Tuesday, April 3, 2007
Italian Journal: Rome
In September of 1999 I returned to Italy with my partner Judy and our friend Ray, with whom we stayed in Rome. It had been thirty-seven years since I'd lived in Florence, between 1959 and 1962, first as a graduate student and then as a translator and teacher of English, and this first trip back to a country I had never ceased to love had great meaning for me. For that reason I kept a journal, as I had begun to do in 1959, upon the eve of my departure for Italy, having just graduated from college. I offer it here, unedited and unrevised, as a document of a significant moment in my life, just as I posted my friend Peter Denzer’s essay, "Artist Lost in a Landscape," describing his decade-long encounter with Italy. Peter and I shared important experiences in Italy, and he was fortunate enough to have remained in Florence with his wife Maria for many years after my departure, living through significant transitions in Italian culture and political life.
September 15—September 30, 1999
12:45 a.m. Rome—a warm night. I’m in bed at Via Boncompagni 47, in the 7th floor penthouse apartment from whose front and back balconies you can see much of the city. We’ve just returned from an extraordinary Tuscan dinner at Papa` Baccus on Via Toscano 36, around the corner from us and two blocks up from the Via Veneto. This past day—Thursday, September 17—was the first full day we’ve spent in Italy, having arrived at 10:30 a.m. on September 16.
We were picked up at the airport by Giancarlo Salepicchi, a driver for the San Francisco-based agent Ray rented the apartment through. Giancarlo’s English is nearly perfect. A voluble, curly-haired man in his fifties, he was dressed in a starched white shirt, blue-patterned silk necktie and gray sharkskin slacks. He told us he’d lived for fifteen years in New York City, where he was a sculptor. His wife missed Rome so they returned. “She couldn’t stand New York,” Giancarlo said, but he found the city “vibrant…years ahead of Rome, which has now caught up.”
Giancarlo gave us a short tour as we drove from the airport at Fiumicino (literally “little river”) to the heart of the city. We passed the Forum and the Coliseum, the Vittorio Emanuele monument, Piazza Colonna, Piazza Venezia, the Campidoglio and a number of churches Giancarlo said we should visit. On the way into the city, Giancarlo pointed out the EUR section of Rome, a suburb created by Mussolini, including shops, apartments, theaters and museums, for an international exposition celebrating fascism that never took place. Once we’d entered the city and I began to read signs on the shops—Tabacchi, Drogheria— and the names of restaurants and streets, I felt that I was back in Italy.
We’re located just above Via Veneto, only a few streets over from Piazza di Spagna. The Rome we see is upscale, corporate. Men wear fashionable sport jackets or lightweight suits, much less formal than they were dressed when I was here before (the American influence?) and the women are stunning: tall, shapely, tanned, chic, just as beautiful as I remember them to have been when I arrived from Naples forty years ago. In those days I’d walk from where I was staying at the Mitidieri family pensione in Via del Corso down to Piazza del Popolo. After reading the newspaper in the sun, I’d make my way back up Via del Babuino to visit my painter friend Leonard Creo, whose studio was only a couple blocks away from the Spanish Steps. Then Lennie and I would go out for coffee or lunch.
It’s a different Italy I find. Everybody speaks English now and my Italian is rusty. If I had to speak nothing but Italian all day I’d become more fluent. But I only speak Italian when I go out—at restaurants, in museums, in the neighborhood shops where we buy bread and cheese, fruit, cereal and yogurt for breakfast.
Gradually I’m picking up things, like I shouldn’t pay any more than 10,000 lire for house wine and between 20,000 and 25,000 for good vintages (and even then those more expensive bottles have been marked up), or that you pay the cashier (la cassa) in a bar first for your acqua minerale—“con” or “senza gas”—and then present the check to the counter person (with a tip of one hundred or two hundred lire), who gives you what you’ve ordered.
I had an unfortunate experience this morning. I went out shopping for breakfast things and I took most of my money with me—nearly two hundred thousand lire (well over $100). When I returned my pockets were empty. I’m certain I must have accidentally pulled the folded bills out when I reached into my pants pocket for sunglasses once I found myself in the glare of the sun on the street. Obviously, they dropped out of my pocket. It’s my own fault for not having left at home what cash I didn’t need. In my haste to shop and in my nervousness about having to communicate in Italian, I think I wasn’t paying attention. It saddened me to be so careless; but I’ve been anxious and hasty ever since I arrived.
I felt no need or desire to write on the plane over; nor have I had the time since arriving, although I have much to record. I spent most of the flight reading guide books and the Italian newspapers the crew offered us, Corriere della Sera and La Repubblica. The food on the Alitalia flight was only passable—flat salad, soggy vegetables, cookies in cellophane--providing a poor introduction to a culture in which food, delicious and well prepared, is key (there was, however, a fair Montepulciano and a Merlot from the Piave offered free in small bottles. I drank one of each). It’s far too early for any assessment; but Rome has changed, along with the rest of Europe, I would imagine, since I was last here in the early spring of 1962. I said to Judy there seem to be fewer one-on-one encounters with Romans. However, this is a large city and I am not traveling alone or free to follow my own bent. Equally, my language is not even up to what it was when I first arrived in 1959. If I could converse better I’d be talking more to natives. At this point, I’m only experiencing the most minimal interactions, with waiters, cab drivers, shop assistants. I wanted to speak Italian with Giancarlo, but he began in English, probably thinking we didn’t speak anything else. I also suspect he wanted to impress us with his superb command of English.
Today we went to the museum at the Villa Borghese to reserve our tickets for tomorrow. While in the Borghese Gardens (cool, peaceful, lovers on the grass, dog walkers) we managed to enter the Museo d’Arte Moderna, which was only half open (renovations!--they are going on all over Rome for the year 2000 jubilee) and the Etruscan museum, also under renovation. But we saw exquisite things in both museums. I managed to find works of painters I’d admired years ago—Emilio Vedova, Lucio Fontana, Alberto Burri, Afro Basaldella. I was hoping to find some canvases by Renato Guttoso, but I’ll have to wait until Firenze for them. As always, the contemporary paintings impressed me with the artist’s extraordinary control. Even the most abstract or experimental were done with a certain measure, a certain refinement that’s largely absent from American painting of the same period. And the colors, except for Vedova’s palette, which is highly influenced by Pollock’s, are often more subdued, softer, than those of the American abstract expressionists. They are more like the work of Spanish abstractionists like Tapies and Farreras, whose work I admired at the Venice Biennale in 1960.
The Etruscan artifacts, from delicate jewelry to powerful tomb sculptures, made me think about Thoreau’s remark that no matter where on the earth we go someone has been there before us. I can only imagine what their civilization was like before the Romans absorbed and destroyed it to make way for the beginnings of empire.
The real test for me will be Firenze. In Rome I get my feet wet, so to speak; in Firenze, if I don’t feel at home, it will be serious. But how can one feel much of anything surrounded by tourists? Everywhere you look you see other Americans, you hear their nasal voices. You also hear Italians speaking very good English. Tourism has had a far greater impact on the culture than ever before. I’ve never seen so many Germans in my life! They march down the streets in phalanxes, guides out in front with pennants on poles to keep the tour group together. When a middle-aged German and his wife saw us hesitating at a cross-walk, he remarked to us in English, “Just go, they will stop!”
7:30 p.m. Another extraordinary day—warm, bright, delicious; hazy sky in the morning, brilliant blue by noon. We went to the Villa Borghese at 11 a.m., staying until nearly 1 p.m. The museum was jammed with Italian, German and American tourists, as is most of Rome. Judy said, “What’s the point of leaving home?” And she may be right. Texans in the Villa Borghese! There simply weren’t so many tourists here years ago, and I was here through all four seasons to observe the comings and goings, the most intimate habits, of stranieri.
The Borghese is too oppressive for me. Too much of the baroque, heavy paintings and tapestries, ugly sculpture (except for Bernini’s “David” and “Apollo and Daphne”), strange artifacts from Roman days, busts, carvings, architectural fragments. Ray pointed out Caravaggio’s powerful early “Sick Bacchus” and “David and Goliath.” Although I was drawn again to Caravaggio, my taste is for the more primitive. I remember the Uffizi as being simpler, more astringent (but with some fine Caravaggios and Pontormos). I’m glad we went to the Borghese, if only to experience the tourist spectacle. I agreed to go to church tomorrow with Judy and Ray and then we’ll walk down to the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo, maybe to have lunch at Rosati (we can also check in Via Margutta to see if the vegetarian restaurant I read about in the Knopf guide is still there).
After lunch on our terrace of wonderful panini made of medaglione rolls, mozzarella and spinach, Judy and I walked over to the Stazione Termini to get our tickets for Firenze on 23 September. Between looking at the train schedules posted on the bulletin boards and purchasing first class tickets each way for 149,000 lire, it took us an hour. When I told the ticket seller I wanted tickets for Firenze at a certain hour he said, “No you don’t. That’s the train that makes a lot of stops. You want the Euro-Star, it’s fast. It leaves an hour later.” The station, nearly renovated, is full of the clamor of natives and tourists, all in a hurry. Just being there filled me with the desire to travel, to move, to get on a train and feel myself hurtling through the countryside between Rome and Firenze. At that speed, we could have managed to spend a few days in Venice, too.
We stopped at Santa Maria degli Angeli e Marteri on the way back from the station and enjoyed the cool tranquillity of the church’s dark interior. Then we crossed the street to enter Feltrinelli, a marvelous international bookstore, which must be an offshoot of the publishing house that brought out Dr. Zhivago and Il Gattopardo in the 1950s, and whose founder, a weathy, radical intellectual, committed suicide. Italian books are so much cleaner in design that American books—and no self-help guides in sight. Instead, I found many old favorites like Pasolini’s Petrolio and Pavese’s Il Carcere. But I decided to wait until we arrived in Firenze to buy books.
Tomorrow after 11 a.m. mass at St. Patrick’s Irish church, a block down the street from us, Judy and I will walk over to the one part of Rome I had any familiarity with. Then maybe we’ll have dinner out. Tonight we got pizza from Pomodorino in Via Toscana and it was delicious, light on the cheese, no tomatoes, just thinly sliced grilled zucchini, eggplant, artichokes. Our first day here we went for lunch to Pomodorino on Giancarlo’s recommendation and we found an ample, beautifully designed family restaurant with an extensive menu, offering everything from pizza, pasta and salads to veal and beefsteak. Giancarlo referred to it as “fast food,” but I think he meant that you could order a` la carte and expect quick service if you were in a hurry, and this proved to be true. There was a large lunch crowd of executives and office workers, who seemed from their interactions with waiters to frequent the place a lot. When I asked for a litre of vino della casa, I got a corked bottle instead of the usual carafe; but on the label it said, “Pomodorino” and it had the restaurant’s logo of a small tomato. (Incidentally, mushrooms, especially porcini and portobelli, are in season, along with artichokes. Both are prominently featured on the menus, grilled, in pastas or salads, along with stuffed and fried zucchini flowers and lots of eggplant).
Our fourth full day in Rome begins tomorrow (right now it’s raining) and I want to get into the heart of the city. I feel as if we’re isolated up here across the street from the American Embassy. I’m glad we’re going to Trastevere, glad, too, that we’ll get to Piazza Navona…and maybe we’ll get to Testaccio, especially to the Protestant Cemetery (tomorrow I want to try to visit Keat’s house in Piazza di Spagna). And I must call Firenze to confirm our reservations. I’m anxious about this call, which I have put off for two days, because (1) I neglected to bring the confirmation from the hotel (instead I brought the e-mail from the reservation agency) and (2) my Italian is still shaky and yet I’m embarrassed to speak English over the phone. But call I must, to confirm our reservation and cancel Jonathan’s, and to ask them to reserve tickets for the Uffizi on Saturday or Sunday, hopefully on Saturday afternoon. This is another task I put off after arriving. I should have called Firenze immediately for museum tickets.
This procrastination has been typical of the trip. Part of it is my usual reticence; the other is my fear of not being able to express myself well in Italian, of making a brutta figura. To date, I’ve gotten along; but I’m still not speaking with any fluency. Were I alone, as I was forty years ago, I’d be forced to speak Italian to connect with people, fellow students, padrone and pensione guests, other travelers. Living with Judy and Ray, I speak English at home, Italian when we are out. When I was here before most of the people I knew, except for Paul Hamilton, were Italian and I spoke freely with them all day long. I also had close friendships with other students, particularly with Carlo Podesta`, who was in the architecture faculty at Firenze and an extraordinary painter. Carlo and I spent hours discussing politics and art, hours during which my Italian grew by leaps and bounds.
Just to see those fine books in Feltrinelli reminded me of the years when we were all young here and full of ourselves. During my first months in Firenze, I bought and read everyone of Pavese’s books and began systemically to read my way through most of contemporary Italian literature: the poets—Montale, Quasimodo, Ungaretti; the older novelists like Moravia and Pratolini; and the younger ones like Pasolini, Arbasino, Cassola, Arpino. I was so anxious to read those writers, to understand them, to see post-war Italy through their eyes, that, lacking translations, I had to encounter them in the original. My ability to comprehend complex prose increased with every book I read, not to speak of dozens of newspapers, literary magazines and journals, and my nearly daily attendance at the movies.
10:40 p.m. Today Rome opened up to me just as it had those many years ago. We walked down Via Boncompagni to Via Ludovisi and from there to Via Crispi and Via Sistina…and suddenly in front of us was Trinita` dei Monti and Piazza di Spagna! The crowds, the excitement, the passeggiata in full swing. Judy, Ray and I walked from the Spanish Steps to Via del Babuino and Via Margutta where we found the vegetarian restaurant open and serving brunch (I’d called too early for a reservation the night before and no one had answered). Happily we entered and ate a meal large enough to last us all day. They were offering a buffet of incredible hot and cold pasta dishes, grilled vegetables, risotti, fruit, cheese, sweets, marvelous breads and rolls… Hard to try them all, but we did, for just 35,000 lire each (about $20---more like $18, I think).
But I must backtrack. The morning actually began at St. Patrick’s church in our neighborhood, where we attended 11:30 mass in Italian (there’s one in English at 10:30). The ruddy-faced priest, with a thick Irish brogue (I discovered this when I spoke with him after mass—during mass his Italian was impeccable), gave a fantastic sermon about the parable of the workers in the vineyard…a very shrewd “left” analysis of “the first shall be last and the last first.” The mass was well attended by Italians mostly, and it was completely devoid of music or incense. I loved the simplicity of it, which made me think of what a service might be like in a primitive country church; and I told the priest afterwards how much I liked his sermon.
That was prelude to our walk to Piazza del Popolo from Piazza di Spagna and the Margutta. After lunch we turned right at the corner of Via Margutta, re-entered the Babuino and found ourselves in Piazza del Popolo in just seconds. The entire square had been roped off and set up for a huge fashion show to be broadcast live on Italian TV (RAI). The performance was to begin on 9 p.m. (prime time). We strolled around the square watching the rehearsal and looking at everyone—tourists, Italians, TV people, striking female models. We observed everything—the curious crowds, the hired security people keeping them from transgressing the boundary tape, Italians from city and country—from the piazza and then from the sidelines at Rosati, where we had cold drinks (I introduced Ray to Chinotto) and a front row seat on the human pageant. Before crossing the piazza to sit at Rosati, we entered Santa Maria del Popolo, where we found Raphael’s Cappella Chigi and two Caravaggios in the Cappella Cerasi, along with an extraordinary tomb on which was carved the upper half of a human skeleton in yellow marble, which I took a picture of.
As always, the women were beautiful—and beautifully dressed. I’m not talking about the fashion models; I’m referred to the people we saw around us. No grungy teen-agers here. All the young people were fashionably dressed, even if they were only wearing T-shirts and blue jeans. Their hair was interestingly cut and they interacted in ways that appeared far more mature than the behavior of American teen-agers.
I loved sitting at a front row table at Rosati to watch the kids tear past on Vespas (lots of women driving their own--something one didn’t see forty years ago), cars speeding around the corner, nuns on foot, Germans in their inevitable shorts. Considering the general elegance of Italians, I refuse to wear shorts in the city, even though it’s very hot; and not merely because tourists wear them or they are forbidden when you enter a church.
I could have stayed all night watching people, exchanging a few words with other travelers, eavesdropping on Italian conversations close by. Instead, we walked back along the Babuino and then up Via Condotti, looking in boutique windows, stopping for gelato and yogurt for tomorrow’s breakfast. I bought a copy of L’Espresso, which is now a flashy weekly magazine like Time or Newsweek, not the intellectual journal it once was with Moravia doing the film reviews: a gravure tabloid with powerful photographs and left-leaning reportage and political commentary.
Away from our street and Via Veneto, which I hate, we begin to see Rome. I know there are even more characteristic places—tomorrow we go to Trastevere—but today I feel as if I’d returned to the Rome that excited me at twenty-one, the Rome of crowds and people, of narrow side-streets and fascinating neighborhoods, the Rome of a thousand cafes and restaurants, bars and tavole calde. The Rome where people live out in the open, in the light and air, and where they interact.
As we approached the top of the Spanish Steps, when we first walked down from Via Boncompagni, a white Fiat pulled up and a newly married couple got out in full wedding dress, followed by a photographer. They walked down the steps together while the photographer snapped pictures (soon another photographer began to take pictures of the first photographer and the couple) and the people around them broke into applause and “Tanti Auguri!” Tears came to my eyes; Judy got weepy, too (having just had Betsy’s wedding). Suddenly, the humanity that I found residing in Italians during my previous years here emerged again. The delight in others’ happiness, the common understanding, the sharing of the deep events and rituals of life—birth, marriage, death. It was all there di nuovo and it brought me face to face with the Italy I’ve missed all these years, the Italy in which I first began to be open to my own feelings and to delight in the human, all too human. Italy is still a truly civil society.
Judy and I are in bed here in our comfortable room. We slept until 9:20 this morning. Finally, I’m beginning to shed the fatigue I’ve felt like a weight upon me all during this past year. Each day here in Rome is better, each more beautiful. I said to Judy, “Do you see why, the longer you stay in Italy, the longer you want to stay, until you never want to go home?”
11:35 p.m. Just as we were preparing to turn the lights out, we heard the popping sounds of fireworks. Judy and I rushed out to the back balcony where we managed to catch the finale, a multiple explosion of rockets behind the bell tower of a distant church.
11:15 p.m. After a fierce thunder storm, during which we lost our power for a few minutes. It began to rain while we were in Trastevere waiting for our 7 p.m. reservation at Fabrizio, a small, family-run restaurant frequented mostly by Italians. The rain was so heavy that we had to call a cab to get home—and it came down in torrents all the way across the city.
We slept late this morning and then I shopped for breakfast food and lunch fixings: tomatoes, Bel Paese, rolls, acqua minerale. At 3 p.m. we left on bus #95 for the Lungotavere, where we crossed the river not far from the Synagogue. Out in front were worshippers dressed for the high holiday, men in dark suits and black skullcaps, women in elegant dresses. We roamed through the narrow streets leading to Piazza Santa Maria del Trastevere, where we discovered a number of street people grouped around the fountain—students, wanderers—much like you see in San Francisco’s Castro district.
There was a big café with umbrellas. Here and there on tables were piled big, bright oranges. The specialty drink was freshly squeezed orange juice, which Judy immediately ordered and loved (Ray and I opted for Punt e Mes). From there we walked to see the apartment building Ray stayed in last year with Kent Bowker, across the street from a prison. Then we ate at Fabrizio, where we met his beautiful, vivacious wife Tiziana and their two school-age children, a girl and a boy. All were helping out in the trattoria, where the family ate dinner around a big table before the place filled up and Tiziana and the children went home. “Devono alzarsi presto domatina per andare `a scuola,” she told us. I thought it was a wonderful way for the family to be together and for the father to see his children since he’d be up cooking past their bedtime.
The restaurant began to fill up slowly. By the time we left at 9:30 (early for Rome) all the tables were taken. We’d asked Tiziana what we should eat and she suggested an all seafood menu beginning with spaghetti and shrimp in a fresh tomato and parsley sauce. Then the waiter brought us a dish of mixed fried fish—calamari, prawns and smelts. Next three other fish dishes arrived—rombo, which is turbot, and orta, a Mediterranean white fish, and then another variety of sea bass baked with paper thin fried potatoes. A small, very fresh salad of lettuce and radicchio ended our main meal and we proceeded to consume two kinds of ricotta pie, chocolate and plain for our dolce. The entire meal, along with an excellent Frascati at 10,000 lire a bottle (we drank two), came to 217,000 lire (or 227,000 with the tip), not cheap by Roman standards but reasonable for about $35 each.
Fabrizio called us a cab, which came promptly and took us home in the driving rain, but not before we had shaken hands all around and thanked Fabrizio and his single waiter, who worked the both sale, for a fine meal.
10:20 a.m. Bright sun and a sky full of huge clouds. It’s cooler and drier after a night of rain. Today will be a day of rest and relaxation.
1:30 p.m. Dramatic clouds. Hot sun. Wind. This is the south. Alex, Ray’s son and his fiancée Tanya just arrived from Paris where they were staying with her sister. They’ve gone out with Ray to buy panini for lunch, which we’ll eat on the terrace. Tonight we’ll return to the vegetarian restaurant in Via Margutta. At this juncture, especially after our visit to Trastevere yesterday, I can reflect some on the city.
11:50 p.m. I didn’t get to reflect on the city. Shortly after I wrote the above words I had an accident. Alex, Tanya, Judy, Ray and I were all sitting on the front terrace/balcony eating our panini. We heard a banging noise in the back of the apartment, like the sound of a door slamming, and I went to investigate. It turned out to be the door of Ray’s bathroom, the second one on the left before the kitchen and next to the door onto the back balcony. Once I was in the rear of the house, I noticed that the wind had blown the wooden drying rack with Judy’s clothing on it over on its side. Her clothes were strewn around the back terrace. I rushed to pick them up, thinking that the glass door to the deck was open (in the brightness of the light I couldn’t see the glass in front of me). It wasn’t, and I smashed into the door, breaking the glass into shards and cutting the top of my left hand.
I began to bleed profusely. Wrapping a wet towel around the hand, I called for help. Everyone came rushing into the apartment from the balcony. Tanya called the American Consulate and they said for me to go to the Policlinic Umberto 1, where all emergencies are treated. Judy and I left immediately in a taxi, which took us there in a matter of minutes.
At the admissions desk of the trauma unit (Pronto Soccorso), a young woman took my name and vital information and I was sent with a male nurse to a room called “Box 1” where the nurse washed my wound out with hydrogen peroxide and prepared me for surgery. Shortly, a surgeon in green scrubs arrived, and then a very beautiful dark-skinned resident. Another male nurse joined them. Examining my hand, the surgeon, Dottor Carlo Caruso, said, “Un bel ferito.”—No, the first male nurse said that. Dottor Caruso’s initial comment was, “Un taglio profondo.”
It turned out I’d severed the extensor (top) tendon to my second (middle) finger. They worked for over an hour on me, stitching the tendon back together and closing the wound, which was awful to look at, but I forced myself to watch the entire procedure (they gave me a topical anesthetic and I felt no pain at all). The experience, however, was not without levity. First, Caruso arrived smoking a cigarette as he gave my hand a cursory glance. Leaving the room, he put the cigarette out, returning to wash his hands and pull on surgical gloves. During the entire procedure, he and the other two men mercilessly teased the woman resident, amid banter in heavy Roman accents and with expressions I couldn’t understand (all four people sounded to me like Romans). At one point, when the men had been called out of the room, I turned to the resident and said to her in Italian, “Even after forty years, men in Italy haven’t changed a bit. They’re just as sexist.” She laughed knowingly, and when the men returned, she remarked, “The American says you guys haven’t changed in forty years.”
“Perche` trasformarsi?” Caruso shot back (he’s short, dark, with thick curly hair and horn rimmed glasses). “Why change?”
Once, during the spirited exchanges, Caruso turned to me: “I don’t want you to think this is ER. If we don’t joke around—scherzare—we don’t have any relief from the stress this work creates.”
At another point, when I’d told them I was a writer—“Pero` non sono molto conosciuto”—Caruso said, “I knew it. You’ll go back home and criticize us!”
After I was discharged with my finger restrained in a metal splint and the hand bandaged and in a sling fashioned out of gauze (Dr. Caruso said I can’t move the finger for a month and a half and I must then do “ginnastica”—exercise), I returned to the admission desk and attempted to pay or to show my health insurance card.
“Non si paga,” the young clerk who had admitted me said. “It’s free!” And then I ran into the second male nurse who added, “You’re not in America. This is Italy where we have National Health Care for everybody.” Dr. Caruso happened along and I thanked him. “Di nulla,” he replied, “for nothing.” Then Judy and I, with the help of a husband and wife from Rome, learned how to call a taxi using a pay phone, only the cab company we reached told us they didn’t send taxis to that district.
Thus began a long search for a cab and for the change to call a cab using a public telephone. Finally Radio Taxi responded and a taxi appeared at the entrance to the Policlinico in three minutes. It turns out that the Policlinico is the teaching hospital for the University of Rome medical school. On the way back home in the taxi it occurred to me that I’d been speaking Italian all the time I was in the clinico! It came out of me automatically.