Friday, May 29, 2009
A famous art historian, a marriage proposal and a brush with the law (all in one day)
This morning I headed off to Pompeii with my permesso in hand ready to look at all my paintings and houses for my research. I was planning to take the local commuter train to the site, but the woman running my hostel said to just take the bus which is closer to the hostel. Unfortunately, the bus was running an hour late (but the men kept saying it was on time) so I got there a bit later than planned. Once there, I made it in for free with my pass and got everything squared away. I had to have the guys open the houses for me because most of them are locked so I went to the office and one guy came and each house we went to we seemed to gain an extra old Italian man. Eventually, I had this whole posse of old Italian guards who were walking around with me, talking to each other in Italian and trying to find me extra paintings that would relate to my thesis. So, I they did succeed in locating one extra one that I didn't know about which was good.
In the afternoon, I went to a house with one of the guards and there randomly happened to be this super famous art historian who works on paintings and whose books I really respect. He was doing research and one of his assistants was a friend of a friend of mine from UVA so it was pretty nice to meet these people and talk to them about Roman art and painting for a while.
Then, I had to find another guard to open another house for me later in the day and this guy named Cesar was assigned to me. Cesar was about 55 or 60 and he developed a certain fondness for me I guess over the course of our time walking around the city looking for the right house. He didn't really speak English and I don't really speak Italian so he finally asked me in broken English if I was married. When I replied "no" he got really happy, hugged me, tried to kiss me and said "good, we can go to pizza tonight in Sorrento (a city near Pompeii) and get married." I said WHOOOA buddy, i don't think so, i'm just here to look at art. (although, I do really want to go to sorrento and free pizza wouldn't be all that bad....) apparently, the NO didn't really register because he continued to accompany me around Pompeii and kept directing me to specific houses including the "erotic" paintings of the brothel where he asked me if i liked them to which I responded a resounding NO and later when he asked me if i liked wine I said I hated it, hoping to make myself sound as horribly unattractive as possibly so he would get this idea out of his head and let me look at my art in peace! Eventually I ditched him when he went to let someone else into a house (i just ran down the street, well walked briskly) so I hope he wasn't too heartbroken.
I figured that was enough excitement for one day, but on my way home I was in the Naples metro station and got stopped by the police who were checking train tickets. They claimed that they were unable to read the stamp on mine and fined me 40 euro (a lot!). I tried to argue in my Italian (which basically consists of "thank you" and "goodbye"), but they apparently spoke no English (I'm still skeptical) so I was forced to pay the 40 euro b/c I didn't really want to get in any more trouble. I was pretty upset, not just about the money, but about the fact that I was honestly not doing anything wrong, the law just scammed me out of money so I cried my way home on the metro, which was pretty embarrassing (luckily I don't know anyone in Naples).
I'm going to post some pics of Pompeii in the picture space that is linked on the right under "My pics" at some point tonight or tomorrow. I'm heading back to Pompeii tomorrow for more research and also to Herculaneum so hopefully it will be a little less exciting, or at least no more fines.