Thursday, 8 November 2012

Fortress, popes, English walkers

The Castel Sant'Angelo could present a thoroughly brooding venue beside the Tiber, but because the day was so sunny and bright, we wandered around it feeling  quite light-hearted. The bridge beside it, adorned with Bernini's ten statues is sublime, especially when you have two beautiful grey police horses in attendance, their great hooves slithering  on the black cobbles as they quietly paced to and fro.  On either side, street vendors offer interminable shawls, wooden alphabet trains, dancing plastic Minnie Mouse things, and the chance to have your photo taken holding three budgerigars.

The great Castel', built originally as a mausoleum for Hadrian, was subsequently transformed into a fortress, palace, prison and now tourist opportunity. The huge internal ramp which must have allowed the Romans to get horses up inside it, is still intact and the whole thing quite a structure to explore. Slightly Gormenghasty. The views from the top are  fantastic, especially under a clear blue sky.  A true panorama. Various  popes embellished it over the centuries and it has marvellous internal decor in the grand rooms. They still have a safe walkway from the Vatican all the way into the castle, though perhaps in the days of helicopters not so necssary.

We walked across the bridge into the old city, found a trat for lunch, and were joined by a party of eight English men, all from a walking group in Farnham. Their gauleiter, Maurice, had made them go twenty miles that morning, they said.  Very jolly. Our lunch was delicious - mussels for Andrew and spinach risotto for me.

Then more walking through the antique-shop district, very pretty, getting an ice-cream for A at the Gelateria dei Teatro.... Then up to the gardens of the Villa Borghese, which I think is the prettiest park I have ever visited. Huge, undulating, filled with people doing various things - not just walking  or playing, but riding wonderful jalopy-shaped cycling cars, like the 'Surrey with a fringe on top', bowling along at top speed. Or golf cars. Or those things whose name escapes me a this precise moment which you stand on and  they roll along electrically.....   or horse and cart, or bike, or moped.  And parakeets tweeting about in the trees, and  with lakes, fountains, vistas, bridges, cafes, view-points, avenues, shrubberies - absolutely delightful. It proved impossible to get entry to the gallery as it's all booked in advance but we can do that another time.   It's a long  way back to the noise of the outside world. We waited for ages  for bus, in the company of a mad man who capered about like an early 16th century dancing master, clicking and puffing, and growling  at us.  Very odd.
It was especially nice that in the park you could not  hear the bloody sirens which are otherwise incessant in the city - wherever you go, nee-naw, nee-naw, nee-naw..... Horrible.

Home on a bus to our apartment to crash out and make supper.  I am still filled with gratitude at the pain receding from my teeth - in fact they still feel  like a row of mews cottages  inside my mouth, but not so exquisitely tender.  And I am filled with gratitude that Obama was re-elected. I do not often allow politics to intrude on my works, but Romney's victory would have been bad news for all of us, especially those not in America....

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