Rome has been a great place to pick up new habits, and among those for me has been reading more. Recently I’ve been making my way through Cat’s Cradle. The author, Kurt Vonnegut, who completed his undergraduate degree at our Ithaca campus, crafted a character who writes letters to the protagonist. Through these letters we learn this character also attends Cornell. He writes about his studies, and going for walks in the gorges.
I was so excited when I first read those passages out of the quasi-epistolary novel. There’s nothing quite like having your piece of the real world and a place you experience on an intimate level be represented by someone else, someone famous even, for a massive audience. You read the work differently, critically examining its portrayal the way you critically examine someone else’s photograph of you.
On Monday, Cornell hosted a viewing of Io Sono Tempesta followed by a discussion with its director, Daniele Luchetti. Students from a few other neighboring institutions in Rome, as well as some visiting from our Ithaca campus, were also in attendance. As Italian Cinema professor Carolina Ciampaglia explained in her introduction to the film, Io Sono Tempesta was a film about a rich man who gets into trouble for tax evasion and is punished by being forced to work with the poor as community service. It was supposed to be a sort of comedic “light opera,” broken up into several parts, and was particularly noted by critics for its casting of real homeless people to play characters of a similar background in the film.
The entire film is punctuated with shots and even entire scenes from all over Rome, and, surprisingly, that unexpected excitement I’d felt while reading Vonnegut’s book hit me again. I didn’t really understand why at first. I’ve seen plenty of movies about Rome before, and plenty of other movies about places I’d visited like London or New York. Why did a narrative portrayal of this city affect me like that?
The answer was simply that, at this point in the semester, these were places I knew, and had visited time and time again. I’ve met these streets when they were cold and crisp on bright February mornings, with notebook in hand and blue MuSound headset in ear. I’ve walked them late at night, exhausted from working in AutoCAD for endless hours or blissful from ingesting an enormous plate of pasta and a glass or two of wine. I’ve memorized the go-to songs of the buskers in nearby piazzas, lead plenty of American guests through the streets, and written about, drawn, or photographed enough of the city to rival the likes of Lonely Planet and Rick Steves. It was then I realized that now, three months into living here, I finally feel at home.
After the film there was a brief question and answer session with the director, followed by one of our regular receptions in the classroom with a variety of tasty food, this time including guests from other institutions. It was yet another very nice evening at the Palazzo.