True confessions: I bought a paperback copy of Eat Pray Love. I’m crushed by the cliche. Please feel free to judge me mightily, it’s just so typical. I was so embarrassed by myself I bought Jane Austen’s Persuasion along with it to dilute my shame. A Jane Austen novel was the less girly book. I guess there’s a first for everything.
And naturally, I have all the fervor of the converted. I’ve avoided the book because, frankly, it seemed like overly indulgent pseudo-religion for the self-obsessed middle class (but let me tell you how I really feel…). I absolutely inhaled the Italy section while on the train back from Naples. Her thoughts on the quest for pure pleasure intersect greatly with what I’ve been thinking about lately, both for my current trip and my reentry into civilian life.
Gilbert describes a walk she went on at one point in Rome. It included several places I still had yet to see. So, in an attempt to cheer myself up after the Day of Stabby and my Chicken Out Naples experience, I set out on a day of pure pleasure. I was determined to do exactly and whatever I felt like and preemptively absolved myself of any guilt.
First, I had to reconcile with the Spanish Steps. We were meant to be friends, our introduction was just rudely interrupted.
The rest of the morning was a leisurely stroll from one shop window to the next, admiring this and that piazza’s fountain, and surveying the produce stands (fancy prices to match the fancy neighborhood).
Next, I walked along the river for quite a while. It was a Monday so it was fairly quiet, a few runners on the other side, a couple of scullers rowing on the Tiber and a handful of dudes stuffing purses to sell. And so often when we get left alone with our thoughts for a while I started thinking about the the people that had done the same thing I was doing. All the people that had walked along this river and thought about their lives. I didn’t make any decisions and who knows if they did either but the slow but steady currant has a way of making many things feel less overwhelming.
I walked back across the bridge and finally visited the Pantheon (which I kept mentally calling the Parthenon because that’s what happens when you fly from Athens to Rome). The opening in the dome makes me what to come back when it’s raining.
And since no personal pilgrimage for balance is complete without gelato, I went to Giolitti’s. This Rome institution was suggested to me by many, many people. The gelateria is in the Belle Époque style and all the servers wear bow ties. They have the largest selection of flavors I’ve seen including an whole section of liqueur flavors (champagne gelato is proof that there is good in this world).
This trip has and continues to teach me many things but the lesson I keep learning and relearning is that no one is scoring my vacation. There is no merit pay for how many sites I visit or photos I take or how early I get up. And, in the end, I always manage to see the things I really want to see.