Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Postcard Dated 25 Feb. 1956 and Postmarked "U.S.S. Ticonderoga, CVA 14, Feb. 27. 1956, 9 a.m." Subject: Vatican City

Dear Folks

This, as you may gather if you read five different languages, is the Vatican, with St. Peter’s in the back.

I’ve already gone over my trip with a fine tooth comb & therefore won’t add anything now, except maybe by looking at the people entering & then at the dome, you might get an idea of the immensity of it. Home soon.



26 Feb. 1956 (Part 1 of 2)

Dear Folks

First for the "general news:--this is the first letter I’ve written since before Rome. Yes, dad, I did get the letter about the car—I’m sure I’d mentioned it before. Waiting for me when I got back were two of the food boxes—the ones with the two boxes of pretzels in them. Still no sign of the brownies. Today is Sunday, so I went to a double feature this afternoon; this evening will be dedicated to letter writing. My eyes are a little tired, but otherwise I’m fine.

Oh, yes—it’s definite now—we are not going North, but we are staying over here till June. We’re making another round of the Cannes-Naples circuit, & adding Tangiers N. Africa to it. Oh, well, why should I sweat it? I only have 168 days to go.

Give Lirf my regards next time you see him. It’s getting bad when your best friend has been to your house more often than you have!

Now, I suppose, you’d like to hear about Rome. --- You wouldn’t? Hmmm….

Rome, they say, was not built in a day; nor can it be seen in three. Still, what I did see did much to placate the bad Europe has shown me. Were all Europe like Paris & Rome, it wouldn’t be nearly so unbearable.

Four thirty is far too early for any sensible person to even consider getting up, so I did. My bag had been packed the night before & left in the office, along with all the accessories I thought I’d need, so that when the time came to go all I’d forgotten was my ticket.

Off the boat & on the beach at six thirty, & directly to Naples’ cold, impersonal railway station where, for once, the train was waiting. I was the first one on & grabbed a compartment near the rear of the coach. Odd, but I’m becoming so familiar with European trains that our own will seem odd when I get back to the States.

European trains are much more punctual than movies give them credit for—or maybe I’ve just been lucky.

One of the greatest differences between Europe & America---one so common in the latter & so rare in the former that I’d never noticed it, was the presence of large patches of rolling green fields & hills. It was the first green, aside from the trees & occasional gardens, I’d seen since we arrived—it was beautiful, & for a moment I though it was America. Then we pulled into some small town with a railroad yards & I noticed those weird little freight trains that couldn’t fool anybody—the box cars look like loaves of bread on wheels, the tank cars like chunks of salami, & the ore cars like cookie boxes. Why they’re made so small is beyond me.

Between Naples & Rome, running along the right-hand (inland) side runs a ridge of mountains, some of them massive & jagged, others round & sloping. Whenever one got in the way, instead of going over or around, the train went under. Over the flatland stretching away between the mountains & the sea, the sun shined pleasantly, watching a bunch of sheep-clouds moving toward the mountains, where they bunched together & became mists & gloomy-looking sheets.

The mountains drew further back inland, & we began to see ancient brown towers, standing alone in the midst of fields. And then broken fragments of the famous aqueducts which had carried water from the mountains to Rome. They approached from the right, swept in & crossed the tracks, then ran parallel & almost next to the tracks. The arches filled in & solid brown walls raced along with the train. And then we were in the station.

Rome’s railway station is a huge, ultramodern affair with a long arcade of shops running its entire width. The walk from our train to the busses outside the station was longer than the ride from the station to the hotel, which is on a shady side street abut five blocks away. There were two hotels, actually—the Universal on one side of the street, & the San Remo on the other. We went to the San Remo, which is smaller but nice, & fairly modern.

Off to the left of the small lobby is a sort of lounge, which leads into the dining room. The rooms—ours at least—was nothing spectacular, but adequate—two beds with a stand between, a wardrobe, two chairs, & a desk. The view was of the center court, where all the other windows look blankly at one another.

Lunch (it was now 11:40) was the same one I’d eaten in Paris, Naples, & every other tour I’ve gone on—spaghetti, beef & potatoes, greens, cheese, fruit. After lunch Peter Paul & I walked around a bit; we found a museum built partly in an old Roman basilica. Snow still lay in the courtyards, which were lined with broken statues, & friezes, fountains & frescoes. It struck me as if they were almost ashamed to be there—like a proud old man in a poorhouse.

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