One of the pleasures of walking through the streets of a city like Rome is to see the sites that you might miss otherwise. Everyday we remark on something we have passed.
There are many beggars on the streets, especially around landmarks such as St Peter's Square. Several times we passed by an old bent-over woman walking with a cane, hand outstretched for alms. On closer look one can see that her hand is a young one, and one wonders how the same woman (because the clothes are identical) can be in so many places at the same time. Another sight is of a veiled woman kneeling with her forehead to the ground. The only part of her body that is visible is once again her hand that is outstretched and begging. Yesterday I passed by such a woman and saw that the hand was a large, masculine one. What to do? It is not easy to refrain from being charitable. Over the years I have agonized over whether to give to the alms seekers and squeegies at home. My personal solution has been to give to charities that support youth and families, rather directly to someone on the street. But here in Rome, as in other cities and countries we have visited, I am again confronted with this dilemma.
Another common sight is the many "fire hydrants"that are actually sources of drinking water and can be found in every park. They run constantly and are used to fill your water bottles, as well as to create a reverse drinking fountain by blocking the end, thus causing the water to spray up through a hole in the top of the tubing. If you can do it without getting soaked, there is an unlimited source of clean drinking water in Rome...very different from the experience in Asia and India. Apparently you can even drink the water that pours into the many fountains throughout Rome, as long as you can find the source before it falls into the fountain...that water is soon contaminated by the slime and bird droppings in the basin.
Yesterday we visited the beautiful Palazzo Farnesini, filled with frescoes by Raphael, Peruzzi and Sodoma among others. After a very interesting free guided tour, we stepped outside, over a low chain, and into a quiet garden, filled with citrus trees and other greenery. Another couple from Australia did the same. I found a bench where I could read while Pierre tried to get his Rick Steves' guide to the Jewish quarter to rewind and fast forward on my smart phone (the techie in him comes out when met with these challenges). Suddenly a little man in a suit came walking rapidly towards us, waving his arms and shouting in Italian that the garden was closed. At the same time he shooed us out of the garden, he was jabbering into a cell phone. He looked very upset that we had dared to go into the garden and of course I felt very guilty. We left and finished our reading on the other side of the chained entrance. Several minutes later we saw four other people doing exactly as we had done. And following them soon afterwards, there came the little man going through the same routine, walking with determination and gesticulating to banish them from the garden.
Why was the garden closed when it looked so inviting? Was it to give him a purpose in life as he seemed to take his job of guardian very seriously. They will need to put up a higher fence.