The sun will set in Rome tonight at 6:44. I leave my Italian class each day at 6 p.m., and last week I was thinking that it would soon be dark at 6 and wondering how I would like walking home alone in the dark. Daylight saving time occurs in Rome (and most of the rest of Europe) on October 27, so I will assuredly walk home in the dark then and probably before. While it’s light, I walk through some quiet alleys and empty piazzas, and I probably will avoid those at night. For the most part though, Rome’s Centro Storico is safe, with some pickpockets loitering about and mobs of young men illegally selling cheap goods—purses, sunglasses, scarves, and simple toys. The worst trouble I could get into, I suppose, is when the undercover cops try to bust the illegal vendors, who fly out of the area—abandoning their wares and scattering people as they fly by.
Two weekends ago we walked out of our apartment at 8 or so in the evening and crossed over to the river side of the street to see what was going on. We could hear loud music, traffic was at a standstill, and people peered over the wall. We looked down and could see several fires floating on the other side of the Tevere. On our side, huge speakers blasted hypnotic new age and world music. When we got to the other side of the river, we learned that we were watching WaterFire, which began in Providence, Rhode Island, and occurs there every summer. It was stunning! In addition to the mesmerizing music and the 30 fires that floated on biers in the river , dancers performed from time to time. A silent boat patrolled the river with five or six people dressed in black leaning over the side to feed the fires. It felt like a pagan ritual, and its conjunction with the equinox was perfect. I hope Rome puts on WaterFire every year—what a treat!
Last weekend we hosted friends from Virginia. They arrived Saturday at noon and left Monday morning at 8. When I asked them what they wanted to see, Heather sent me a long list that included every major sight in Rome! I couldn’t imagine how we would cram everything into a day and a half, but Heather said the magic words: “We’d like to see some of the monuments at night.” High five!
After lunch on Campo de’ Fiori (Okibà Mozzarella Bar, of course) on Saturday, we took a bus to St. Peter’s and then hopped on the 116—the bus that wiggles through the twisted, narrow streets of Centro—and rode it to the end of the line at the top of Via Veneto. We walked down the hill to the Spanish Steps, but it was only 5 p.m., and I was leading an evening tour, so we had to stop at Il Palazzetto, a lovely bar at the top of the Spanish Steps, for a Spritz Aperol or two. Although the temperatures in September were lovely—mid-70s to mid-80s—on Saturday the temperature reached a ridiculous 90, so sitting on a patio above the Spanish Steps with a lovely breeze and a fabulous view was just the ticket!
I made us sit at the bar until 7 when it was dark (and cooler). We then walked down the Spanish Steps; ambled over to the Trevi Fountain, where Heather and Dan tossed coins over their shoulder to ensure that they’ll be back; wandered down to the Pantheon, which was closed, but which looks so ancient at night; took a side trip up a block to see the newly restored Bernini Obelisk of Santa Maria sopra Minerva—an irresistable elephant carrying an obelisk on its back (I have to see him every time I’m in the neighborhood); crossed over to Piazza Navona, where we stopped for dinner at Cybo, one of our favorite places in that area; and headed for home through Campo de’ Fiori. We had a ball, and I crossed five sights off of Heather’s list.
My walk home from school takes me past some of the same sights: the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, and Campo de’ Fiori. Now that I think about it, I will enjoy walking home past these magical places every night. No fear!