Italian Faces and Places


Valery Oisteanu

Originally published in The Evergreen Review Issue 112 in 2007.

First was the face of the friendly driver at the Leonardo da Vinci airport
The fake smile of the porter when I tipped him with US dollars
The unsophisticated faces of the visitors at the Galleria Villa Borghese
The face of Franco Trevisi and the chase on foot to the Trevi Fountain
The face of the owner of La Piccolo Aranha when we sent the wine back
He returned with another bottle and a bowl of strawberries
All this and more was immortalized in writings, on photos and videos
Interlaced Roman profiles, Mediterranean eyes staring, grimacing
The desperate faces of Asian women selling scarves in Piazza Navona
The perverse smiles of the people who sent us in the wrong direction
The guard’s angry visage when I photographed the paintings at Uffizi gallery
The confused mug of the guide at the Coliseum when asked: “What is a `camelopard?’”
At Fico bar the excited appearance of Sandro Dernini, the art impresario
The impatient faces of artists and writers when Massimo prepares risotto
The grave facial expression of City Officials at a St. Catherine Parade in Siena
Transplaced pilgrimage to retrace Dante’s face and his steps in exile
Embracing the Mediterranean spaces, Tuscan places and Etruscan graces
To the towers of Purgatory! My fellow travelers! Heads up!
A vertical horse race on the narrow staircase, from the top to the base
The long faces of marching soldiers when I told them not to go back to Iraq
The unfazed face of the old jogger when I asked for Santa Croce in Florence
The annoyed facial contortion of the old waiter when asked if he knew Marrinetti
The Florentine face of the woman who compared herself to the painting of Botticelli
The wise disguise of the Jews in the Venice ghetto and in Florence’s synagogue
The distorted faces of Catholic Priests, nuns and worshipers at Mass in Como
The defaced, on purpose, Marilyn Monroe image that sold for big bucks
The radiant faces of Stash, Katherina and their son Micha in Bellagio and Lecco
The confused faces of Elena and Gianpaulo driving from Milano to Picasso
The Fellini-like expression of the count Federico Sangiardi Quinto Di Wardal
His blue-blood family tree “growing” since Egyptian times in Alexandria
These were the faces of Italy, the faces reminiscent of Dante’s Divine Comedy
The faces of Kings, heroes and nobles, of poets, artists, concubines and dancers
Recalling the faces and places, difficult to describe and even harder to forget.