded by this sign outside a restaurant to be respectful of others and lower your voice. For us, it's not about lowering the voice but about walking about quietly. Looking for the unexpected moment not in the tour books.

Like this weird guy just sitting there watching the traffic go by.

And by the way selfies are good if you want to meet other people who are also walking about quietly. Foks like Shanti and Devi from Indonesia are always on hand to ask if you'd like them to take your picture. It's much more personable than a thin metal rod and is also free and fun!

And by the way, you will be happy to know that with their new president, Devi and Shanti are sure things will be looking up in Indonesia.

Speaking of politics, we may be on vacation. But things everywhere are not looking up. And you can take your stand if only by talking to those in one of the manifestazioni around town. Top on the Unruli list might be the Ukranians outside the Pantheon—a venerable building commissioned by Marcus Agrippa and spruced up by Hadrian. But what is history if we don't want it to repeat itself. History has been but is also being made. And it takes so little time to stand for a few minutes with those you support and wish them Buona Fortuna.

And we might also pause with the teachers protesting staff reductions and larger class sizes. Do not be discouraged if language seems like a barrier to communion of beliefs. There are cell phones that do instant translations. So sit a while, be with your cause, and know you are not alone.

Per Educare
For education
is fundamental. Yes, go ahead, take a peek at the ruins.
But aside from vacation.

Don't you like the word manifestation better than protest? For is our cause not something we wish to manifest.

For the unruli, such expression often comes through the arts.

But while great art is, well, great, there's also the art that is an expression of the human soul that does not reside in a museum. Take this chalk art on a sidewalk. Just there. No artist. No hat asking for money. And when the rain comes again, it will be gone.

Writing off to the side is difficult to translate as grammar books haven't really prepared us for the language of the people. But we know enough to understand someone is concerned about the autumn of our minds and the need for art in a troubled world.

And as we continue our walkabout, we come upon Encino, the artist of the leather bracelet. He comes every day to the same spot with his little cart that opens up into a display. The bracelets have sayings burned into the leather. When you find one with just the right messagio for you, Encino laughs with glee and delight in his creation.

Last year's bracelet messages for me:
La cosa più bella? Avere un cuore grande e saperlo donare con semplicità
The most beautiful thing? To have a great heart and to know how to give it with simplicity

Il più grande sbaglio nella vita è quello di ave' sempre paura di sbagliare
The biggest mistake in life is to always be afraid of making mistakes

This year's:
Non importa quanto piano cammini...importante è non fermarti...
It's not important how slowly you's important that you do not stop...

Good advice, even for the faceless guy with bobbing hat and sunglasses who shows up here and there, hoping for a coin and offering you a chair for a picture. I call him Street Magritte.

As we come toward the end of our walk, we begin to find that the answers, the meanings we seek are not in what we think we're looking for but in the unexpected. Those grand adventures are also often expensive and require of us inordinate energies of attention, time, and health.

Mystery unfolds in the small gesture of being present. Not "in the moment" as the cliché would have us believe. Although that is a skill that makes life more possible and certainly easier than trying to do and be all.

Perhaps life's mysteries are not mysteries at all. Pehaps we only need to have the will and openness to be patient. To wait.
Remember the guy sitting in thin air? Well, wait long enough and keep walking about, and you will learn how it's done and know that under the darkness is just a guy coming down from his chair.

Yes, walking patiently and unafraid, you will find music in lonely and narrow streets.

And at the end of your Walkabout, you will taste the colors of the vine and earth.

They will nourish you with all the wisdom of the unruli you will need for walking fearlessly among the ruins, for transcending cliché and empire.

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