Feb 7, 8 and 9 – Campo De’Fiori, Pigneto, and some really old stuff
As exciting as this week has been, it has been just as tiring…every day a schedule, rallying and rallying again whenever we’re exhausted, navigating, trying to escape death by vespa, learning names and Italian, eating on the go, and not sleeping much.
Thursday was a calmer day – language class, exploring for a few hours, not re-finding that phantom pizzeria, finally relaxing in the apartment, and then going out to eat at a nearby restaurant at 7:30 (19:30?). It was nothing spectacular, and I consciously violated an eating faux pas here – bread with pasta. Too bad, so sad, Italy. Calm was what I needed after the day before (pottery day), which began with me getting locked in my room before school. Yes, I got locked IN my room. It was a bit traumatizing. At least we’re only on the first level and there is a tree leaning over our balcony.
Since I’ve had a semester of Italian, I was placed in the 102\201 combo class and didn’t have to be at school until 12 on Friday (2-8). After I woke up, exercised a bit, showered, and learned the term lavatrice rotta\broken washing machine from the mechanic, I walked to school for a fun Italian class on directional terms and a field trip. Our teacher made us ask for directions to Piazza di Campo de’ Fiori (click for an overview). Since I was Mitch-ing at the head of our group, my teacher pushed me toward some people to ask (good thing I already have practice with asking directions) and we arrived at the piazza a few minutes later. Our teacher bought us crispy, steamy, margherita pizza at Forno (means oven\bakery), a popular place for both tourists and natives. I was surprised that she bought us all lunch and even more surprised when she offered me a bite of her own zucchini pizza, breaking my schema of the teacher-student relationship. I wonder if this is typical to all teachers or just to this particular one (these are the things you wonder as a foreigner). Then she turned us loose to explore the piazza.
Campo De’Fiori is a giant farmer’s market during the day and a popular spot at night. The market sells all types of spices, colored pasta, fruits, vegetables, oils, meats, breads, flowers, live seafood, wine, cheeses, fresh fruit juice stands, clothes, and accessories. The vendors joked with each other, tourists ate lunch in side shops, locals made purchases, and street performers sang. I like farmers’ markets even more than I like grocery stores because of the fresh food and air, and Campo de’ Fiori has all that AND history. We learned in class that the piazza is famous for being a place of life and death because 400 years ago, executions occurred while merchants sold horses and food. As a memorial to those persecuted for their beliefs, a statue of a heretical 17th century philosopher named Giordano Bruno occupies the center of the piazza. He was burned at the stake on Feb 17, 1600, and now faces the Vatican as a symbol for freethinking.
Speaking of freethinking… I’ve employed some of that in my conversations accidentally. In the piazza are many pigeons that have no fear of humans. At one point, a vendor squinted at me funny because I was chasing one around, so I laughed and tried to explain that pigeons aren’t afraid of people, but he just looked at me like I was crazy so I assumed he didn’t understand. Turns out that he understood me perfectly, I just made a simple grammar mistake. Instead of using third person to talk about the birds’ lack of fear, I used first person. Therefore, he saw me chasing a pigeon and then heard me say, “I’m not scared of people. I have courage!” Sigh…Sorry for this representation, fellow Americans. If it helps, my appearance seems to confuse the locals. To them, I am either Russian or Spanish. So…sorry, Russians and Spaniards.
I spent the rest of the afternoon at an academic advising meeting, walking for a few hours around trying to find a festival for Carnevale, an Italian masquerade of sorts equivalent to Mardi Gras\Halloween. I couldn’t find it, so I went back to school and sat in on a cooking class. They offered me food, but I declined even though I was hungry because I was going to leave for another aperitivo in Pigneto, a neighborhood more modern than Rome’s center with tons of restaurants and push buttons at the crosswalks. That’s really all I can say about Pigneto because I was blinded by hunger and cold by the time we finally arrived at the restaurant TWO hours and 3 overcrowded buses later for a drink and a plate of salami, prosciutto, cheese, olives, and artichoke.
Our ISCs are amazing…I don’t know how they stay sane while guiding large groups of Americans around their city and dragging them from bus to bus to join their friends, but they do, and they are very courteous while doing so. I think Rome’s public transportation system must have played a role in making them such patient people. Arianna, an ISC, explained that buses in Rome are overcrowded because nobody pays for tickets, and nobody pays for tickets because Rome’s public transportation runs on an honor system in which you validate your ticket yourself on the bus (petty fines of over 100 euro if an official boards and catches you without a validated ticket). Nobody pays for tickets because they consider the ticket already paid by taxes, and so many people do this that the only way to fix it is to renovate the system, which has not been done and I’m not sure if it’s being discussed. There’s an area where the US has it made in comparison.