Friday, May 30, 2014

last train to rome

We did not make it to Rome yesterday. 

One of the little snags of European travels is strikes.  While I was in Mexico City awaiting my flight to Barcelona, the Air France pilots went on strike.  Fortunately, they were back in the cockpit when I was ready to fly.

But I was not so lucky yesterday.  The trains were stopped due to strikes.  Well, not all of them.  Some were.  Some weren’t.  The board in the train station promised trains to Rome.

Dennis decided that he did not want to take the risk of getting to Rome only to find out we could not get back to the port in time to get back on the ship.  I was trying to see the downside of his concern.  After all, there are worse places to be left behind than in Rome.  Instead, we decided to enjoy our day in the port town of Civitavecchia -- one of Rome’s ports.

There is not much for a tourist to see in this sleepy port town.  But it is a great spot for a traveler.  Especially, for travelers who are interested in seeing Italy distilled.

Politics, for instance.

The town is plastered with posters from the recent elections to the European parliament.  I have a great photograph of a poster to share with you at some point.  It sums up the chaos that is politics in Italy. 

There are slates for 11 separate parties.  Some that did not exist during the last election.  Some that will not exist for the next.  And some, like the communists who have survived the collapse of communism and Stalinism everywhere else in Europe.

Whenever I hear people in The States moan that neither major party represents their interests, I have one reply.  Italy.  Try living in a country where the interests are so fragmented that one government after another is extinguished before newspaper editors learn their names.

But, speaking of Italian communists, I have another photograph I wish I could share with you.  A large hammer and sickle hangs over the door of the local party’s headquarters.  Right next door is the municipal police department.  It appears that the revolutionary spirit has become just another cog in the bourgeois power structure.

A woman I know on the east coast of Mexico has had several conversations with me about the similarities of Mexico and Italy.  And I have noticed it again on this trip.  The town plazas.  The haphazard bureaucracy.  The indifference to time.

But there is a huge difference.  The Churches.  Not necessarily the exteriors.  Both countries are socially Catholic and have their shares of Romanesque, Baroque, and Neo-Classical facades.

It is the interiors that are different.  In France, the counter-Reformation resulted in Enlightenment-inspired interiors that are just one step short of being Episcopalian.  In Mexico, the bloodiest aspects of The Messiah’s execution and the torture of saints is played out in Quentin Tarantino technicolor splash patterns.

Not so Italy.  If bathos was a religion, Italy would be the home of its leader.  (Oh?  Really? -- He is? -- Francis, you say?  Well, I’m leaving it in, anyway.)

It may be because Italy is the home of opera that the interior of its churches look a bit like La Scala on opening night.  The lighting is dramatic.  The shadows are deep.  And saintly figures stand piously in spots of light, their shadowy profiles playing out in the middle distance.  If Saint Francis had started belting out nessun dorma, I would not have been the least surprised.

All of this would work much better with accompanying photographs, but I discovered that the internet on shore -- the free internet in gelato shops, that is -- is just as slow as the ship’s system.  If any of you have an interest in seeing them in a future post, let me know.  I am, after all, your obedient servant.

Even without the trip to Rome, it was another good day.

And, unless the cruise line manages to change our itinerary again, we will be back to Sicily for a visit to Messina -- another city that played a big part in George Patton’s military career.


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