I’ll be going to Italy for several weeks right after Christmas. I’ll fly into Rome and spend a few days there and continue on to Genoa and Venice before heading to the house.
Planning the trip put me in mind of past trips — trips meaning visits to Italy and trips meaning stumbles in Italy.
One of the many things that seem to give me away as an American, or at least as a non-European, is my being a klutz. I tend to lead with my head and walk with a kind of loose gait, while Europeans keep their physical person under tight and elegant control and make nary a misstep, always uncannily aware of their surroundings. I trip over things that aren’t there, wipe out in snow, seat-slide down stairs. Italy is particularly perilous for me, given all the slippery stone and marble and wonky cobblestones waiting to catch the heel of even the most modestly dressy shoes. And I don’t take a dainty fall like someone out of central casting for A Room with a View. I do either bird-of-prey, lead-with-the-head nosedives that knock my aviators into positions that make me look deranged, or those slow-mo falls that involve clawing at air with a haunted look before reconciling myself to the surety that I’m going down. It’s all particularly unfortunate in Italy, witnessed as it is by chic women in sleek heels who can navigate treacherous piazzas without even glancing down.
Years ago, as a kind of homage to my clumsiness, my dear friend and travel pal Kristen and I hit on a series we called “I’ve fallen in front of…” I was on-camera talent (natch), Kristen photographer.
The series spanned several countries. It was born in Paris, with “I’ve fallen in front of Jim Morrison’s gravesite at the Père Lachaise cemetery.” It moved on to Istanbul and “I’ve fallen on the line that divides Europe from Asia” and to Rome, with “I’ve fallen on the Spanish Steps.” The governing conceit, you will have guessed, was that I’d fallen on or in front of a noteworthy site or tourist attraction. Some of our best work was in Venice, with “I’ve fallen on the riva in front of the Danieli Hotel” and “I’ve fallen in a gondola.” What made the latter especially rewarding was that, a couple of hours later, I was recognized by a shopkeeper as the woman who’d put face to floor in a gondola as it glided past his shop.
Part of our oeuvre has fallen into the black hole crowded with missing buttons and memories of third-grade triumphs, and I'm sorry for it. I have a special place in my heart for the series and wish we’d done more of it, though I’m long past the point now of deliberately making a spectacle of myself.
I'm also hoping I won't be performing any involuntary physical comedy on my upcoming trip.
Left to right: 1) The seminal Paris shot. I love that you can see Kristen’s shadow — a kind of unwitting salute to Hitchcock. 2) The Istanbul shot 3) "I’ve fallen in front of La Barcaccia at the Spanish Steps." 4) The waiter was very obliging for our piece entitled “I’ve fallen over a chair in Florence’s chic Enoteca Pinchiorri.”* 5) Fallen in the gondola 6) Gondola star and audience*