02 August 2017

Looking Up: A Tourist!

You can usually tell when someone is a tourist:  He or she is looking at all of the stuff (and, sometimes, people) the natives take for granted.

In downtown and midtown Manhattan, they are usually looking up--at the Empire State Building, Liberty Tower and other skyscrapers.  I haven't stopped noticing such things, but I think I've developed some sort of peripheral vision that allows me to look at the spires and other architectural features that are expressions of somebody's reach.

I realize now that in Italy, I must have been as obviously a tourist as someone from North Dakota or Oklahoma is while ambling along Broadway.  Or someone speaking Italian on Mott Street:  Little Italy is all but gone, so that person is more than likely from Milan.

Of course, I could've been taken for a tourist on my appearance alone.  The Italians usually greeted me with a friendly if somewhat deferential "signora", but they could not have seen me as one of their women:  I am taller and lighter than most of them.  Also, my Italian--such as it is--doesn't sound anything like what anyone speaks in "The Boot."  If anything, I probably sound like pure Bay Parkway by way of Asbury Park.

There is one other thing, though, that surely gave me away as a visitor--aside from the fact that I was consulting maps.  You see, I was like all of those gawkers I see in my home town:  I spent a lot of time looking upward.

In an earlier post, I mentioned that the skylights in the catacombs' chapels must have turned those early Christians' attentions skyward, i.e., toward the heavens.  I couldn't help but to thin that so much cathedral architecture--internal as well as external--was at least somewhat influenced by a memory, historical as well as visceral, of that:  Worshipers were usually looking up, whether at the altar (which was raised) or the stained glass windows or statues above.

Even when I wasn't in a basilica or some other such place, it seemed that I couldn't look anywhere but up.  And, yes, my gaze was often turned above me even as I was navigating those Roman streets and traffic circles.

Was Eddy Mercx thinking about something like that when he told George Mount that if he really wanted to learn about bike racing, he had to go to Italy?

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