From the hell of Fiumicino Airport, an official looking chauffeur took us on a mid afternoon drive past the Forum, Trajan’s Column and the Colosseo and deposited us, bang on cocktail time, at the Hassler, atop the Spanish steps. The Varnished Culture knew from the H.H Kirst novel* that we were due a treat and so it proved. The hotel guests were just as exotic: Japanese in fluorescent sports gear, dancing a jig; a rich Italian with a blond 2/3rds his age; an odd couple feted by the staff; a short, plump American with dead, gold hair, accompanied by his Tadzio, a handsome Italian youth…”Death in Rome”? [*Nights of the Long Knives]
Descending the Spanish steps, we spy a man dressed as a centurion, on the mobile phone…We spring about in the Spring air.
We visit Keats and Shelley next to the Piazza d Spagna. P contracts a kind of Munchausen TB as a result. “Forget, in the mist of idle misery, Life’s purposes,-the palate of my mind Losing its gust, and my ambition blind!”
We pass the Castel S. Angelo and wave to the Emperor Hadrian.
We march about, my proof of Tranquility under the arm.
We wend along Via del Corso; visit Basilica dei Ambroglio E Carlo; light candles at San Giacomo Chiesa Di Gesu E Maria; see St Anthony’s sarcophagus; S. Maria del Popolo; Palazzo Barberini; the Church of Trinite dei Monti.
We gaze at Marcus Aurelius. We note that the painting of Innocent X by Velázquez is a dead ringer for Gene Hackman.
We stroll about the hills of Rome.
To Isola Tiberina amid the River.
The steles of Rome (such as the obelisk in the Piazzo del Popolo) are antique loot, once used to mark the races at Circus Maximus.
We walk the banks of the Tiber, foamless and bloodless, and eat in the Piazza S.Lorenzo.
Ice cream in Piazza Navona where Lesley declares the work of Bernini mediocre beyond belief (she’s a hard audience).
At the Pantheon, we venerate Raphael’s tomb and admire the extant paintings.
Saints preserve us, we toss coins into Fontana di Trevi….
We avoided the recent 16-month, $3m clean-up of Trevi, almost slipping with our coins in the pool.
When in Rome, make the time to visit the little country within it, the Vatican.
Some of its art, such as the Sistine and the Laocoon, is priceless.
Or Raphael’s School of Athens. On the other hand, the verdict is out on the pine cone:
But the Halls of Statues, of Tapestries, and of Maps, were nice: