Thursday, July 02, 2009


The flooding of the day before made it a bit depressing to wake up. We faced the prospect of telling our landlady, who speaks no English, and I was afraid she’d be angry with us. I took a cautious shower, turning the water on only to rinse, and a little water was on the kitchen floor when I was done. It seemed to be oozing under the walls, which was disconcerting. I noticed that whenever I used the kitchen sink, water more water would leak out onto the floor.

In our marriage, there is a tacit division of chores. I am the organizer and planner, but dealing with people is Jon’s department. So I left. I took a bus to the Protestant cemetery, which no one else was interested in seeing. The cemetery is extremely beautiful, and has the added attraction of containing the graves of Keats and Shelley, as well as other worthies with whom I am less familiar. I enjoyed being out by myself, and took my time strolling about and taking pictures.

Protestant cemetary

Shelley's tomb
Shelley's tomb

Keat's grave. The inscription reads: This grave contains all that was mortal of a young English Poet who on his deathbed, in the bitterness of his heart at the malicious power of his enemies desired these words to be engraven on his tomb stone: Here lies one whose name was writ in water Feb 24, 1821.

Keats' grave
One of the saddest graves I've seen, I think.

The cemetery also had a bathroom, and I availed myself of it, since I had a vague notion that if our plumbing were allowed to “rest” all would be well.

As was often my problem in Rome, I couldn’t figure out where the bus stop was that would take me in the opposite direction back home. Unlike other cities, the opposite-going bus stops never seem to be located directly across the street from each other. It seems like often they are on entirely different streets. I was also concerned that my ticket had expired—they are good for 75 minutes once you validate them on the first bus you ride on and I had no idea what time it was. So I went to the nearby Metro station and bought a new ticket from a vending machine, and no doubt looked like an idiot, puzzling over the only-in-Italian instructions and which buttons to press, and having difficulty getting the machine to accept my Euro coin. It kept spitting it back at me out of the slot where it would roll to the floor and I'd have to chase it, while all about me other people bought tickets with no problems. Eventually I got a ticket and took the metro to the Colosseum and from there the 87 bus—my old friend—to Largo Argentina, a spot noted for the most ancient ruins in Rome.

It’s a group of three temples, discovered in the 1920s, one of them dating to the 4th century BC. The columns stick up out of a deep, basement-like excavation, while busy traffic passes in all directions. The kids and I had peered down into the excavation a few days before. It is full of stray cats and positively reeks of cat pee on a hot sunny day. It probably reeks on cold, cloudy days too.

Area Sacra, or, the "Stray Cat Temple"
Anyway, this spot is where you can catch the tram back to Trastevere. At home, I learned that Jon had told Rosella about our plumbing problems, and that a plumber had already come and gone, although Jon felt he had not fixed the problem, since he’d insisted it was just a matter of putting new caulk into the shower. Sure enough, the kitchen sink drain began to boil angrily whenever anyone flushed a toilet or used any great amount of water upstairs. We had to get Rosella back again and the plumber returned, with an apprentice, and they cleared a clog in the drain below the kitchen sink. Rosella indicated to me that we should not put food down the kitchen drain and I meekly apologized, although I know better than to do that, and we had not put any food down the drain. I now had a sneaking suspicion that the real problem was that Italian plumbing could not handle the American custom of using liberal amounts of toilet paper.

Anyway, that’s all gross and unpleasant, and we wasted a lot of time waiting around for plumbers. Weary of Italian food, we decided to eat dinner at a Chinese restaurant near our house. They put us at a round table with a glass lazy susan that was imperfectly centered on its base, and Mad Scientist immediately became obsessed with this minor imperfection. We tried lifting it and recentering it, but a plastic disk kept it firmly held in the wrong place. Soon we were all obsessed with the lazy susan, spinning it and watching it nick our wineglasses as the thick end went past, which is just as well because the service was terrible and we had nothing else to do. It was the worst meal we had in Rome, by a factor of about ten-thousand, and the worst Chinese food I’ve ever tasted, indeed, possibly the worst meal I’ve ever eaten, and that includes the night I made baked squash with tofu sauce. Indeed, Drama Queen’s beef was so terrible and un-beeflike, that I privately wondered if the restaurant’s source for “beef” was the stray cat temple at Largo Argentina, and later Jon voiced the same concern. She took one bite and left the remainder untouched. I tasted it too, and wished I hadn’t. A gross and unpleasant end to a gross and unpleasant day, although we treated ourselves to a new gelato place that had many interesting flavors, and that made things better.


  1. Haha, I've heard about the Chinese food in Rome. Sorry you had to experience it!

  2. So it's true that icky things are still icky in Italy, eh? I rather thought everything would seem better and more romantic...

  3. You are an excellent writer and doing a travel blog is one of the hardest types of writing so I applaud you! What you write is so interesting and it is a real art to make travel writing interesting. Bravo and enjoy the rest of your trip. I'm certainly enjoying a re-visit to Rome.
    P.S. Maybe you'd like to be a nurse who writes about medical issues??