Last Tuesday and Wednesday I was in Frascati, close to Rome, for a convention hosted in one of Frascati’s historic villas (now turned into a convention centre): Grand Hotel Villa Tuscolana.
What an enchanting view on Rome from the natural terrace, on the sourrounding hills and on the famous golden vine-yards below. On our way from Termini railway station to Frascati (a 40 min drive depending on the traffic condition) what struck me most was a flock of sheep right outside Rome and a herd of little black dots up in the blue sky (which turned out to be some kind of birds whom my scarse knowledge of ornithology makes it impossible for me to define!). Anyway, the picture was delightful and took me aback, as if I was not expecting to find such an exuberant natural life waiting for me just outside Rome. And then, the hills (the famous colli romani), the grapevines, the mild climate, and the world-famous pini di roma (Rome pine-trees) which partly owe their popularity to the composer Ottorino Respighi (besides to their intrinsic astonishing beauty, of course!)
There is something wild in the natural beauties outside Rome which command respect (is it the Roman heritage? is it the inferiority complex of the PIL – Provincial Italian Lady – when she finds herself close to the Capital?).
On our way back from Frascati to Rome, as we drove in a much smaller bus, we managed to drive through the via Appia Antica (the Appian Way) which was one of the earliest and strategically most important Roman roads of the ancient republic connecting Rome to Brindisi, Apulia, in southeast Italy. A few of the monuments along the Appian Way are the gate of the Aurelian Walls, the catacombs of St Sebastian, the circus of Maxentius, the Roman baths of Capo di Bove, the Mausloeum of the Orazi and Curiazi, the Villa dei Quintili with nympheum, theatre and baths, and then the villas and the high walls which make you day-dream about the hidden beauties that must remain unvisible to the eager tourist eye. Enough to make you feel dizzy.
And then, all of a sudden, the Imperial Fora and the Colosseum. Right there, in the middle of the Roman chaotic traffic – the average routine for the bus driver and for who knows how many thousands of people who pass by each day to go to work or to take their children to kindergarten – but not for me!
Yes, it is in these moments that my inborn “provincial” attitude takes its upper arm, so to say, and I felt compelled to shout – making all the other passengers on the bus silently look at me with a pitiful expression – “LOOK – THE COLOSSEUM!”. A handful of bothered faces turned simultaneously to me (like a quick domino effect) while my face got as red as a ripe tomato. I pretended I had dropped something on the bus floor and started searching for an imaginery something I had lost. But it was too late. I had lost my reputation of a knowing globe-trotter (which I partly am anyway – a provincial knowing globe-trotter: the best kind of curious and eager tourist I know of – as we never ever take anything for granted!).
And then again: is it my fault if Beauty always takes me aback?