We got married in Rome (Italy, not Georgia). Went there in February, 2009, before the season. I had been there before in February when the weather was lovely. This year it was colder than normal. Didn’t matter. We rented a Vespa and toured around for two days like teenagers, one with bad hat hair (that would be me; Glenn has no hair).
We visited the American embassy and many Italian government offices. We were prepared to be married there. The officials were surprised at how good our paperwork was. We started the process, as necessary, by taking two friends to the Italian embassy in Chicago to swear that we were not married to others. Chicago was the closest presence Italy had to St. Louis in the United States. It was a fine but cold day, and when we were done swearing at Italians we went to the Obama’s favorite restaurant there for lunch.
It is interesting to do things in another country which are not the habits of tourists. Sit in waiting rooms, try to talk to bureaucrats. You get a different feeling for a place. Already Rome divides itself between the ancients and the Renaissance in terms of art and architecture. For a morning you can hover around the year 72 on our calendar, and then in the afternoon revel in the enlightenment of the Renaissance, around the year 1500. Or, if you intend to do something significant in Rome, you can visit solid stone buildings with renovated interiors that look like the 1960s.
Our planning went well. We found a venue for the wedding, an ancient Roman relic of a building which was used just for such things, and booked it for an hour on a Friday. It was a shame that we were just two, with no families; it looked like a storybook. Translation was a huge expense throughout the whole process, from Chicago to the actual wedding. The Italians wanted us to know what we were doing, and we wanted to know what they were doing. It made sense. The charming girl who checked us into our room at the hotel served as our translator and therefore was part of our ceremony.
By Wednesday of that week, we were ready. Of course, early in that week, we sandwiched tourist visits between bureaucratic visits. Wednesday and Thursday could be just tourist fun. It was on Wednesday that we went to the Palazzo del Popolo, to see the almost twin churches, and the great Caravaggio painting “The Conversion of St. Paul“.
It is a breathtaking Baroque style painting where Caravaggio appeals to what is human in us, as Saul, the Roman soldier falls from his horse, his breath knocked out of him. It is as if Caravaggio is saying to us, “this is the power of conversion; it is like being flat on your back wondering if you will get your breath back or not”.
It is here at the Palazzo del Popolo that we begin to discuss healthcare. On Wednesday of our wedding week, we came to visit. Not a long walk from the hotel. We had bought stuff for our kids, we were laden. Glenn saw an Egyptian guy renting out Segways to tourists.
He HAD to do this. The Egyptian guy quizzed him until he was convinced that Glenn could handle the machine. Then he was off. Across the plaza, I viewed him through my camera, taking pictures. Suddenly, Glenn was flying, landing flat on his back on the bricks. He caused a scene.
By the time I got there from my picture taking distance, heavy with gifts, two women had already called an ambulance. An Israeli father and son, both docs, came to look. The father asked Glenn, on the ground, where he was. He replied very precisely, “Palazzo del Popolo, Rome, Italy”. The he asked him to squeeze his right hand and then his left. Glenn could do that.
He was loaded into the ambulance, I followed in a cab. We went to a nearby hospital in a Renaissance building. I began to worry about insurance cards, fumbling through Glenn’s wallet.
Glenn was seen immediately. Sticking out like a sore thumb, I noticed the setting around me. Filled with middle class people, the setting was not like emergency rooms here. One woman in a wheel chair spoke English. Do all use this facility? Some of the very rich might not, they might pay to go somewhere else.
The hospital was just fine. It had a drab interior again from the 1960s, and an exterior from 1500. Glenn had an x-ray, and all examinations necessary to determine that he would hurt for our wedding, but not permanently. We left with a prescription. He had had a shot and felt better.
There was no business office in the hospital. We did not pay for this care, no one does.
- Santa Maria del Popolo in Rome is Brimming with Artistic Treasures (vinoconvistablog.me)