In my mind, I am one of these writers who sits at a pavement café in … Rome, for example, a coffee or a glass of wine on the table as I tap away on my laptop while watching the world go by. The sun is shining, casting its rays on the Mediterranean hues of the surrounding buildings, so pretty with their green shutters and balconies. Many are covered in greenery, the arched doorways of the shops and restaurants frequently laden with flowers. The air is balmy in the Eternal City; a city immersed in its history, ever present in the skyline, from every rooftop, around every corner, in every piazza. Life is bustling on every side but people seem happy, relaxed, whether working or on holiday. Yes, the very nature of the language is rapid and intense but that belies La Dolce Vita. There is no urgency in the sunshine. There is no urgency in these beautiful, historic surroundings, testament to the past. Protected and revered, there is great pride in the city and tourists abound in their appreciation …
There is so much to see around me; so much colour, vitality. At once, invigorating and inspiring, it is hard to divert one’s gaze back to the keyboard. No matter. One does not live to work, here; one works to live – in the true sense. Part imagination, part observation, I have never lived in Rome; rather, enjoyed many holidays there. However, Becca has and, returning to this country, she left her heart there. I understand. On my visits, I observed a city of culture and unbeatable style derived from its roots. Elegance is a given. Understated, never flash. I witnessed the same at the Teatro dell’Opera di Roma where I was lucky enough to see Tosca – a birthday present from Becca!
The Wedding Cake – the monument of Victor Emmanuel II – is my landmark when there. From the Colosseum, the Via dei Fori Imperiali runs between parts of the Forums of Trajan, Augustus and Nerva leading one down to the Via del Corso, the main shopping street in the City, off which – aside from the many piazzas – one will find the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and, of course, the Scalinata di Trinità dei Monti; The Spanish Steps. From Roman Holiday, straight to my heart!
In my mind, I am back there, now. Perhaps in a little café in Monti. Forget the coffee, I have a large glass of Cervaro beside me, obviously! Have I written much? A bit. Immersed in people-watching, I attribute stories to the most interesting I see, the passerby, anonymous no more. Something I think I have always done, in my head. The imagination is a powerful tool for preservation and for flight – one and the same, in the end. So it is that, as I sit at the table in this little cottage, five minutes from St Andrews and the beach, it is after 8pm and the light is fading. In Monti, however, the cobbled streets are bursting into life! People are spilling out of Ai Tre Scalini, the little wine bar/restaurant enveloped in ivy where everyone knows your name. So popular with the locals, tourists must wait their seat but it is worth it. Simple, authentic Italian cuisine provides the perfect accompaniment to a bottle of their organic wine as one soaks in the lively atmosphere packed into the rustic, characterful surrounds.
Monti is synonymous with vintage. The narrow, cobbled streets are interspersed with quirky, individual boutiques, wine bars, and hidden restaurants, all of which come alive in the evening. Sacripante is a gallery/wine bar/bespoke shop, a stone’s throw from Ai Tre Scalini. Our friend, Wilma Silvestri, not only sources incredible vintage dresses and accessories, the likes of which one will never see, but she also sources fabric for the one-off pieces she, herself, designs and makes. We spent many an evening in her old shop next door – Le Gallinelle – in heaven as we foraged through the rails, trying on bits and pieces while chatting and enjoying the wine and nibbles Okey had popped down to Ai Tre Scalini to buy – or ‘borrow’ from his friends, such was the camaraderie of the locals. The shops will stay open as long as there are customers. There is no rush. No rush to open in the morning either for it is come the evening – as the sun begins to fade – that Monti begins to sparkle. Ask Sarah Jessica Parker, of Sex & The City fame! She bought at necklace in Carlotta’s vintage shop (Wilma’s daughter), nearby; the very same shop from whence I bought my perfect, over-sized green sunglasses – for 40 euros!
Several glasses of Cervaro later, the light is fading. I’ve watched the world go by and written about it; a world full of life as opposed to just existing. For one needs inspiration and that cannot be gleaned from the mundane. Surround oneself with grey and the words will lack colour. Sit on Rose Street – or even George Street, now – and sink with the standards. Devoid of elegance, style or charm – aside from the architecture – this is Edinburgh. Far from the Eternal City, it has become Hen Party Central. Even St Andrews is not immune! Proud to be Scottish? I have just noticed an article in The Telegraph as of two days ago: ‘Scottish four-year-olds can change gender at school without parents’ consent.’ That is insane!
Meanwhile, I fell down a rabbit hole the other night when I read the following article in the Defender (11/8/21): ‘Conflict of interest: Reuters ‘Fact Checks’ COVID-Related Social Media Posts, But Fails to Disclose Ties to Pfizer, World Economic Forum.‘. Read it. The facts are there to see but I assure you, joining the dots is scary!
See what I mean? The influence of one’s surroundings is immense. It begs the eternal question, why do we live here? I have to admit, I no longer know. Life is short. Happiness is elusive. Why pretend? In my imagination, I am sitting at that table in Monti, large glass of Cervaro to hand, laptop in front of me, writing about life! I could just as well be in St Wolfgang, sitting on the lakeside surrounded by the breath-taking mountains or in our favourite café in the village, Kaffeewerkstatt …
Live life to the full? Only those with courage need apply.
‘Life is short so live it. Fear is awful so face it. Love is rare so seize it. Anger is ugly so avoid it. Memories are precious so cherish them.’
Ben Fogle on Twitter.
This is Trish, signing off. (Remember, nobody forced you to read it – Andrea!)