Sunday is a special day in Italy - not just because everyone is heading to church, yeah right, but because Sunday pranzo(lunch) is the most important meal of the week. That's when family and friends gather at home or a restaurant to look at the week that was, celebrate an engagement or birthday, eat Mama's unbeatable tortellini or the rubatello at your favorite trattoria. We discovered that Sunday lunch is an ideal company meal - guests arrive at 1:30 and sometimes stay as late as 8 but often until around 6. The meal can be leisurely, no one is worried about getting up for work the next morning or getting a taxi late at night and clean up can be done at a reasonable hour. And so much has been eaten during the day that the mere idea of anything more than a bowl of soup and some bread and cheese for dinner is unthinkable.
Sunday past we met Larry and Vincenzo for pranzo - they had been to church, we however had occupied Sunday morning with a few other things. The nice thing about doing Sunday lunch at a restaurant in town is the strolling afterward. You would never think of getting up from the table and heading right home. So stroll we did - we had pranzoed (there goes my Italinish) near the Pantheon so we headed over in the direction of Santa Maria sopra Minerva and popped into to view the incredible treasures - including Michalangelo's Christ with the Cross - and their Presepe. A bit more strolling - over to San Marcello to see their Presepe and listen to a very good Seniors choir rehearsing a concert. Virtuously we skipped Giolitti, we had just had Mount Blanc for desert after a meal of vegetable soup, saltimbaco and roast potatoes so ice cream would have been a bit of overkill.
A third stop at a church just behind the Galleria Alberto Sordi - I can never remember the name - to surreptitiously view their presepe as a mass was being conducted in Spanish with guitar accompaniment. Last year their Bethlehem was situated across the Tiber from Castel San Angelo - or at least that was the backdrop; this it bore a striking resemblance to one of the hilltop villages in Latina. As I've said previously the settings often resemble the world around the church than any attempt to reflect a real middle-east setting.
One of the fun things about strolling with Larry is his insatiable quest for the unusual and the remarkable in his adopted city. His enthusiasm is contagious - when he points something out or drags us down an alley way to see something a bit out of the way I am reassured that he is that rare thing: a natural teacher. I envy his students the insight and knowledge he brings to learning.
I hadn't noticed the RomaBike stations around town - too big to be seen I guess. The scheme is a simple one meant to encourage people to bike within Centro rather than taking their cars. You enroll in the scheme for free and are issued a card which will unlock bikes at 19 stations situated around town. The first 30 minutes are free and there is a nominal charge (against a credit card you have registered) after that time. You bike to the station nearest your destination lock the bike and continue on your way. If the station is full you have a padlock to attach it to a rail, a cell number to call to let control know. Larry has a colleague who has used it as her mode of transportation to work every day and so far it hasn't cost her a cent.
As we reached the Corso Larry drew our attention to two curious things on Via Lata - a fountain and a sign.
Water fountains for public use have been a feature of Rome since the Caesers - most tourists, and a few ex-pats, are scandalised by the constant running taps throughout the city but Romans take it for granted. This is one of the oldest fountains in Rome - the Facchino or Porter. He was a real person called Abbondio Rizi and was head of the Porters' Guild in the 15th century. He was famous for the heavy weights he could carry and the fountain was carved as a monument after his death. He is one of the Six Talking Statues of Rome.
And this little notice, put in place on August 6, 1784 is very specific in it's instructions. The basic message is "Don't shit on our doorstep, under penalty." Can't be any more explicite than that can you? And didn't I say Larry showed us unusual things?
15 gennaio - San Mauro