I was, we all were, dead tired. It had been a long night helping that 767 get safely across the Atlantic and the European continent. We couldn’t, however, go aboard ship until late in the afternoon. They, Norwegian Cruise Line, had to get 2500 people unloaded from the last cruise, do a thorough clean-up, etc. before on-boarding a new group. So, we all got onto busses and went into the city to do Rome in a day.
My first two impression were: this looks really Italian! If I had been asleep and suddenly waked up, I would have known, this is Italy … Rome. The houses, the cars, the umbrella trees were everywhere. … and … the ruins are all mixed up with the day-to-day city. I checked it on Google Earth: there really are apartment building just across the street from the Coliseum. The Vatican is only a short walk from soccer fields and tennis courts! It was a little disconcerting to look out and see six-lane highways crowded with Vespas and Fiats running alongside two thousand year old aqueducts.
The thing in Rome that I most wanted to see was not the Vatican or the Coliseum. It was the Scalinata della Trinita dei Monti: the Spanish Steps. The widest staircase in Europe, 138 steps between the Piazza di Spagna at the base and the Trinita dei Monti church at the top. Built between 1723 – 1725, at the behest of Pope Clement XI.
The Keats-Shelly house is at the bottom, just off to the right. Where John Keats lived, and died in 1821. The movie Roman Holiday, Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, in 1953, and later The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone made The Steps famous to American audiences.
But: it is the Guy Clark song Dublin Blues that does it for me:
I’ve been to Ft. Worth, hmm, I have been to Spain
And I have been too proud to come in out of the rain
I have seen the David, hmm, I’ve seen the Mona Lisa too
And I have heard Doc Watson play the Columbus Blues
Forgive me all my anger, forgive me all my faults
There’s no need to forgive me for thinkin’ what I thought
I loved you from the git go and I’ll love you till I die
I loved you on the Spanish Steps, the day you said goodbye
Well, I wished I was in Austin, hmm, in the Chili Parlor Bar
Drinkin’ Mad Dog Margaritas and not carin’ where you are.
I loved you on the Spanish Steps … I think I’ll write a story one day. How many plot lines do you think a writer could come up with?
That Saturday, 10 November, was perfect: sunny and warm. There was a wedding on the landing half-way up the step while we were there. A festive atmosphere prevailed. Catholics from the world over: the green and yellow of Brazil, shamrocks from Ireland. Nigerians and Indians ( as in India ) proudly displayed their colors. The only negative was the crowd … and the street vendors.
With the fading sun, we left The Steps, found the bus and motored north along the coast up to the port at Civitavecchia. The Norwegian Jade was waiting. Boarding was flawless; they, the crew, had done this before. By just-dark we were away from the pier. If Tuttle and I had dinner, I don’t remember it. By plumb-dark we were in the open sea, sailing south parallel to the Italian coast. I was in stateroom 9652 sound asleep. It had been some thirty hours since I had been stretched out horizontal in Manning, South Carolina.