Trip to Rome: Easter 1960

Paul Whyman's Diary

[See also Magazine report, probably by Bruce Chalmers, Classics master]


French boat coming. French soldiers piled in at Calais. (Ben, Dai, Gris, Bill, Hall, Bell) (a) stocky, with crew cut (b) beak nose (c) moustache, short (d) mouth-organ-playing, pretty soused (e) dead to the world. (a) very friendly (b) played Rock Around the Clock on comb and paper ... finally spewed all over his baggage in corridor. Ben and Gris soused. Gris locked in gabinetto until Metz. We had to stand up (except Bell) from Metz to Basel. Hectic change at Milan. (a) surprised at cards.

["Ben" - Alastair Gunn; Dai - David Bingham; Gris - Peter Grimsditch; "Bill" - John Bows; Martin Hall, Peter Bell.]

TUESDAY Arrived very tired, almost at midnight, and refreshed by simple fare of vermicelli soup, meat and chicory, and an apple, washed down with Fanta. Made shy acquaintance of Pietro, Guiseppe, and Roberto, who soon began to belie their angelic appearance ('Asino! Farrabuto! Ci sei!!! )

WEDNESDAY Morning, first excursion, walked to Forum. Impressive, great number of ruins. Arch of Septimius Severus (very ornate), Via Sacra, Curia (wonderfully renovated), temples of Vesta, Venus and Rome, Vestal Virgins, Maxentius (really massive building).




WEDNESDAY Afternoon, went to Coliseum; Yank paid 9,000 lire for jewelry, Tym knocked trader down from 1,800 lire to 180 and then refused to buy it. For some reason, the chap went wild and threatened to smash Tym's camera.

Went to Victor Emmanuel monument, met Guiseppe and Raffaele. Photo.

Scott, Fairhead and Beresford lost. Re-met Guiseppe -- jabbered about "Dave" -- we thought he meant DAI Bingham, eventually realised he was talking about Scott. He pointed vaguely up the road ... we didn't find them. Apparently they had been introduced to G's sisters-in-law, business being slack at Easter.

Evening out on two bob. Evening serenades by MO, RO.

THURSDAY Morning. For some reason or other, toured city with Kenyon, getting lost in subways, buying stamps in dingy food shops, calculating that eighty per cent of all cars in Rome are Fiats, and laying up a store of blisters because of a well-founded dread of the long, brown, clanking, two-route trams, with their threat of an untimely death by pulverisation ("Permesso!" ... "Oof!" (thinks --"You†††%@&+ Italian *?@+!££%***!#!" replies--2,2 politely-≠ "Prego!")), by suffocation, or by isolation ("Well, look what happened to Ponto...")

THURSDAY Afternoon visited Ostia. Wonderful remains of a pub, and a theatre where shows still put on. Sea bathe at Ostia Moderna, after changing in the freezing cold on the beach, before an absorbed audience of all shapes and sexes--apparently one is under a moral obligation to pay 500 lire for the use of a bathing tent. We struck up conversation with them ("Si, fa molto freddo, signor") and tried without success to charge them 200 lire for the spectacle. Water shallow very far out, and Ely allowed himself to be persuaded to go paddling. I very unwisely lent him my shorts, though fortunately both they and he were retrieved after a brilliant life-saving exhibition by Rowbotham.

[Ely: Mr V A Vout, scoutmaster and Scripture master, known as Ely/Eli in joint deference to a comic of the era + the prophet.]

Miss Mecco?

Alastair Gunn, Peter Grimsditch, Martin Hall (back), John Bows and David Bingham

Bruce Chalmers

FRIDAY Tivoli and Miss Lydia Mecco. Morning went round Villa d'Este and bought Viewmasters. Garden of 1,000 fountains. Ely slid down a flight of shallow steps and nearly broke his neck.

Afternoon -- "Thee veella of 'Adrian, beelt ba 'Adrian as a veella, een thee sec-ond century A-D." We saw the island where he went to cool off "een moments of spleen" and got back to Rome quite early. We tried to get in at the Fiamma to see "La Dolce Vita" only to find that cheapest seats were 1,000 lire. We finished up watching "The Charge of the Light Brigade" dubbed into Italian, in a poky little back-street cinema, with the rain pouring down outside, for a mere 100 lire.

SATURDAY Tram to Coliseum and then bus to Catacombs. Lost Bell at Coliseum (hence photo), but he came puffing up the hill just behind the bus as we reached Tomb of Cicilia Metella, which was made into a fortress in the middle ages. Very hot. We bought plenty of delicious ice-cream and cokes. Then to Catacombs of St. Callixtus, where Irishman with cute sense of humour showed us round. 90,000 people buried here (as he remarked with relish) but nearly all remains removed. Tomb of N. African pope and papal altar. Beautifully cool. Baths of Diocletian and National Museum.

SATURDAY†† Went on to visit Termini Station, and churches of San Carlo (Boromini) and Santa Maria degli Angeli Bernini), the Pantheon (which was closed) and the Fountain of X.

Later, went to Opera (La Boheme), and had to go through cinema next door to get into Istituto.

Peter Grimsditch practising his oratory

SUNDAY Visited Vatican, St. Peter's. Pope saying Mass -- waded through blessings in Latin, Italian, French, English, Spanish, German, to all pilgrim parties. Very tiring. Walked home along Tiber, nearly killing selves to get home in time for lunch.

SUNDAY Afternoon visited Villa Boghese (not Zoo-) Split away from main party ("we" being ipse, Bill, Gris, Dai, Ben) to look for -- guess! --but had no success (noticed general lack of them). Went to show-jumping. Walking along, saw Ely, apparently lost. Sat on roadside waiting to jeer at passing motor-cyclists, who had a habit of shouting at us ---ditto amount of success. Missed seeing various churches and Pantheon.


Bruce Chalmers & Ponto (Mr K Bridgewater)

M0NDAY 6:45 Went to Naples, stopped to see aquarium --- not very impressive considering the exorbitant price --- and had drink. Continued to Pompeii. Wondered why Miss Mecco had not accompanied us. Picked up two guides on the way. Various interesting relics, including Villa of Vettii (room of V., statue, painting.) Visited great number of Lupanaria. Remains in museum included paintings and even eggshells preserved perfectly. Red stone and later dark grey-white of lava. Photo of Temple of Apollo. Bought cameo.

TUESDAY Coach tour to Castelli Rymani, villages around Rome. Passed Circus Maximus between Aventine, Palatine hills:

  1. Castelgandolfo (Summer residence of Pope). Photo Alban Lake.
  2. Rocca di Papa (Pope's castle in Middle Ages) Visited Santuario della Madonna Del Tufo (T was a nobleman who took shelter under large block of rock during Middle Ages) which contained monument to Luigi Botti. Wonderfully rich church for such an obviously poor district.
  3. Tusculum -- founded by son of Ulysses.
    Villa of Cicero.
    Middle Ages -- Trascati -- Public park.
    Villa Torlonia.

Return journey saw St. John's in Lateran, just inside St. John's gate in Marcus' Aurelius' wall.

Free afternoon, no money allowance, Ponto owed me 2,000. Found it was early-closing day, but managed to buy Chianti returning along Trastevere from Pantheon, where bought cheaper cameos. Going further along Trastevere, saw sale of Chianti for 250 instead of 350. Failed to get drunk.

WEDNESDAY Went to St. Peter's, up cupola and right to top of dome. Beautiful view marred by rain. Visited Treasury --- breathtaking array of robes and jewels, many of which seemed to be imitations. Next on to Sistine Chapel in the Vatican Museums, which took some reaching. Wonderful, 300 yard-long corridor. Paintings on roof of chapel include creation of Adam, Eve, Drunkenness of Noah etc. by Michelangelo, whose Last Judgement covers far (East?) wall.

Visited painting museums, which contain many of greatest canvases in world ó Michelangelo, Botticelli, da Vinci, etc and sculpture museums. Certainly worth 300 lire. Before going into St. Peter's stood at focal point of pillars (3 sets) ranged round either side, and saw them as one set. Saw Pieta etc. inside.

Afternoon stayed in Istituto with Gris and Ben, had dip in L-shaped bath outside (brr!) and played table-tennis and billiardz. Went for drink at night.


Early up. No change at Milan. Played cards with Ely. Played "My name is not Neb" etc. Played chess with Ely. Wonderful meal at Basel after waiting all day. Came back on English boat -- much better service-- another marvellous meal. No meal on Master Cutler since no money. N.B. Breathtaking scenery coming through Switzerland.


The long train journey there
Beach-tung! [The signs in German]
We gonna rock aroun' ze clock tonight... [international fraternisation]
The bloody fool's locked himself in the toilet! Gris, can you hear me? He's asleep! [Travel is so tiring]
Jesus Hallelujah!!!

The packed lunch at Basel station
Not a raw egg, Bell? Honest?

In the orphanage - banter with the locals
Ci sei!

The plump and be-suited beggar at the gate
Signor Gabinetti.
Pensi a me.

Miss Mecco
Would you please show your theeng here, Mr. C. ? [Chalmers]
The Roman Contryside.
Thee veella of 'Adrian, beelt ba 'Adrian as a veella een thee Second Century AD
een moments of spleen
Thee Tiber Reever...

Bruce Chalmers
Will you please give Rowbotham whatever you want to give Miss Mecco?

The interesting artworks of Pompeii
Weel you please separate ze adolti from ze bambini?

The interesting items for sale in the shops
I think you'd better put those cards away, donít you?

© Paul R. Whyman