Today was a day that I was actually a little nervous about, mainly b/c I’m such a geek. We went to the Spanish Steps, and I was nervous b/c I remember them so clearly from my first time in Europe, having recently turned 21. As a fresh young lad fairly confused when I first got to Europe, I felt like a fairly experienced traveler by the time we got to Rome, eight weeks into the trip. I wasn’t, of course, esp. compared to the professional traveling class that seemed to have emerged in the European summer (deeply tanned, scruffy, a bit smelly, toting a scuffed backpack that seemed capable of producing the most amazing items seemingly by magic – and, no Hermione had not been invented yet), but that hardly seemed to matter.
The Spanish Steps were another revelation, one that had more to do with the competence that I felt I had earned then anything else. We had finally separated from our faculty presence, and we felt like we were on our own. The Spanish Steps were an introduction to that culture, one in which I could free myself from all the restrictions and experience Italy. The presence of all these young folks, singing Clash and Beatles and Rolling Stones songs, playing guitar, was liberating, and intoxicating, and redolent of all that the world promised, waiting just around the corner.
So the Spanish Steps, and Rome, were amazing, and of course all kinds of other great stuff happened there, but this isn’t that trip.
On this visit, I’m in a much different place, and it was a joy to see this group of folks dive into the experience. They shopped until they dropped (so far, it looks like significant others are scoring very well), and just, well, observed, getting their bearings by comparing their lives back home in the USA with what they’re seeing here.
Danilo went on to do some official work for the home office, and the rest of us continued on our merry ways. More shopping ensued, we went into a Burger King that was so American its menu was in English (only one person bought food there), and we wandered into the beginnings of the Borghese, a huge park. Angela noted how the park had big buildings in it, and how odd that seemed, causing us to reflect upon the enormity of the American experiment, as Frederick Law Olmsted designed Central Park in Manhattan as an homage to the American wilderness and tried to make it as untame as he could, something other countries only allowed the rich to experience.
We ended the day on the train back to Castel Gandalfo. The train was delayed, and while most of the crew were smart and grabbed seats, Dan, Stephen, and myself were determined to be gentlemen and stand up, at least until the train got less crowded. Little did we know that the train would be delayed for another 45 minutes, and by the time we took off all of three of us were jammed into the central standing area, becoming quite friendly with our neighbors. Our advantage point did allow us to observe another phenomenon Danilo had told us about: the only people we could hear talking on the train were our group. Italians travel quietly, it seems.