My blog title today refers to two separate things. Not that Italians are joking about ecumenism!
Before I get into the two topics in the title, a quick note about my Italian classes. Since classes change just about every week at my school, we had to say good-bye to three of my classmates today. Someone snatched a photo of the women from my class. Here we are: (from left to right, the German lady, me, the Australian girl, my Italian teacher, and the Swiss lady).
After class, I grabbed some gelato at a place that my Polish friend Ela recommended yesterday.
Then I headed back to the apartment for a short break. It had occurred to me that I’m almost halfway through my adventure, and I still haven’t seen some major sites, like Castel Sant’Angelo. I decided it was time to make a list of the remaining places to visit. By 3:00, I was ready to head back out again for the “ecumenical” part of my day.
I hopped on a bus and headed fairly far southeast of my apartment. First stop was the Protestant Cemetery, where the English poets John Keats and Percy Bysshe Shelley are buried. In Italian, the name of the cemetery is “Cimitero Acattolico,” which if we were to translate literally would be something like “not Catholic.” Kind of funny.
Keats is buried in a quiet corner of the cemetery.
Shelley is in the much more crowded section, way up at the top of a hill.
The cemetery is a beautiful spot and a nice break from the busyness of the city.
A 10-15 minute walk up some steep hills brought me to the Catholic part of my ecumenical afternoon. I visited the Piazza of the Knights of Malta. Some of you may know that I have started the application to become a Dame of Malta next year. In the piazza is the Order’s magistral villa.
Through the keyhole of the door, you can see into the gardens.
I couldn’t get my camera to focus really well, but if you look through the keyhole, you can see the dome of St. Peter’s perfectly framed through the trees in the garden. Cool fact: The Order of Malta is sovereign, so when you look through the keyhole, you are seeing three sovereign entities as the same time: the Order of Malta, Rome, and the Vatican.
After that I visited two basilicas that are really close to each other.
San Alessio, where they were getting ready for a wedding:
Then I headed back to school for a special evening class on the history of Italy’s unification. Again, it was all in Italian so I understood only pieces of it.
After that, I headed out for dinner and ended up at a wine bar, where I had some delicious pizza and wine. I put some Italian to use here, too. I think the waiter only said one thing to me in English, but I answered in Italian, so he used only Italian after that. 🙂
The table was along one of those cutesy narrow Roman roads, so I got to spend an hour people watching as I ate. When I was ready to go, I asked for “Il conto, per favore.” The waiter responded, “Certo!” (Certainly) However, he didn’t bring me the bill right away. Instead, he returned after a few minutes with a plate of biscotti and some limoncello. Perfetto! Okay, Mr. Waiter, I guess you can persuade me to sit her for another half hour while I enjoy my dessert! (Which was free, by the way!)
After dinner, I went to St. Peter’s again. I sat around the obelisk and sipped from my water bottle as I watched the sun set. It occurred to me that I was doing what Elizabeth Gilbert had discussed in Eat, Pray, Love; namely, what the Italians call “il bel far niente.” (The beauty of doing nothing.)
Oh, but wait, I promised you Italian jokes!
The first happened near the Order of Malta. Nearby is a gift shop run by the Benedictines. I almost didn’t go in. It was a little out of the way, in a spot I wasn’t entirely sure I was supposed to enter. But something drew me near (God’s grace?) and I found in the gift shop something I’ve been looking for for a friend for a few days now. Good thing I stopped in or I might never have found it.
Anyway, the shop owner spoke to me only in Italian. At first, he was with some other customers and he said something to me about needing something. I think he needed to show the other customers something outside the shop because the three of them all walked out.
By the time he returned, I had found what I needed for my friend, plus another item. I stood waiting at the counter when he returned, and he said, “Prego,” and gave me a rather apologetic smile. I held up one item unsure of its price.
Me: Questo e cinque? (This is five?)
Me: Questo e cinque anche? (This is five, too?)
Him: Si. (Then he laughed.) Tutti e cinque! (Everything is five!)
He waved his hand around the store, and I laughed with him, realizing I may have just enjoyed my first real, spontaneous joke in Italian.
The second joke came at the wine bar where I had dinner. The waiter’s shirts had the following written on the back:
La birra costa meno della benzina. Invece di guidare, bevi!
Yay, my second Italian joke of the day! The beer costs less than gas. Instead of driving, drink!