This week our study abroad group was stressed out about a big art history project. I couldn’t think of a better way to relieve my stress than to get some tiramisu. I knew of a place close to a metro stop, so I figured that I would explore from there and see where I end up. The more I go off on my own, the more I realize how wonderful it is to experience the scenery and the culture by myself rather than in a noisy group of American friends. This turned out to be one of my favorite afternoons in Rome yet.
I got my tiramisu at this cute little bakery close to the Vatican, Dolce Maniera. It’s basically a hole in the wall, but you can smell the baked goods from across the street. There was huge variety of Italian desserts packed into that tiny cellar. The server gave me a giant portion of tiramisu for only 2 euro! I almost couldn’t eat it all. Just thinking about it is making my mouth water.
I didn’t know where I wanted to go, but I hopped on the metro and decided to get off near the Spanish Steps because I knew that they would be decorated with pink flowers to celebrate the month of May. When I got to the steps, it was super crowded, and I started wondering what to do next. That’s when I noticed a small sign on the building right next to the Steps that said “Keats-Shelley Memorial House.” The museum looked tiny, but I couldn’t help but meander over to it. In my class, God and the Poets, we occasionally talk about John Keats, and I did research on him in high school. Plus, I thought, well I’m a writer, so I have to look inside. It was the perfect thing to do while on my own because nobody else would want to go into a poet’s museum.
It turned out that the tiny museum was the humble home of John Keats while he was dying of tuberculosis. At that point he had already written the poems that he is most famous for, and he had only come to Rome to seek medical attention. However, medical knowledge was not very advanced at the time. His doctor thought that the reason he was coughing up blood was because he had too much blood, so the doctor started withdrawing blood from Keats. As a result of this horrible treatment, Keats only lived in this house for 3 months before he died.
Keat’s favorite thing about the house was that his room had a window that overlooked the Spanish Steps. Although the Steps looked very different back then, they were still bustling with activity everyday, and Keats would alleviate pain by people watching for hours.
The museum was also dedicated to Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, and it held several pieces of original manuscript from her and from Keats. I was totally geeking out. I couldn’t help it! My favorite part was looking at the love letters that Keats wrote to his sweetheart, Fanny Brawne. They were never married because Keats had such poor health and died so young. At the gift shop I bought a card with a quotation from on of his letters:
My love has made me selfish. I cannot exist without you.
I want to send it to my fiance even though he might not have heard of Keats until now.
I took my card and my notebook and found a quiet spot to let my inspiration sink in. As I was sitting, I realized that my first creative publication was coming out the next day. Even though it’s not a big deal, I am pretty excited about having one of my stories published in the University’s literary magazine. I just wish that I could be in the US to see it happen. But, who knows, if I stick around Rome for a few more weeks, maybe a little of Keats will rub off on me.
Love from Roma,