Rome is full of Piazza, Piazza this and Piazza that. Every street you enter will lead you to a Piazza. So what is piazza that sounds like a pizza with an additional ‘A’? Looking up at a dictionary will tell you that piazza is a public square marketplace, especially in an Italian town.
A square is always crowded with tourists who want their pictures taken, filled with natives who employ in marketing souvenirs, artists and silent spectators like myself. A typical architecture of a square encompasses a centre structure, usually with a fountain and a sitting area, a building and restaurants and eateries surrounding them. The idea was to create a lively and informal atmosphere where people can enjoy.
So there I was at one of the famous squares, Piazza Navona, on a sultry Tuesday evening in June. Piazza Navona was built during I century AD as an open area for people to watch games. It follows the format of a square,as in it includes a building with Baroque architecture and a fountain with Egyptian obelisk opposite to it. History states that the Italians won the obelisk after their victory against Egypt. There are two more smaller fountains Fontana del Moro on the southern side and Fountain of Neptune on northern side, equidistant from the obelisk. Around each of the three fountains there were six stone benches, most of them occupied. Thin metal bars supporting small pillars around fountains made a perfect place for taking selfies and picture perfect shots.
Sitting on the metal bar at one end of the fountain, presents a picturesque view of the square. As for me more than the its architecture and history, it is the kind of people the square draws and how they interact fascinated me. So I chose a place that was relatively less crowded and decided to observe, for a while. Behind me, there were two artists – a man in blue jeans and navy blue t-shirt and woman in red sleeveless dress and a black pullover, in their early twenties. They were sketching I suppose. They probably found the whole scenario stimulating just as I did. Few feet away from them I saw a young couple with a few months old kid in tow. It seemed like the kid was wet and they ran out of nappy. The daddy rushed off to buy diaper, while the mom cajoled their crying baby. The baby was cute, at least from a distance. Two benches away and diagonally opposite to me sat a couple, probably east asians. They were so immersed in each other that there could be an earthquake and they wouldn’t take off their eyes on each other. This is in sharp contrast to an Indian couple who were making ruckus right next to me.
The wife wanted to take pictures, lot of them in front of the fountain, posing standing straight, sideways and jumping. In all these clicks, there was not even a single picture of the husband. Well probably the DSLR is for taking wife’s pictures rather than the beauty of Italy. It is not just the wife, so many other tourists followed the suite like two daughters and their mother combo.
It was chaotic. And it was calming. I suddenly remembered a quote: “It is all about finding calm in the chaos.” For as you sit there a bit longer, clamoring tourists fade away to a background as unfamiliar yet soothing tunes from accordion and guitar played by passersby slices through. Water that is trickling from the fountains, you will realise is a perfect accompaniment. As evening descends, the aroma of fresh Italian sauces from the nearby trattorias, ripe smell of wines and the fresh sharpness of grounded coffee beans wafts through the air.
Evenings indeed are beautiful in Rome. It is the time tourists swing by trattoria give their tired feet a rest. It is time when people return from work and settle down in a pub to catch up with friends or just to put their feet up. Most of all it is a time to laugh and smile, to say goodbye to a long day – sipping a glass of wine and whisper “Gracia!”