Street Vendors and Subways

“If there’s an intellectual highway, there’s also an intellectual subway.” ~Stanley Crouch

Last Monday was my third trip to Rome during my semester here (excluding flying into Rome).  We went for a poetry class excursion and saw Michelangelo’s Moses sculpture (the one that has horns b/c of a mistranslation), Bernini’s turtles, Bernini’s Elephant obelisk, Michelangelo’s Christ Risen sculpture, and Bernini’s Four Rivers at Piazza Navona.  It was overall a very chill, laid back trip.  Had lunch in front of the Pantheon, which I’m not complaining about.  Ironically, I ended up leading the pack around Rome, not because I know Rome well, but because I was fast.

We spent about an hour and half at Piazza Navona brainstorming for the poems we would be writing in the evening.  Piazza Navona was formerly a hippodrome, so it still holds the oval shape.  It’s also one of those piazzas that has 20 million street vendors on it–artists and the like–earning some extra money, and cafes surrounding the edges.  In my pacings around the piazza, one particular vendor caught my eye.  I looked closer, and it was a Chinese woman doing the exact same kind of Chinese calligraphy of names that you find if you walk down the strip in Kenting, where they use paint and draw trees, birds, dragons, and fish to spell your name.  They were also selling it for three euro, which is a major rip-off considering you can get them for less than that and have them laminated so they don’t rub.  I find it ironic that no matter what country you’re in, street vendors are almost always the same.  Next to her was another guy selling jewelry where he twisted wire to spell a name…saw that in the Philippines, and there is only cost a couple bucks.  I guess people like to buy the same souvenirs no matter what foreign country they’re visiting.

We concluded our rambling around Rome at the Spanish steps (where some creeper also tried to take my water bottle from me…I almost started yelling at him in Chinese, but he left before I got around to that, much to the disappointment of my friends…).  From the Spanish steps (I’m still not sure why they’re so famous) we took the metro back to the train station, which sure beat walking and me having to figure out what the most direct route was on a map.  Fortunately, I was not pick-pocketed on the subway, but the metro was jammed.  Even more crowded than the subway in Taipei typically is, if that’s possible, or think the Boston T on a Red Sox game night.  The thing that I found most interesting about the Metro was the noise level inside.  People carried on conversations like it’s nobody’s business.  In Asia, you typically shut up in the subways, or on buses.  Not in Italy, no sir.  If you’re bothered by the noise, then get over it.

Off to Ravenna this weekend!  Should be exciting!


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