Diaries Magazine

Caligula, Audrey Hepburn & an Autumnal Blush

Posted on the 14 November 2011 by Lucymiller321 @lucymiller321
On Monday, I plan to visit the Audrey a Roma exhibition at the Ara Pacis.
The exhibition has over 150 photographs, mostly candid, of Audrey Hepburn’s life in Rome, as well as some of her clothes – including the pink wedding dress from her second marriage, to Andrea Dotti. I’m fairly excited about getting my Audrey fix. (Yes, I was one of those teenage girls who was obsessed with her, yes I watched Holly Golightly flitter repeatedly through New York, over and over again, and yes, I did have that depressingly common pink poster of her with the cat up on my wall for my entire three years at Lancaster).
But I haven’t counted on the weather today, and in a similar vein as yesterday it decides to gloriously piss it down whilst I am having breakfast. And then, because fate clearly just needs me to stay inside today, I find that there is a metro and bus strike going on until 5pm anyway.
So. No Audrey/ 1960s fashion/ 00s teenage nostalgia for me.
Instead I wait an incredibly long time for the Mac so I can check Facebook and my emails (there is a man who looks far too old to be doing so playing a game called Farmerama and intermittently farting and then congratulating himself – WHY are there so many freaks in this hotel?) and then go back to my room and write the Beyond Africa exhibition article instead.
On Tuesday rain threatens, but I risk the Audrey exhibition anyway. I head down Via dei Condotti pretending that I’m not even slightly awed by Prada, Chanel, Bulgari, Fendi, Dior, Gucci, etc. It’s a fairly intimidating street, but I walk with my head held high in the hope that this will mean no one notices my slightly worn tights and Topshop skirt (circa 2007).
The Ara Pacis is primarily a museo of Roman history, as well as currently housing the Audrey a Roma exhibition. The first thing I am greeted with is a huge Caesar family tree – its most famous patriarch Julius (c. 101 – 44 BC) is at the top; at the bottom is everyone favorite sexually depraved Emperor Caius Caligula (12 – 41 AD), who in my opinion is not depicted most accurately in one thousand year old busts, but in the hallowed words of Steven Patrick Morrisey, i.e. the impossibility of making Caligula blushhhhh.
Further inspection of the family tree reveals that Caligula was the father of Nero, which might explain why the latter was so bloody mental.
The Ara Pacis was erected in 13 BC to celebrate the return of the Emperor Augustus from the western provinces – Spain and Gaul. Priests, magistrates and vestal virgins were ordered to make sacrifices upon it, which seems fairly out of order to me. The place itself consisted of ‘campus’, where the Republic’s heroes were buried, the youth did athletics, the army trained and chariot races took place.
The Audrey a Roma exhibition is amazing. Partly curated by her son Luca Dotti, it shows photographs that are alarmingly personal – Audrey walking her dogs, picking up flowers and browsing at a bakery, even walking with her mother in Monti. There is a video of her wedding to Andrea Dotti playing alongside family holiday clips, as well as the tiny pink wedding dress. Seeing these things is bizarre, but even more so is her original script from Roman Holiday, complete with annotated scribbling – in one scene  she reminds herself that Princess Anna should be having ‘the happiest day of her life’. Her passport is also on display, as is the vesper from Roman Holiday, which has its own guard watching over it. Surreal.
Afterwards I spend a bit more time browsing through the Ara Pacis antiquities, before catching the metro at Flamino and heading homewards.
In reception later, I am bowled over by the demands of two female (American) guests. They tramp up the stairs (only one flight), loudly, before enquiring as to whether there is anyone who can carry their luggage. The receptionist says there isn’t, sorry – the hotel doesn’t provide a porter service. (This is because it is two star and wonderfully cheap, which he doesn’t point out, but really should).
The elder woman says, ‘We’ve just had the worst day of our lives. We missed our plane in Paris because the taxi took us to the wrong airport, and then we lost our luggage.’
A number of things occur to me when she says this. Firstly, clearly the luggage is here, because I can hear her companion groaning loudly as she drags it up the stairs. Nice. Secondly, I bet you didn’t realize there were two airports in Paris and thus didn’t give the poor taxi driver the correct details, you fool. Thirdly, shut up.
I’m thinking about my pink Roxy suitcase and the time I dragged it, stuffed with a week’s worth of clothes, about ten books, and a laptop, with a sleeping bag strapped to the handle, from Chessington Travelodge to Waterloo during the London commute, and then the half mile to the TNS office in torrential rain. My Roxy suitcase has been on many wonderful adventures, but this was not one of them, and the fact that these women are moaning because they have to ascend one flight of stairs is beyond me.
‘Oh,’ the receptionist says. ‘I’m sorry about that. Give me a minute and let me just create a porter from thin air; I can perform miracle acts such as this on days when guests are stressed out by their own stupidity.’
The woman says, ‘It’s really not good. People will come with luggage.’
Argh. Two stars! 
On Wednesday I have a browse in Feltrinelli, whilst waiting for lunch, and think about all the things I miss about England.
A few days ago Katy told me that during her year in Madrid she missed carpet. I didn’t fully understand how one could miss carpet, but now I do. Aside from people, obviously, absolutely everything I miss is ridiculous. I’ll give you some examples. Costa Gingerbread Lattes. Ridiculous! I’m in the coffee capital of the world! Scrambled eggs (cooked by Diane, of course). Despite deriding it every year, the X Factor. Grimy British pubs/ cider and black. Most ridiculous of all -the train, specifically, the train journey between Manchester Piccadilly and Huddersfield and vice versa. Melissa believes this is metaphorical, and something to do with homecoming. I think it is because, in whichever direction the train is going, I know there will be people I love waiting for me at the end of it. And probably wine.
I also miss music, specifically the radio, which I have obviously never valued highly enough before. I’d never realised until I came here how much it is on at home. In the morning when I come downstairs, in the car – it is constant. I abandoned my IPod two years ago after spending too long fighting with ITunes and I haven’t missed it, but now without internet in my room I can’t even listen to YouTube unless I set up camp with my headphones in reception. Last week in Transtevere, I found myself hovering outside a cafe for close to five minutes just because it was playing Adele. So today, at the back of Feltrinelli, I am exceptionally pleased to find sample albums playing on headphones. I am happy that I will be able to spend a few minutes getting my English music fix, until no sound comes out of the headphones and I realize that they are broken.
I am gutted. Boo Italy.
I meet Ashley and Laura and we pick up paninis and smoothies and eat lunch by the Pantheon. My peach smoothie is delish, and my faith in Italy is somewhat restored. After Ashley has gone back to work Laura and I wander down to Campo dei Fiori, stopping in a few shops on the way. At the market Laura searches for ingredients for her Thanksgiving feast for thirty family members (so, so brave) and I take in the beauty of the stalls, which are so swathed in autumnal colours that they don’t even look real. I love autumn, and it is out in full force in Campo dei Fiori today.
Despite this, however, I still think that the best place to be in this season is Yorkshire, with cable-knit tights and crumpets and a proper quilt to snuggle in when it gets cold – sorry Rome! 

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