Piscina, Poetry and Penance in Roma


“Buon Giorno?” PP greets her, hesitating. She is, of course, in the middle of feeding cats. Oh, Roma, the City of Gatti! They’re everywhere, including here at the Cimitero acattolico, aka the Non-Catholic Cemetery. PP and DHBF have stumbled upon it looking for what else? A pool.

“C’mere!” DHBF had called PP over to the computer to show her, what else? A map! “There should be a pool here.....” He shoves the pretty green and yellow map on the screen at her. “Google says it’s only a 21 minute walk from here,” he beams.
PP eyes the map dubiously. Google is so not her idea of a trustworthy source even though everyone else on the planet thinks it’s God.
“21 minutes?” she asks. “Ummm....”
“Yeah! Isn’t that great?”
“Sure, if it’s true. But maybe we should just walk over there first to make sure it’s really there before luggin all of our swim stuff around like we did in Venice.”
“That makes perfect sense,” DHBF nods. “You ready?”
“Guess so.”

PP had tried to stifle any excitement. After the disappointment over the pool in Venice she didn’t want to get her hopes up here in Roma, but it would be so very cool if the pool were this close.

45 minutes later they stand in the Cemetery for Non-Catholics asking the Cat Woman where the pool is. She tries to help as a rotund calico clamors for her kibble. “Piscine?” she repeats. Then launches into a stream of Italian Pool Directions. PP and DHBF shake their heads. “No, no. No parle Italiano. Parle Englise?”
She shakes her head, “No...no....” as the Calico knocks a forkful of tuna out of her hand.
Somehow she communicates that the pool is next to the nursery they’d walked past already by making a flower shape with her hands –plus the Italian for flower is close to English. PP can’t remember the word now of course, but trust her, it is.

So....okay, this is good. They go back to the nursery and the pool will be right there and.....

PP has to go to the bathroom. She has to see Keats and Shelley and Gregory Corso before she heads off on the pool quest.

She does all of the above, noting the lovely verse on Corso’s gravestone:

Dubious though still of their ability to actually find the pool, she sighs. They’re all gonna end up in the water again anyway---why does she have to practice so much while she’s living?

“Hey! There’s an information place here,” DHBF lights up. He loves Visitor Centers. Once, when they were on a weekend trip up in the Gold Country he went to the VC to find a hike and this was how they found the smoking mini volcanoes. But that’s another blog.
Here they’ve found pyramids and poetry.
Would the VC know where the pool was?

“Buon Giorno!” DHBF calls out as they pop into the center filled with poetry, calendars, postcards and cats.
“Parle Englise?”
“A lot!” An affable gent grins. Turns out he’s from the Bay Area, San Rafael even. And so, DHBF hits it off with him immediately. He’s got an Italian sidekick at the computer who looks up the pool address and yup, it’s just up the street by the nursery like Gatto Chicka had said.
“Did you see Corso’s grave?” San Rafael Man asks.
“Yes, we did. I didn’t realize he was buried here in Rome,” PP answers.
“Yup. If you go on YouTube you can see him wandering the City streets. Course by that time he had a bottle of beer in his hand 24/7.” He shakes his head sadly.
PP nods. It is sad. But then again, Corso did end up in Roma next to Keats. That seems perfecto.
“Grazie for the pool info,” she thanks them.
“Sure, no problem. Good luck,” San Rafael Man waves good-bye.


PP stands at the rail on the balcony above the chaotic pool that only Roma would have. It’s packed with swim team kids of various ages, ranging from maybe 8 to 14? (She is terrible with kids’ ages) There are 6-8 kids in a lane. They’re swimming backstroke in frantic crooked lines. A coach follows them on deck, hollering commands at them that PP can’t understand since they’re in Italian. But she’s been where those kids are. “Get the lead out Jameson! Let’s see some hustle there!”
How the hell did she ever do sports? Those kids all look like they’re swimming for their lives. And here in the country where relaxation and la dolce vita are king.
Not in the pool!

It’s a cute little pool. Indoors. 4 lanes. 25 yards. But already, PP knows that this probably isn’t gonna work. The place seems like a private club and she’s just not up for paying 25 euros to swim again (not that she paid it in Florence thanks to her sister. But sis was back in Torrance and besides, PP wouldn’t expect her to pay again.)

Hell. Weren’t there any goddamn public pools in Italy?
There must be. Just not on Google. Or wherever this Internet swim site connection is.

She lingers on the balcony for a moment with all the parents and little brothers and sisters that aren’t in the pool. It would be so nice to come back and swim laps without all the kids, she thinks.

But it was not to be. The woman at the counter shows them the schedule. The price? 130 euros for 4 months.
“Can’t I just come swim once?” PP asks, knowing the answer.
She shakes her head, “No, no....sorry.”
“Do you know of another pool we could try in the area?”
“You could try Roma Uno,” she offers, but they may need Medical Certificate, I don’t know.”
Medical Certificate? PP doesn’t even ask, but gets the address from her and they head out back onto the busy blvd.


PP doesn’t even have the energy to document Roma Uno. But she will muse on the Medical Certificate Aspect of it since it’s so weird.

This is a fact. Some sort of doctor’s official certificate must be brought back to Roma Uno if she wants to pay the 30 euros to swim there. (Yes, this is the price and at least it would be possible to swim here barring the medical obstacle.)

What could this be?
“They just don’t want all of us Foreign Tourists bringing in nasty diseases from around the globe to contaminate their pool,” DHBF offers.
“Like what?” PP asks, puzzled. “AIDS? Cholera? What kinds of communicable diseases are spread in pools?”
“Leprosy!” DHBF laughs.
“Leprosy” PP giggles. “That must be it! All of the Swimming Romans are afraid that we’re going to give them leprosy in the pool and all of their bella limbs are going to fall off and they won’t be able to wear their high heels anymore!”

They both laugh. It is funny. Leprosy.
But yet, this does mean that PP has no pool to report on in Roma. Other than these two pools that were not meant to be.

“The Vatican has a pool,” DHBF suggests. “We could try that when we go there tomorrow.”
“Are you kidding?” PP laughs. “I’m not swimming at the Vatican.”
“Why not?”
She pauses. Good question. Why indeed.
That night, before their big day at the Vatican, PP pictures all of those nuns floating in the pool, their habits billowing in the blue blue water. Their heavy shoes sinking down into the watery depths.

It’d be a good story, to swim at the Vatican.
But not this trip. It’s just too much to try to find another pool. PP can’t handle the disappointment anymore.
Even though a swimming nun would be fun, wouldn’t she?


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