Thursday, October 7, 2010

Welcome to Rome

6 am. Rome, Italy.

I don't know when the sun is coming up. Back home, I would know exactly. I would have checked the weather, and would know whether to expect clouds. If the sun could get through them, the sunrise would be a minute or two later than it was yesterday. But I wasn't here for the sunrise yesterday.

I hear birds overhead. The buildings are not tall -- usually just four or five stories -- but I cannot see the flock as I listen to them pass. They are sea birds, but I do not recognize their cry. It is strange ... foreign.

Most of the streets are cobblestones, with rare patches of asphalt. You have to watch your step. They are fairly clean, however, and few are missing.

As I walk, at first I look in storefronts. Most of it is clothing, very expensive and stylish. We didn't see many people wearing this kind of thing yesterday as we walked around in the afternoon. Then, it was families enjoying pleasant weather, playing in parks and attending a festival for the handicapped. Tourists taking pictures ... like us.

In the morning, cities like this change. If you're out before dawn on Monday, you're probably on your way to work, or maybe already at work. Shop keepers are unlocking doors. Workmen are unloading equipment. Delivery trucks whiz by. The stage is being set for a workday to begin.

The sky is now a lighter dark. I think there are small clouds. They don't look like the kind that will give us any trouble later, as we go about the city being tourists again, gawking and smiling and taking pictures and paying fees to exhibitions that we will barely remember.

Looking up at the sky, I notice the upper floors of these shops and realize that this is the interesting part of this world. The storefronts are uniformly glass and bright, with skinny slate androgynous mannicans and womannicans draped in dark winter wool. The layers above are mostly dark, but with some light now showing. Carved cornices that few admire. Ballustrades and balconies where the store owners live and play after they close for the night. It is why I am out here now, in the pre-dawn gloaming before the tourists awake and crawl forth to dispel the unique Italian-ishness of the city, making it International again, and thus watering it down.

I pass a bar that has just opened, and the smell of pastries and espresso lures me in. In America, this would be a Starbucks, with people dropping in to get their morning coffee and then hurry back off to work. They linger a bit here, but we do in Starbucks. The only difference seems to be that people are speaking Italian, drinking better coffee, and that the shop's owner is working behind the bar. Strange that I should find more entrepreneurship here than I would see in America. Maybe we need to reconsider our branding.

Drinking my coffee and eating a chocolate croissant, I write. People come and go. The sky lightens. A street-cleaning machine goes past, and the street is awash in steam and sound. Rome is waking up and brushing its teeth.

Our room at the Hotel Manfredi (from the outside)

RandoGirl in the Piazza Spagna

View from the top of the Spanish Steps

View towards the Villa Borgia, about 7 am Monday

I'll try to post more pictures when I have better "interwebs."

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