The Splendor of Rome, Part 4
|Mary Wakefield Buxton|
by Mary Wakefield Buxton
Urbanna, Va.— “Three Coins in the Fountain” was a musical hit in the 1950s when I was growing up. It glorified the Trevi Fountain in Rome where young lovers tossed coins into the fountain while wishing for true love.
In 1963 I set out from the Commodore Hotel in Rome where I was to have met Chip (we missed a Rome meeting but the next day we met in Naples.) to find the Trevi Fountain and toss in my coin. But I became hopelessly lost, never found the famous fountain, and ended up taking a taxi back to the hotel.
Back in Rome in 2012, I was determined to find the Trevi Fountain and toss in my coin, even though I had found my true love and been married to him for 49 years. It’s never too late to make a wish for love and toss a coin in a fountain.
The fountain was a 20-minute walk from the St. Regis hotel and we found it along with 5,000 other milling tourists slung with cameras. Nothing done in Rome is alone or private.
The fountain’s history, before the romance of song and movie, goes back to ancient Rome when brilliant Roman engineers began piping fresh spring water into the city of one million from a spring located 13 miles from the city. Fresh water spewed forth from the mouths of marble statues of lions, nymphs or Gods, and Romans were able to enjoy fresh water each day.
Eventually, the aqueduct broke, however, and Romans had to resort to the polluted Tiber River for their daily water supply. It took another 1,000 years to restore the spring water supply to Rome.
Trevi Fountain was sculpted from marble in 1762 to celebrate the god and goddess of water and it’s a work of art splendid to behold. We saw it twice, at dusk fully illuminated and again the next day. It really was a thrilling sight in spite of the 5,000 tourists flashing cameras in front of me.
We saw a young girl take off her shoe and put her foot in the water. The police immediately descended upon her. Very amusing. We were told no one was allowed to pollute the water and yet the police did not complain about the many polluted coins we threw into its depths.
We had been warned to watch out for gangs of pickpockets that worked in groups surrounding tourist attractions like the crowded Trevi. They were considered so professional at their trade that one would never even be aware of the theft. One of the ladies in our group personally experienced how it was done.
The ring leader was a beggar woman who, after receiving alms, signaled her team where the victim kept her wallet and I-pad. The victim was then “jostled” by the team that came in on all sides and stripped her I-pad from her purse that hung over her shoulder. She was lucky, however, because within seconds she realized what had happened and accosted the guilty party. Apparently worried that she would shout out for the police, he immediately returned her I-pad. She later saw the same team pick-pocketing another.
To protect oneself in crowds, a tourist should not carry a purse or I-pad, always wear inconspicuous clothing, and not have an open map, which is a dead giveaway to pickpockets of a tourist. Also, walk on the perimeters of crowds and never in the milling throngs. Another trick is to have your companion travel behind you so any maneuvering by a team of pickpockets “moving in” on a victim can be easily detected.
I thought I fit into the crowd pretty well in my modest dress until a hawker asked me if I wanted a cup of tea. “British,” he said with typical street cheek and pointed to my Reeboks. Sure enough, a tiny Union Jack logo could be seen on my shoe. Every nuance of dress and manner is apparently noticed.
Just as we had adjusted to the six-hour time change, the week ended and it was time to bid farewell to Rome. It had been a wonderful experience.
We left Rome on a day a general strike had been set for 10 a.m. in support of the Spanish shutdown of all travel in and out of its country. We left our hotel for the airport at 7:30 a.m. I noted soldiers with machine guns greeted us as we arrived to go through Italian security. Travel today is not for the meek or fearful.
United Airlines boarded us quickly and we took off ahead of the strike. It was so good to be heading for Dulles, Richmond, then home to Urbanna and the awaiting dogs. Conclusion
(Dear readers, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I’ll be back in March.)