Saturday, 20 September 2014
We checked out the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, with the boat-fountain in the piazza at the foot of the stairway. Serendipity brought us “broken” fountains—covered in scaffolding or otherwise waterless and walled-off, allowing workmen access, but not tourists*.
C’est la vie.
We detoured up onto the hill above the Steps and worked our way north stopping for a meal at a place that had turtles in a pool in the middle of the dining room. Interesting choice. We did not find out the story behind the turtles. Their skin had broad black and yellow stripes (the long way on their legs, necks), and they had humpy backs almost like painted turtles, but no color pattern, or not much of one, on their backs. Dark brown or near-black.
We descended into the Piazza del Popolo, moving from shade-spot to shade-spot (temp about 90°F and HUMID). It is just inside the city gate on the main ancient road entering Rome from the north. As near as I can tell, Rome’s strategic location was also a transportation hub, and this would have been the approximate route of the path along the river, heading inland on the south bank, judging by the topography.
This broad space was opened up in the 1530s to impress visitors entering the city. The center has an ancient Egyptian obelisk set above a fountain with four lions with water pouring out of their mouths. More choices intended to impress.
For us, the broad plaza was more of a blistering, sun-filled obstacle, and we walked purposefully along the shortest route between shade and shade. We passed two guys setting up for a variation on the impossible man/stick/Indian-swami pose (they covered themselves in a piece of fabric, keeping the secret of levitation obscured—I’m betting it’s a metal framework attached to a fellow’s torso and under his arm; there are several variants on the levitation pose, some with one guy, some with two). We continued past the fountain. We got into the shade on the other side. Whew!
We turned around to gaze back at the space—only half is in this photo. Look, JCB said, there’re motorcycle cops with lights flashing. They were near the city gate, which is for pedestrians only. We kept watching. There were also cop cars here and there around the square, and one that crossed through it. No lights strobing on them, though. Hmm.
Pretty soon, down the switchback route we’d descended came a small group of runners. As they looped around the fountain we could see there were twenty at the most and the front guy had two flanking guys and was carrying a torch, or what looked like a torch (long metal thing).
Behind the runners was an open jeep, large size, with a few guys in camo, and two with special hats that looked like they were covered in crow feathers. I’m sure I got that wrong, though. Behind that was a closed military-looking Red Cross vehicle, I think four people crammed on the bench seat in front. The remaining police car fell in behind them as they passed us, and off they went headed down the Via del Corso, right toward the civic-ceremonial center of ancient Rome.
Couldn’t tell what their affiliation was, no banners…. More serendipity!
For some architectural eye-candy close up and because I love these details, this is from one of the churches on the south side of the Piazza (tada! Corinithian).
* The city had kindly set up a small pool at the Trevi for people to throw coins in, but I wonder if the substitute pool has the same power as the legendary fountain to bring coin-tossers back to Rome.