A cool overcast Sunday morning finds us off Flaminio metro in a decaying factory yard – broken concrete and rusted tin roofs – the sort of place you might kick a suitcase full of money to some threatening goon and growl, “Count it if you like, but it’s all there!” It’s all there, all right – it’s a weekly swap meet and this industrial courtyard is fulla bargains: boots and coats, clothing and toys, all sorts of treasures and trash. My wife and sister vanish into it like the final scene of “Free Willy”. Splash.
I wander for a while, making the loop, snooping into this and that. My next circuit and I’ve focused on a pocket watch. “Sixty,” the proprietor demands. “Um,” I suavely counter. “Fifty.” “Well, er. Si, si,” I peel off the Euros. I’ve a place next to my heart (or whatever organ is close to my hip pocket) for such devices, if only because they aren’t mobile phones. This one is a beaut, Roman numbers (how appropriate) and a face as aged as an old reprobate.
Then hands lock on my shoulder and I’m dragged off. My sister desires that I buy a coat. I try on many. Tiny coats. Blue coats. Pimpy coats. Fluffy coats. And then we find a brown coat that really fits well (and a good price, too). Her good deed done, she vanishes once again into the fray. I loiter among the leashed dogs.
When my women have finished their hand-to-hand shopping, we depart. Back to Termini to grab a bus for the Centro Storico (downtown) area. After an interesting lunch, we head over to a nearby museum (passing through another marketplace, so more ogling). At the museum, we view a display of Di Vinci’s inventions. Interesting enough, but realization dawns that none of these things, beyond the winches and flywheels, ever really, well… worked. The helicopter? I mean, really. Would you trust it to escape from a burning building? Might as well jump.
We briefly part ways here, my wife and I wandering over to the banks of the Tiber to stroll down to the Isola Tiberina (the island in the middle of the river). Eyeball the distant Vatican dome but this is as close as we’ll get this trip.
We meet up with my sister at the Argentina Plaza, a curious place. In the center of a swirling circle of maddened traffic, sunken below street level, are more excavations (surprise! More ruins!). And it’s also home to 250 cats.
There is a feline shelter here, where volunteers work to save cats abandoned and helpless. Fortunately it’s a pretty happy place at the moment. The kitties are getting fed and others snooze amongst the fallen grandeur of empire. We go downstairs to chat with the staff, and I carefully interact with one or two fluffers (one rolls on his back and gnaws my fingers and I think of Mookie, lonely at home). As night falls, we board a bus so overcrowded that passengers can’t get close to the card swipe and nobody’s trying hard anyway. Another good dinner – Italy is going to ruin me for the fast-food gruel of home.
Then home to pack our bags. We’re leaving town tomorrow!