A Lovely Night in the Neighborhood

That evening, Gino and I went out on our own — back to the Piazza Navona neighborhood for dinner. On the way we passed through Piazza di Pasquino, named after a statue by the same name.

Installed at this spot in 1501 by a clever cardinal, this ancient statue is thought to be a representation of Menelaus with the body of Patroclus. Infamous as the first “talking statue” of Rome, Pasquino became a place for depositing satirical poems and other bits of irreverent writings as an anonymous manner of speaking out against the Pope or government officials.

I spotted Pasquino immediately, identifiable by all the paper notes at the base of his limbless body. I remembered that Pasquino originated the Italian word pasquinade, which signifies a satire or lampoon posted in a public place. Witty Romans have been posting their grievances here ever since.

Rounding a corner, we arrived at Piazza Navona. Our self-imposed mission was to locate Osteria del Gallo, a restaurant we had greatly enjoyed several years back. Tucked away in Vicolo di Montevecchio, it eluded our first attempts to find it, but eventually we closed in on the familiar yellow rooster sign.

The waiter informed us all the outside tables for later in the evening were already reserved, so we decided to eat right then. But compared to our first dining experience at this cozy osteria, we were somewhat disappointed in the food.

After dinner, we returned to the piazza. Drifting past clumps of tourists, we noticed a gathering crowd. A woman was speaking through a megaphone to the large group; several people clutched candles and held signs. Upon closer inspection, we saw that it was a Gay Rights rally.

We mingled awhile, reading the cardboard messages bobbing over heads. Although we didn’t understand all the words, we listened to the impassioned speeches and stood in solidarity.

Giorgio Napolitano: A Lighthouse in the Fog -- proponent of gay rights, Italian President Naplitano is the opposite of Prime Minister Berlusconi, who does not support gay rights

Instead of our usual direct route home, we wandered towards the river, eventually hitting Via Giulia. Meandering in the general direction of the apartment, we came upon an imposing palazzo, warm light spilling into the dark night from medieval windows. Intrigued by glimpses of its opulent interior, we could find no clues to the building’s identity or importance. Only later did we learn that it was the Palazzo Farnese, home to the French Embassy.

Behind the palazzo, attached to a wall along Via Giulia, we stumbled upon the Fontana del Mascherone. No accident attributed to its proximity to Palazzo Farnese since the Farnese family had commissioned its construction in 1626. I read later that during Farnese family parties, wine gushed from the fountain’s mouth. That would have been a party to attend!

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