From your correspondent in the Piazzi di Spagna at Babington’s Tea shop est. 1893. Keats (died 1821) would have had his tea here between bouts of coughing had it been open then. The silver cutlery was engraved with small cats; comestibles (wow) were served and amazing iced chai.
The Spanish steps were closed today and newly whited, like a giant pair of teeth. People at the top stared down at people at the bottom, much like life I thought, as I lounged on a delicate antique chair in the cool of Dolce and Gabana caressing a coat costing two thousand Euro. In case you are wondering if I bought the coat, the answer is no. Life has taught me to always appreciate the best, but you don’t necessarily have to buy it. Two years spent working for an Australian fashion designer has given me a taste for clothes that far outstrips my budget, but sometimes I score. In Rome everything I saw in the shops was brilliantly designed and made, and don’t get started me on the shoes. It puzzles me that in the UK people put up with such crap clothes. Come Brexit it can only get worse.
Then sitting in the Borghese Gardens brushing my hair, which I plaited wet when I went out this morning. It was still wet so rested my feet and let it dry. I felt like one of the fiendish Borgia women sitting here plotting who she might poison next. I think it may have been ‘plot’ or ‘be plotted against’ in those days. I suspect I would have been no different. I am noticing how fierce and direct Italian women are. They strike me as proud and independent. I guess their menfolk having an extra dose of machismo would make them tough. It is very noticeable that women in both Italian and Spanish speaking countries have a tough dignity that women from other countries seem to lack. No ‘slummocking mawthers’ here, although I might be in the wrong suburb. Italy feels more like Australia to me which is not surprising since settlers from Europe out-number those from the Britain now. European culture has shaped modern Australia; the days of the convict ships are consigned to history and forgotten.
Writing this down to make some sense of why I feel so happy in Europe and so unhappy in the UK. Walking down an avenue of cypress trees towards the Villa Borghese while a busker played Lara’s theme on a mandolin will go down as one of the moments of pure happiness in my life. I am amazed that I have let my feelings for one man cloud my judgement so badly recently, but at least today I am happy.
The Galleria Borghese is home to the Borgia’s largely stolen art collection. If they wanted a painting they sent the boys round to collect it. I had booked a guided tour and I can say, hand on heart, this was the best experience I have had in an art gallery. The guide was an English art history academic retired to Italy and he was better than any TV presenter. The gallery is small, but unlike the Vatican, entry is restricted so you can get close to everything. First, we saw Caravaggio’s paintings from his early days to just before his death, aged 38. He had a wild life and I think he was lucky to get past his 30th birthday. You could stand a foot away from the pictures and really look at them. Breathtaking! Then we looked at the four major Bernini sculptures. This is the bloke who was the architect of Renaissance Rome. I had seen these sculptures on TV and knew to look for the way Bernini had shown the imprint of the man’s fingers on the flesh of the woman he was abducting and this is in marble too. Draperies were translucent and the dogs looked like they could be stroked, think marble fur! Completely blown away. After the very dull statues in the Vatican this was a revelation. If you only go to one gallery, ever, this has to be the one. Oh, and make sure you ask for Andy, tour guide extraordinaire.
Finally dinner at Harry’s Bar, http://www.harrysbar.it. This is where you eat if you are a celebrity. I’m not ….yet but the next book should fix that. Michael Caine has been there lots, judging by the photos. The food was fantastic, the atmosphere wonderful and I like being called Madama. This lifestyle suits me well. Tomorrow, a long train journey to Pescara. I will be back!