I had intended, as always, to keep in touch during my brief sojourn in Rome, but the vagaries of my hotel’s WiFi (which healed itself near the end), the usual weariness that attends the noontime devil of winebibbers, were exacerbated by an injured knee-cum-inflamed tendon that made walking five miles a bit more exhausting than it usually is. On the last full day, trying to hoist myself out of the hot morning shower I had taken to soothe the aches and pains, I slipped on the tub stopper, grabbed the glass shower-door, and, hurtling through the air, crashed to the ground, banging femur, and elbow, and hip before being lacerated by the exploding “safety” glass. Just to let you know what an old man can do if he has to, I will add that I did not bail out on the morning’s excursion to the Vatican Museums, though I did abandon St. Peters for a lunch—admittedly with two American priests.
Our hotel, the Grand Hotel del Gianicolo, was wonderfully located, staffed by competent and intelligent people, and provided excellent meals. In general, though, I would say that either restaurants in Rome have declined in quality or I have become jaded. Restaurants I used to like now struck me as ordinary or even cynical, though I still had one (out of two visits) very good meal at Da Fabrizio. The old prezzo fisso place for families and tourists, Dar Pallaro, has not changed in the 20 years I have been going there, often with children. At 25 euros a person for a very large meal of traditional home cooking (with wine), it is still a bargain, and dining with priests, as I have done several times in this place, insures warm-hearted attention. They are good people whose success and popularity have not spoiled their place.
Rome has not changed much in the past few years but in the past few decades it has been revolutionized. I see more and more slovenly useless teenagers whose sullen hedonism qualifies them as honorary Americans. However, up on the Gianicolo, in the Bar del Gianicolo, I saw nothing but well-groomed kids having a good time. Middle class Italian students do not have to get drunk or stoned to have a good time. They go out in groups for a pizza and a beer or two–and endless chattering. It was a pleasure to see them and be among them for a few days. Several of our own young students should also inspire hope–intelligent, polite, and respectful. If there were an exception, I should not mention it.
Dr. Trifkvovic was our surprise guest and he gave an excellent introductory lecture on how the Roman Empire spawned imperial dreams over the centuries. I looked at some of the heated discussion on one of his pieces, and while much of the commenting was quite good, I could not help noting the infantile fanaticism and offensive self-confidence of at least one of the contributors who apparently cannot understand that anti-Christian Israel is finishing off the destruction of Middle Eastern Christianity begun by anti-Christian Muslims.
Well, I am just babbling. Accidents aside, it was a good trip. I did not do or see anything I had not seen or done before, but the desire for novelty, as the Romans knew, is the beginning of revolution. Speaking of revolutions, I am starting a brief and rapid discussion of Tocqueville’s great book on the Ancien Régime and the French Revolution.