Monday, October 16, 2006

On assignment in Rome

Of course I'm not lucky enough to have official business in Rome (although my tactics become even more covert and strategic the more I visit), but during this trip I was gifted a unique and blissful project that I could not resist.

Imagine it as though you are Finny...

You are in one of the world's great cities, wandering the terrace of your friend's apartment, scanning the rooftops of scenic Trastevere. Perhaps you are drinking wine. Certainly you are taking photos. There is the promise of an obscenely delicious Roman meal only hours in your future. You are mildly drunk. Your friend saunters out onto the patio, toting her own glass of chilled white wine. You engage in the kind of joyous banter that builds between two close friends who don't get to gossip nearly enough. Her sweet kitties weave between your feet and mew softly, exposing their (big) bellies for scratching. The sun is beginning to set behind a bell tower only visible to those lucky enough to be five floors above street level, basking in the glow of an October afternoon. You feel utterly content and your cheeks are beginning to ache from nonstop laughter. But something is missing.

What could possibly be wrong?

There is no scent of lavender on the breeze. You are not within arm's reach of a trowel. You see a rogue weed sprouting up from the lemon tree pot. You see a hydrangea in dire need of shade. You see a bougainvillea that needs ruthless pruning. There are hanging pots without cascading flowers. You are just a few tiny steps from earthbound perfection with no way to achieve it!

Until your wise and generous friend takes one look at your psychotic gaze and suggests cheerfully (mercifully), "Hey, would you want to help me set up a garden up here?"

You realize you have the most intuitive and generous friends on the planet. Barely able to maintain your grasp on the wineglass, you smother a squeal of excitement and embrace your friend while mumbling promises of greenery and flora she has never imagined.

To make a long and dramatic story short, Shelley asked me if I would want to help her garden. On her rooftop terrace. In Rome. With only my own vision to guide me.

Um, yes please.


And thus began my newly discovered dream of combining so many things I love; food, wine, gardening, friends, Rome, fall - into one big slaphappy event.

Now, of course, I couldn't wait to get started. I believe I immediately began rearranging furniture without finishing my wine, or even putting my glass down for that matter . So, you know I didn't get good "Before" shots with which to perform an impressive HGTV-ish comparison. I know, I know, I'll never make it on Curb Appeal with behavior like this. Perhaps you'll forgive me if I just show you lots and lots of "After" shots.

We started at Eurogarden,a multiacre gardening establishment the gargantuan-ness of which I am still having a hard time comprehending. It was simply huge. And situated cross traffic from ancient ruins and an historical rose garden dating back to the middle ages. Well, shucks.

Obviously I ran from the still-moving car toward the garden wagons. This was no time to worry ourselves with parking the car properly. Almost breaking out into a frenzied sweat I wandered the open-air aisles of the herb and flowering shrub area with forgiving Shelley in tow. It took us all of ten minutes to load down the wagons with enough lavender, mint, thyme, sage, lantana and succulents to outfit a terrace twice the size. We had no restraint. We piled on bulbs, sprinkler fittings and seeds (for the ever necessary plot of cat grass) waist high before we hauled our extra-full wagons to the conveyor belt (why haven't we begun employing this method of plant checkout in the States, yet?) for checkout. I was nearly effervescent with excitement. I'm sure the clerk thought me mildly insane.

Moments later we were hauling boxes to the car and then searching frantically for parking in Trastevere so that we could bring all the plants upstairs and ready them in their new, freshly sprinkled, homes. Of course, this business of hauling and parking and hauling some more was a project in itself (see Miracle in Rome at the end of this post), but I'll save the commentary by saying only that there was a lot of sweating, four flights of extremely steep and tiresome stairs, some swearing (mostly by me) and no plants were harmed in the process. Although the Cinquecento may never be the same. Full to capacity as it was.

And, after a few hours of planting, hauling some more (all the soil didn't make it up in the first trip), reorganizing of sprinklers, aggressively pruning, weeding, fertilizing, sweeping, arranging and repeating - the terrace was done. Planted. Arranged to allow for parties and merriment. Available for reading, relaxing and contemplating the beauty of Rome. And now, existing thousands of miles from me and my US-based coffee cup. Boo hoo, I know.

In the midst of all of this intercontinental gardening a small miracle was witnessed by the two souls. The miracle of finding parking in Trastevere in under five minutes. Don't believe me (and who could blame you?):

Clearly, our mission was blessed and the garden was meant to be. Let us not speak of the hike that followed the miraculous parking job, as it wasn't pretty and I said a lot of bad words.


  1. I am happy to report that the results of your green thumb are proceeding along nicely...I will send you pictures of your "plants by adoption" periodically just to reassure you that I haven't *gasp* killed them. How could I, after the miracle you performed?

    And the video--very funny. Never watched what it actually looks like to drive around in my neighborhood from that point of view. That was definitely luck.

  2. I love the terrace and the tower. I also have to comment on the what seems to be the best view of the "Typewriter" Vittorio Emmanuele monument I've ever seen, from the back and barely visible!

  3. Although not nearly as scenic, we could sure use your green thumb up here in North Dakota!! How fun!

  4. Okay..Is it me, or does the sunset just look more beautiful over there?

    Must be the gorgeous buildings, and towers....

    *sigh*..come mi mancha.....


  5. AHH! I love what you did. Who knew you could have made that slice of Rome better? And it makes me feel a wee bit better that such a giant gardening store exists in Rome. Good work Fin.

  6. Shelley - I can't wait to see those plants after they get a good winter's worth of rain. That terrace is going to be glorious. My favorite space to garden so far.

    Steven - Yes, I am so sly with my photographing. This is my subtle way of showing off what an incredible view they have. Even if it is the rear of a crazy monument.

    E&I - Not sure much is growing in North Dakota right now, but I bet your fall is amazing! If you haven't yet, you could plant some crocus so you have flowers in early spring. My faves.

    Steph - I've been meaning to inform you - you are my new Italian teacher. We need to meet and work on my, ahem, broken Italian. Wuv you.

    Kelli - Just wait until spring - that terrace should be bursting!


[2013 update: You can't comment as an anonymous person anymore. Too many douchebags were leaving bullshit SPAM comments and my inbox was getting flooded, but if you're here to comment in a real way like a real person, go to it.]

Look at you commenting, that's fun.

So, here's the thing with commenting, unless you have an email address associated with your own profile, your comment will still post, but I won't have an email address with which to reply to you personally.

Sucks, right?

Anyway, to remedy this, I usually come back to my posts and post replies in the comment field with you.

But, if you ever want to email me directly to talk about pumpkins or shoes or what it's like to spend a good part of your day Swiffering - shoot me an email to finnyknitsATgmailDOTcom.