The Pines of Rome

Rome is all sky and pine, with clouds that give the city height and trees that look like people from an ancient tribe frozen against the landscape.  I know the flat skies of Beijing and Delhi – lids of grey and white with little definition that close tight onto the city.  Here the clouds rise from the ground – ethereal sky scrapers in a city that doesn’t have actual ones.  George used the word “depth” in our new days in Rome when he first noticed and described the clouds.  My last post has goods pictures of this depth.

It’s the trees, though, that I want to show you in this post.  I particularly love the pines  – so much so that one afternoon I googled “Roman pines” and discovered this little gem:  Respighi’s symphonic poem, The Pines of Rome.  You can listen to it and read a description in the YouTube link.  Notice the third movement – it is set at night on the Janiculum.  This is the hill that rises from the back patio of our apartment in Trestevere.  You can hear a nightingale in the nocturne, singing from a pine on a night lit by a full moon.

All four movements are lovely – playful, sad, longing and celebratory.

And the trees in Rome seem all that, still, decades after Respighi’s composition.

Here are the Janiculum pines from our garden:


This tree greets me every morning from my kitchen window:


The pines on our street:

DSC_0281DSC_0272Some seem exaggerated and Dr. Suess-like.  Others remind me of the Acacia in the Masai Mara, like these:


And as always, a few additional photos to fill-in-the-blanks of our days in Rome:



One month in Rome and we are thriving in the fresh air and unrelenting beauty of this city.   Still, moving takes so much energy.  I fall into bed at night physically exhausted and mentally tapped.  The final leg of our transition from India to Italy begins next week when we move from a residence hotel to our lovely apartment.

I see so much abundance here – of light, food, laughter, views, smiles, handsome and healthy faces – and it makes me feel a tad guilty for living in a place where life seems easier.  Lala says that she doesn’t want to forget that people elsewhere struggle for the gifts that are so apparent here.

Last week, George’s teacher projected a photo of a man in South Asia carrying bricks on his back.  He was prone with the weight of the bricks and he stood in front of  a brightly painted door.  A child stood nearby.  The teacher asked, “What is going on in the photo?”

I wondered how George felt to have a scene that was once a part of his daily landscape in India become a point of study in his new classroom.  None of the other students understood the photo and George proudly gave it context.  He sees that here, machines and relative wealth save men from the brutal force of manual labor.

Lala says that she is one of only three kids in her 9th grade class who has moved to Rome this year from another country.  Scan the faces in the international schools here and they are diverse. But most of the students are of Italy, much like the multicultural students in a New York City classroom are of the US.  My children often feel as though they are of nowhere.  “Where are you from?” is their most dreaded question.  I’ve heard Lala reply so many times, “It’s complicated.”

Our hotel sits in a valley between the Aventine, Palatine and Capitoline hills – three of ancient Rome’s seven defining geographic landmarks.  The boys pass the open doors of San Giorgio church and the soft chant of morning prayer on the way to their bus stop.  Lala walks to school along the spine of Circus Maximus and Jim passes the Forum on the way to his office.  This is his view:

And this is Lala’s:

Lala is my baby bird who has discovered that she has wings.  In Delhi she couldn’t go anywhere on her own but here, the city is hers to explore.  Pick pockets abound but Rome is safe otherwise.  Physical and violent crime occurs less here than in most cities in the US or Europe.

Eddie has joined the San Paolo soccer club.  It’s a sporting and community center run by the Church and filled with a healthy socioeconomic mix of attractive and animated local families.  The people-watching here is as entertaining as the soccer.

Eddie’s first soccer lesson at San Paolo included how to fake an injury.  When the coach yelled  “Foulo,” the boys dropped to the ground and feigned extreme pain.  I sent an email about the Foulo to Eddie’s coaches in Delhi because I knew they would have a good laugh.  They sent back a video of Eddie’s old team demonstrating its own version of the Foulo.  Some of you may have seen it on Facebook.

And my Italian?  It slips through my brain like water in a sieve.

Here are a few photos of our first weeks.  The landscape is mighty awesome.  You can see why Romans forgive the city its inefficiencies.