Wednesday, July 29, 2009

italia, day 1


There's a man on the Leonardo Express who looks exactly like Alain Delon in Antonioni's Eclipse.

My B&B is outside the old walls, in the neighborhood of Penestrina. You pass by the African and Chinese ghettos at Vittorio Emanuele to get here. At first I thought uh-oh, what did I get myself into this time. But this neighborhood is all artists and students, sort of like the East Village, but not as crazy.

My B&B is probably one of the coolest places to stay in Rome. It's got the unappealing name of About B&B in Rome, but it makes up in decor what it lacks in creative self-christening. It's kind of like the Mercer Hotel, but with nicer people. Grey and orange stucco walls. Glass-walled bathroom. Ultra-modern features (took me forever to figure out how to use the shower). A garden and wi-fi all over the place. And orange blossom shampoo. (About B&B in Rome, via Braccio da Montone 85.)

Recommended by Erica, who owns the B&B: Necci Caffe/Ristorante (via Fanfulla Da Lodi 3/a). Quite possibly the best spaghetti di fruti di mare in the whole world (7 euros!). Lovely garden dining. Cute staff too.

Finally found my idol Bernini's tomb. Not down in the papal crypts as I suspected, but just discreetly tucked on the steps to the right of the altar. A simple slab of marble, so humble a grave for the man whose monumental genius created this city's character. Sat beside the tomb for a long time, missing Bernini for some reason.

Consoled myself with sesame-miele gelato at L'Orso Bianco, my favorite gelateria (via Carlo Alberto 7).

Did my Bernini pilgrimage. Saw the Ecstasy of Saint Theresa again. Prayed that I be blessed enough to experience that ecstasy at least once in my life. Bought a couple of Bernini books and postcards.

Off to the Vatican, where I hoped to catch vespers, but an overzealous (and over-Catholic) security guard refused to let me in because I looked like a tourist (guidebook, water bottle), even though I argued with him and asked him to give me a reason why I couldn't be allowed to hear mass. Maybe he knew I wasn't really there for the mass, but the music, which was lovely as usual. Saw the Berninis, except the monument to Pope Urban, which must be sealed off somewhere as I never seem to find it anywhere in the Vatican.

Did manage to find Cacio e Pepe again though, where I had the best carbonara in the world two years ago (via G. Avezzana, 11). The twins who served my table then are now totally grown up (as in middle-age-looking), but their sisters all look the same as they did back then. I told one of them I tried the carbonara 2 years ago and loved it and came back for it. She rushed in to tell the cook (their brother?) my story and one of the twins came back with a heaping mound of pasta for me, and a half liter of red wine. In short, got so stuffed and drunk but made the family happy when I said the carbonara was exactly as I remembered it.

Got lost looking for autobus 70 to Piazza Navona, but found my way to Castel Sant'Angelo by foot anyway, where, still drunk silly, I stood under one of Bernini's angels and wept shamelessly for so much beauty. I mean, really.

Did find my way to Piazza Navona. Too many tourists as usual, but the city's finally re-opened Bernini's fountain, which I haven't seen in over a decade.

Idea for my Bernini novel shaping up.

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