I sit here writing this on our spiffy new matt-black Macbook laptop, on the private rooftop balcony in our central Rome hotel, as the late evening sun paints a golden glow on the lemon and strawberry-colour plastered palazzi-buildings opposite. (Adjectives, donchca just love ’em? Me and all them great authors; it’s really just about location, location, location.) The gulls wheel and circle over the private rooftop gardens, which are skewered and adorned with a random and bizarre collection of pot-plants, ivy, washing, cigarette stubs and TV aerials (have you seen Italian TV? It would be improved by poor reception…). The traffic passes by just between us and the Tiber, and below, is a rather useful Gelato Café; we have checked out the Gelateria’s wares, including their coffee to keep us awake, on this rather endless day. Yes, sometime too recent and literally a world away we boarded our aircraft at Melbourne Tullamarine, and set off for (another) major trip. Where else to start ones’ holiday than Rome, where all roads are said to lead?
On this occasion our road led, by Thai Airlines via Bangkok, and a nine hour flight and a second one we are disputing between us of either ten and a half or nigh-on twelve; either way, we have had quite enough freeze-dried air. It was better than marching back from the edge of the empire, but not that much, yr honour. In the middle of this, Bangkok airport was bizarre; full of people from all over south-east Asia, and Australia’s selection seeming to be wall to wall bogans from Queensland – we were made to walk about one mile from aircraft ‘a’ and ascend an escalator which led us to a mile (I’m sure it was the same journey in reverse, only a level higher) of really scary brand-name shops, being grazed by herds of the aforementioned people. It was rather like a cross between a Kevin Smith film and Night of the Living Shoppers. Luckily it was soon over, the brand able to ensnare either Bev or James having yet to be seen in such a zone.
It may be better to travel hopefully than to arrive, but we are both much keener on Rome than somewhere mid-airways, and we managed to sort-of-sleep most of the latter flight with the benefit we were able to wander central Rome on arrival for several hours without the eyes that revolved (too much). It was interesting that we both kind of enjoyed the people watching around the Colosseum as much as the ‘my word, it’s the Colosseum, it looks just like the postcards…’ moment, and we both really enjoyed accidentally wandering through the filming of a Italian (TV?) police procedural, and the back streets of Trastevere.
The TV police procedural was most intriguing. As I pointed out to Bev, one comes to Rome, one expects to see Romans, ancient. This film crew included the usual CID type handsome plainclothes hero cop, the older sidekick, various uniformed police standing around the ‘crime scene’ and four Centurions. Filming was in the arcades and rubble of Teatro Marchello, an ancient Roman amphitheatre, and someone decided that some more plaster pillar-feet were needed to dress the already adequately variegated marble scatterings. We want to know what happens next. We want to know whose series it is. We can see a (younger, more dapper) Italian Morse equivalent, but maybe we are just jetlagged. It’s probably just Inspector Rex with Centurions.
Give me the back streets with the odd details, stolen Roman pillars and built from Roman era bricks, rather than the relentless tourist site route-march, following the lofted brolly. The sites are OK, but they always are just like they’re supposed to be (only with scaffolding on…) What makes arriving (and the travelling) are the details that you don’t get in the guides – the birdsong (it’s so different here to Australia) the smells (Mmmm Italian city… not a smell you could sell.) the sound of the (ever so frequent) cop cars ‘de le de dah’, and, of course, the tastes. I won’t start, because I would go on. So much is in the details; how the people just are. As Bev said, there’s an awful lot of people from Melbourne here, but those Melburnians we are thinking of are just those who emigrated down under in 1954, and brought their coffee and ice-cream to the antipodes (thank you, thank you, and again…) and these are their brothers and sisters who never left.
It’s now 6.50pm (local) or 2.50 am Melbourne time, so we reckon we are dong well. The church bells are ringing out, another detail that makes the travelling .
And tomorrow? As was badly dubbed over the ending of a movie; ‘Domani e un altro giorno.’ I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore, either.