Friday, March 25, 2011

Piazza del Popolo

Those are the colors of the Italian flag up there in the sky above Piazza del Popolo, red & white & green. And I am the proud possessor of this and other blurry pictures of Roman fireworks because my first night there happened also to be the last night of Carneval (the same as Mardi Gras, the last night before the beginning of Lent).

I had just about unpacked when a young man named Tancredi employed by the Landmark people dropped by the apartment to show me how the locks and radiators and other domestic gadgetry worked. As he was leaving he told me about a fireworks show starting soon, put on for free by the City of Rome. And it was easy to find because when I went out into Piazza di Spagna a big crowd on foot was drifting up Via del Babuino toward Piazza del Popolo and all I had to do was follow along. After about half a mile we reached the huge open circle created to mark the northern entrance to the walled medieval city, now jammed full of happy contemporary Romans.

The fireworks were launched from a wooded hill called the Pincio, and (to jump ahead) I went up there the next night to look back down at where I had been in Piazza del Popolo with its gigantic Egyptian obelisk in the middle.

In the picture immediately above, by the way, that little dome in the left-hand upper corner that looks like a plastic nightlight is the colossal and famous St. Peter's, miles away across the river.

As it turned out I came back many times through this Piazza and past this obelisk. Everybody I have talked to who has spent time in Rome seems to develop a fond and personal relationship with the obelisks. Maybe it is because those towering granite needles have seen Everything and More than Everything. This one, for example, lived for 1,200 years in Egypt before floating across the Mediterranean on a specially-made conveyance, and now has lived another 2,000 years in Rome.

A still functioning Roman aqueduct empties perpetually into tanks above Piazza del Popolo. The several fountains down below were built with the intention of displaying the glorious pressure of this water as it arrives in the city.

Neptune with two Tritons lives above the fountain at the west end of the Piazza (above).

Rome between the Tiber and the Anio
is at the east end, under the hill where the fireworks were let off.

One evening after Mabel Watson Payne and her parents had arrived, we had dinner at a sidewalk restaurant facing into Piazza del Popolo. The Romans, always well-dressed and purposeful, thronged past us on their way toward whatever mysterious amusements their evenings held.