Early Morning

It’s the “early” morning quiet that woke me this morning. I guess I’ve finally entered officially into Roman time. I have brought my computer and camera outside to dutifully write my blog entry, which by the way happens to be one day late. Sorry.

I also made my first Italian coffee with steamed milk foam. My daughter who used to work at Starbucks would be proud of me. The sounds of people getting ready for a new day begin. Pigeons are cooing, wings are flapping and seagulls are already squawking, complaining as they pass high over my head. The sounds of traffic have just begun too. It’s the eighth and I’m sitting outside on the lanai where Alohalani wrote about the evening sky. I too cannot help but write about the beautiful sky. The ‘Olekukahi moon is setting in the west. Hokulei, Capella, is at my zenith. It seems so odd to see Hokupa, or Auriga directly above my head. A big bright orange planet is also next to the twins and I cannot immediately place it. It’s probably Mars, but I am unsure. Kekaomakali’i is also directly above me and their orientation seems almost upside down as I am high north from the equator. Nanamua & Nanahope are prominent in the sky and I understand why they were important ancient gods to the Romans. These are my gods too and old familiar friends. I also notice that stars don’t twinkle here so you cannot tell which are planets and which are stars. These old familiar friends, out of place in the lewa make me miss home. If I were home right now in Hilo I’d be watching some random show on the TV, listening to the rain on the roof and researching one thing or the other about ancient days and history of Hawai’i. Funny how I’m doing exactly the same thing here on my “vacation,” no? The only difference is that I’m writing about my experiences in the present while walking through courtyards, castles, halls and walls of someone else’s ancient past. You cannot fall too far away from the tree, I suppose, no matter how far you uproot your tree. Ha! Ok, enough with the profundity.

Yesterday we spent a good chunk of the morning at Castel Sant’ Angelo. Most may recall this fortress as one of the main locations for the story Angels and Demons. If you have ever seen or read a story where castles, dragons, nights and fair maidens were involved, this place would’ve been the epitome of your imagination. There’s a deep moat surrounding the foundation of the hill, which I’ve learned is actually a manmade hill. The Tiber river fronts the castle’s angel bedecked bridge and the entire building is surrounded with a steep impending wall full of nooks, crannies and purposefully angled windows to drop hot oil, shoot guns or levy canon balls the size of basketballs at any enemy. It’s a perfect place to conjure up all those stories you may’ve read about ancient battles. But wait a minute, what am I thinking?…. Those stories actually did transpire here. Firstly, Castel Sant’ Angelo was once the tomb of a Roman emperor named Hadrian. I think he had the building constructed to be his and his family’s tomb. He had the entire place decorated with statues of angels and on the top of the roof where the archangel Michael currently stands, was a huge bronze sculpture of a four horse drawn chariot called a quadriga. Hadrian also commissioned the construction of the bridge with all the angels as well. I’m pretty sure the angels were not holding all the implements of the passion of Christ at its construction as Christianity wasn’t quite big yet when Hadrian was still alive. My feeling is that those additional elements had been added later. The model seen in the picture above is what some ancient texts and drawings have illustrated about the place. It sort of looks like a huge birthday cake.

My understanding is that the place later becomes a tomb or mausoleum for many other emperors and aristocrats of the Roman empire until a dude named Caracalla. Sounds like he was not too favored either. Urns that held the ashes of these important folks had been kept in the center of the building now called the Treasury.
Some 400 years after Hadrian the place is recycled and turned into a military fortress. However at the fall of the Roman empire the infamous Visigoths burn the place down. Then the Catholics came into power and turned the place into a Papal fortress. At some point Popes utilize the place as a safe residence and like the story of Angels & Demons explains, had an underground passageway built between the Basilica and the castle. Raphael, Michelangelo’s apprentice, sculpts a marble statue of Saint Michael with a sword representing the triumph over the plague. The place later becomes a prison and is now a background where operas and stories are often told. Hence the opera Tosca and now the story  Angels and Demons which we seem to be very familiar with. By the way, the folks here were in an uproar over the book and the movie.
What does the place look like? Everything you’d imagine a castlewould with a bridge, circular hallways large enough for three men on horseback to ride and ramparts…. hey there’s a word I never thought I’d ever use in a sentence…. filled with canons, cannon balls and a huge ass crossbow the size of a Toyota truck. From the very top of the castle my mind goes into creativity at its best. I can imagine the trebuchets launching fiery boulders from across the Tiber river, large horse drawn wagons with mangonels and battle rams attempting to bash their way into the fortress. I see crossbows being launched, hear sounds of blades being unsheathed steel upon steel, feel the vibrations of the fired boulders hitting the walls and of course the horrific sounds of men & women in battle. Sort of invigorating. Then I’m brought right back to where I am today as the saxophone player for the MTV concert of Michael Buble is practicing discordantly on the other side of the castle. Shucks. What’s at the top of the castle you’re asking? A bar. What about under the huge angel? Tourists. Present company included.
Got a good workout from walking up all the stairs too.

We reluctantly leave the castle and then set off on the motorino to go find a shoe store  we saw the day previously that had some gorgeous shoes Alohalani wanted. Good thing I’m not a navigator cause I couln’t find my way back to that damn store. However we did find another store that provided lovely shoes for Alohalani. K, I did think about getting a pair for myself but let’s be real Gangeh. I’m as kanak as they get, hate closed toed shoes and love Italian sandals & slippers. No more any sandals right now cause it’s fall going into winter which means only a coocoo bird or a tourist would be wanting open toed shoes right now. Ahhhhh.
E Kalani & Aunty Pua, I had the best glass of Brunello today for lunch with a parmesan cheese/tomato/arugula pizza for antipasti then a plate of straccetti (strah-chet-ee) for the main meal. I nevah know that the food was going be so ‘ono and the plates would have so much of it in one serving. Haven’t eaten dinner for two days straight now due to the huge lunches I’ve been engorging myself on. No biggie though. I’ll go back on my diet when I go home.
K, well. I’m supposed say something about myself in these blogs by the request of some of you. So let me say that I came to Rome because it was a happy birthday wish of my friend. I had no idea that I would be standing before many buildings that Kalakaua himself stood before, thinking about how he was contemplating over the appearance of his own palace. I had no idea that I would be searching for fire and water in different lands.  I had no idea that I would be thinking about how Kalakaua stood before sacred sites in Hawai’i & Rome contemplating about the future of his people and that I would also be standing before the very same sites some 220 years later contemplating the same things.  I often find myself contemplating how my ancestors constructed the ones at home and also contemplating how I will save those same sacred

places. For me, time runs simultaneously. We talk about the past, are moving towards the future while standing in the immediate present. So when I come to Rome and see the many civilizations that have risen, fallen and risen again as something else but in the same shell not too far from their predecessors, I know that Hawaiians can do the same. I can appreciate many things but only through the eyes of a Hawaiian scholar who knows her culture well. Yep…. Same stars above my head….. Same stars indeed.

K den Gangeh….. Lataz….
Kalei Nu’uhiwa
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