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Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Roman Easter

Sunday, April 17th., Rome-Taormina train.

I had another good night, despite trams and other things outside. It was Easter Day in Rome and I hired a car after lots of various letter-writing and note-making, and drove to S. Maria Maggiore.

Just inside the main entrance of this large and imposing building a nun, or perhaps a lay-sister of some sort, was asking alms for charity. She had probably been standing there for hours. Round about the altar rails, and in front of a side-chapel, thick crowds clustered. Some had climbed on benches in order to get a view of the choir. From the choir came gleams of flickering candles, and of a medley of whitish ecclesiastical garments, and the sound of mediocre organ playing and very bad, perfunctory singing.

Then to St. Peter's, S. Giovanni Laterano and Santa Croce.
Here, established under the portico, a merchant was selling rosaries, images and photographs. Big crowds surged outwards - middle class and lower middle class. And they were determined to get away without loss of a moment; they were mad to get away as if fleeing from some frightful peril.

I also drove up to the Garibaldi Monument (Monte Gianicolo). All this in two hours. I did not feel like lunching wholesale in the hotel, so I went out and found a little trattoria, and ate there. About a dozen customers. Two clerkly young men with gay neckties, in confidential discussion. A group of three: an oldish, shabby, tousled woman with back so bowed that her head was almost at the level of the table; an old man, her husband with a hooked nose, very shabby and untidy, who smoked small cheap cigars the whole time; and a chocolate-uniformed friend who looked like a sleeping-car conductor but was not. The hooked nose and the chocolate person argued incessantly and raspingly; but they were excellent friends; the chocolate person felt the old man's pulse and the glands of his neck, and sneered, while the old woman grinned and steadily ate.

Then hired a horse cab, and went to the Pincio Gardens. Very dusty everywhere in Rome.
Paid bill and made arrangements, and then went for a walk. The Terme in front of the station was closed, but the church (I forget the name) was open, and I went in there and found in the vast place a congregation evidently waiting for a sermon. When I looked at my watch it was 5.25. Train due at 6. I hurried off. I only caught the train by six minutes. It left one minute late, but got to Naples on time.

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