Thursday, March 11, 2010

One of my most favourite books


maybe Greece next.

I don't remember the first time I read My Family and Other Animals, but it is one of those books I have made sure to always have a copy of no matter what. It has always been popular too. Just the other day, I saw a copy of it, in Italian, in one of the outdoor book stalls near the church.

When I was 16 or so, I decided I wanted to see Greece, specifically, Corfu. And since I was a kid being taken along on my mother's university marine biology field trips, I've wanted to be an amateur naturalist.

Never really thought I would get this close to either of those goals.

I have a mess of photos for you, some magnificent ones of Rome from the top of the Janiculum and some more nature pics of wildlife in Santa Marinella. But I've forgotten to bring home the little cable thingy I use to connect my camera to the computer to download them (or upload, or whatever you call it), so you're going to have to wait.

But I'll tell you a funny story.

The other day, I realised I had left my plug adaptor at home, and needed to get a new one so I could plug my American computer into its European electrical socket. By the time I had found an electronics shop that had one, I was at the base of the road leading up to the Janiculum, and its parks on top. Well, I had a bit of time and didn't need to rush back to the office.

After what turned out to be a very long and tedious walk up the hill, (enclosed on both sides by high walls so I could see nothing, and with the horrible Italian sun beating down on my head) I found my way into the park and had a lovely time with the view and the statues and the inscriptions.

When I was done, I thought I would go down the Trastevere side and catch the bus back to the office. Accordingly, I set out on one of the little paths that look so enticing, winding muddily through the woodsy bits on the down slope of the big hill. Well, I had assumed that the muddy woodsy path I was taking would connect up to the more civilised looking ones lower down that I could see as I switched back and forth, pushing foliage out of the way. When I had got all the way down to the bottom, I discovered to my dismay that the path I was on did not connect, or at least, it would have had someone not locked the gate in the fence I had been following.

The fence was very high, stone up to about waist high, and topped with very tall iron railings that ended in rather ominous looking spikes. The gate was meant to impress and was at least ten feet high. The padlock on it was not the least bit rusty.

I looked ahead up the path that swung back up the hill and thought, "Bugger that!" I wasn't about to climb all the way back up the hill, just because some careless idiot park employee had left the damn gate locked.

No one was looking, and I saw that I could climb up on the stone part of the wall, and use the gate hinges as footholds. I hung my handbag on a spike and gingerly heaved my middle-aged and beskirted self over the fence with much grabbing of ankles and hauling of somewhat podgy legs over the deadly spikes.

It has been probably twenty years at least since I have hopped a fence, and I can tell you it is one of those childhood skills that never leaves one. The only concern I had that I didn't have when I was ten, was pulling holes in my stockings.

Well pleased with self, I retrieved my handbag and set off down the rest of the hill. As I was going along, I noticed that the trees, shrubs and bits of greenery were all very helpfully labelled. I went around reading the little signs and figuring out the Latin names for all sorts of palms, and pampas grasses.

It was not until I had got all the way to the bottom that I began to suspect. There was a large and very well organised (for Italy) garden, with carefully (for Italy) maintained beds, all labeled and with lots of signage.

A few more twists of the gravel path, and I came to the gate leading out into the street by the Palazzo Corsini, which was guarded by an information centre and a kiosk where you have to pay to get into the Rome Botanical Gardens.

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