We hear the music, and are drawn to it. Like the Pied Piper, I think. Except this is high-pitched intense R&B from an electric guitar, not melodic flute music. We cross the bridge, moving ever closer to the sounds.
We’re in Rome, taking a short walk before retiring for the evening. As we stroll, the sounds draw us on. Our apartment is only a block or so from the river, so we naturally head that way. Once on the bridge, the same one we had crossed a day or two ago on our way to the Vatican, we realize the sounds are coming from the other side.
Immediately in front of us, on the far bank, is a huge cylindrical structure called Castel Saint'Angelo (which is to say, we are on Ponte Saint'Angelo), like a giant wedding cake made of red brick. We pause, crossing the bridge, to admire the sculpted angels spaced every so often along the roadway. The source for the bridge name, perhaps? While we’d crossed here before, this time we are not focused on our destination and spend more time examining the sculptures. Each angel has a distinct personality, and each seems pretty happy (except for that one; I don’t know what his problem is).
|Castel Saint'Angelo a summer's day, with people; from Google Street View (not my photo!)|
|Looking upriver from the Ponte Saint'Angelo...|
|...and looking downriver|
|A happy angel on the bridge (well, the statue of an angel)|
As we approach the far bank the music stops; it is apparent now there is not a band but only one fellow, sitting at the base of the massive brick wall that forms Castel Saint'Angelo. We follow the river, passing some distance from the guitar player, who is now tuning and plunking the strings. We look across the river, to the city lights – our neighborhood, come to think of it – and downriver, to the next bridge, also well lit. A classic scene in Rome!
We briefly consider crossing back at the next bridge, but that looks too far; drawn by the mysterious music, we’d already come further than we had expected this short evening stroll to take us. We turn around and pass back in front of the monstrous brick castle, lit by the garish orange-yellow light of the sodium vapor street lamps. Actually, I’ve always detested these lights; they seem to steal all the color; impossible to find your parked car when lit by sodium vapor (their popularity in modern cities is due to their extreme efficiency – they use less electric power than almost any other light source – and not for the quality of the light they provide). Yet I learned in Seville that the color exactly compliments the soft, warm tones of ancient stone buildings, making for night scenes that are almost fairy-like.
But this night we are away from the tight lanes and close streets; instead, we face long distances, large areas, few lights, extensive shadows, and dark brick, not light stone. The whole scene is surreal: the lone guitarist, sitting on his substantial amplifier, almost disappearing against the massive wall. And but for him (and us!) the area is deserted. It’s like he is the Last Man on Earth. And to complete the absurdity, we finally see the sign propped up on his tip bucket: “I need money to fix my time machine to get back to the ‘50s.”
Just another night in Rome…