We strolled the leafy arcade. Gravel crunched under our tired tourist feet in sensible shoes. An orange cat sat at the base of a stone bust (according to this map, I think it was Ugo Foscolo, Italian writer and poet). Like us, she seemed pleased to be in the shade of the trees as the Roman sun was busy scalding terracotta roof tiles across the ancient city.
Remembering the feline talent for living a life of leisure, we decided to stop a moment to see what a cat might like to do on a Thursday afternoon in Rome.
She was paying attention to something in the distance. But it couldn’t have been visual because she squinted her eyes in that I’m-a-very-relaxed-cat kind of way, in that way cats blink long and slow, just before they nod off, or when they bask in the sunlight. No, her target wasn’t visual; she was paying attention to something else, something on the breeze.
There were roasted chestnut vendors in the park but she wasn’t sniffing. Sure, her fuzzy cat chin was tipped up to the air but she gave no signs of being on the hunt. She was utterly contented.
I envisioned her as a tidy old man—maybe wearing an impeccably kept tweed suit jacket—with his chin tipped up, eyes closed, and a barely perceptible smile on his face. He was listening to his favourite vinyl record, or maybe the song was coming in on a crackling radio.
We faced into the breeze with the orange cat and listened.
At first there was nothing much; the background chorus of car horns—a form of communication for Romans—and the buzz of scooters; there was the scattering gravel as people passed by, some in sensible shoes like us, others in fine Italian regalia; and the distant giggle of children playing somewhere in the park.
But the orange cat kept her soft little cat ears pricked forward. I couldn’t help but believe she was delighted with something.
Again, we faced into the breeze with the orange cat and listened.
It was faint at first, so faint one might believe it was conjured in the mind, like the soundtrack of a memory playing. Ever more curious, we stilled ourselves just like the orange cat, and we caught on. We caught on to the invisible – music drifting through the air. A trumpet, perhaps? Brass of some sort swirled under the umbrella pine trees, wafted over gurgling fountains, wrapped around carved stone busts and pretty lamp posts and found its way to us. The song was Smoke Gets In Your Eyes. And it was undeniably lovely.
We blinked slowly and tipped our chins up to the air with quiet smiles on our lips.
It didn’t matter that we didn’t speak a word of Italian, we had been given the perfect recommendation—from a local—for what to do on a Thursday afternoon in Rome.
* * *
We followed the notes on the air…. Armed with my iPhone, I recorded a snippet as we walked past. Have a listen below: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, as heard in the Pincio Gardens in Rome, Italy, recommended by the orange cat.
While the photo above is not mine, it is labeled as Pincio Gardens and looks strikingly similar to the scene we encountered.
Below, the view across Rome through umbrella pine trees in the Pincio Gardens.
Cat photo: original © Glamorous Monk
Sunset photo via Pinterest.
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