Paul, my partner, couldn’t be more English (although he was born in Canada and spent time living in Ireland). He typifies a certain kind of polite English gentility. He even has a few nice tweeds and a bowler hat, has participated in lots of aristocratic activities and has his name listed in Debrett’s. He has the noble face and fair colouring of a traditionally English man and the impeccable manners to go with it. I find him ravishing, of course, but saying that I have also always found Mediterranean men quite fascinating.
There’s something about their long black eyelashes, their moody looks and dark eyes. A hint of blue stubble on a not long shaved jaw and a bout of mad gesticulation always sends my pulse racing. I wrote previously about my dalliance with a psychotic Greek, which maybe taught me a lesson about what lies underneath the Latin temperament but that didn’t stop me enjoying ogling the men of Rome.
I went to Rome in 2005 on a very cheap flight with my ex partner, Rob and had booked an inexpensive hotel in Trastevere, a slightly more bohemian neighbourhood which was a moderate walk into central Rome. The flight was ropey, the in flight food was Pringles and the stewards wore fleeces, but the hotel was amazing. It was everything you’d expect of a classy Roman Hotel, dark wood panelling, huge bed with white linen and lots of ostentatious gold things here and there. The hotel guest book was full of pictures of cheesy Euro-pop singers accompanied by their lavish signatures. The bathroom had one of those showers with jets all the way up which was certainly a stimulating experience. Unsurprisingly, we both spent a lot of time showering.
The hotel breakfast was idyllic for a vegetarian carbohydrate addict like me. It consisted entirely of cake and coffee. Now that is a proper breakfast. I love a bit of cake of a morning. The evening meals were something I struggled with. The restaurants would serve everything separately, meat, then a plate of spinach, then some potatoes. The local people seemed to take an age to eat too, musing over their food and talking, drinking, musing a bit more and finally, maybe, eating a little. As a definite non-food fan, I found this quite absurd, I like to scoff and go. I’m a bit of philistine when it comes to food. Fine cuisine is often wasted on me.
It was August and incredibly hot and muggy with bouts of drizzly rain which left you damp and even stickier. I really did love the place though. It was a bewildering experience to walk around Rome. The city is compact and presents you with surprises continually. You walk along a fairly grand street and suddenly you’re confronted by the Pantheon or the Coliseum, sprouting up like misplaced illusions. The noise was overwhelming. There was always the sound of sirens in the background and no wonder as every car seemed to be peppered with scratches and dents. Zebra crossings were frightening. They’d stretch across 4 lanes of traffic and the only way to ensure cars would stop for you was to stick close to a nun. Italians won’t run over a nun.
There were a lot of nuns. Nuns of all shapes and sizes with habits of every colour, mostly delicate pale pastels. They tended to run in packs. I devised a little game whereby we’d score points for finding the most sinister looking or ugliest nun. We scored a lot of points. One carrying a guitar scored an extra bonus.
The sights of Rome were overwhelming and it was like a historical theme park. We took in all the usual sights but sadly didn’t get time to explore the crypt which had walls made entirely of the bones and skulls and bones of long dead monks. I’d have liked that. I usually moan a lot when I see famous things like Saint Paul’s Cathedral or the Eifel Tower. I always expect them to be bigger than they are and heave a sigh and mutter to myself “Is that it?” but the Coliseum impressed even me with its stature. I especially loved the ruins at Torre Argentina, the site where Julius Caesar was stabbed to death which is now home to over a thousand feral cats. They’re a very strange sight to behold in the middle of a frenetic city.
I found the Vatican a bit creepy and odd. The holy relics littered around in Saint Peter’s were just curiosities to me. The church really gave me the creeps and I felt a bit spooked by its size and opulence of its smoky interior. The Pope had just died and his corpse was in the crypt. There were huge queues to view his corpse and the signs reading “One Hour” up to “Four Hours” like those at an amusement park ride, bemused me.
We found a local gay bar in Trastevere and decided to see what the Roman gay scene was like. The bar was run by an elderly and very over friendly Irish man who treated it like it was a cocktail party and he was the host. He was hopelessly slow at serving drinks as he was continually popping out from behind the bar to mingle with the guests and introduce people to each other. We met some lovely locals who were talkative and welcoming but drew the line when a beautiful Albanian man walked with model good looks. The bar owner paraded him round the room introducing to everyone along with his price for the night and a whispered aside of “He’s terribly good in bed, dear. He can do amazing things with his cock.” We left shortly after this began, without the Albanian, may I add. We were quite drunk walking back to the hotel as we’d been bombarded with free glasses of Limoncello, a lemon liquor.
I indulged in a lot of people watching in Rome. Everyone fascinated me, not just the delicious men. There was such style. The local women were sleek and slender on the whole, sauntering along managing to look chic in high temperatures and drizzle which is something we seem to fail to do in Britain. I don’t think many of us could pull of those clothes and that poise in such heat.
The men were exceptional. Their dancer’s postures and movements and luscious colouring were something to behold. I ogled and ogled until my eyes almost bled. It was joyous to see such rare and exotic specimens become so commonplace. I’d like to add that Rob didn’t mind me looking, he was doing it too. It’s part of the joy of being gay. You can both have a good leer and compare notes and neither one usually minds.
I’ve mentioned this next part before in a post but indulge me for repeating myself, it fits in. My atheism was almost put to the test when we were walking away from the Vatican on our last day. I spotted a man walking towards me and he absolutely took my breath away. He was super human in his beautiful, so stunning it made my stomach lurch to look at him. He had thick dark hair, regal bearing and a manly figure, all setting off his rugged featured face which just shouted “Sex!” and induced instant carnal thoughts. My mouth fell open and it was only as I fell down the steps I’d failed to notice in my crazed fit of lust, that I noticed he was a priest. The Catholics may say it was a divine hand which sent me careering down those steps, jarring my back, by I like to call it injury by a divine misadventure on my own part.
I’ll stick to looking at Paul from now on, I think.