This was not my first visit to Italy. In fact I spent a few weeks there when I was twenty, doing the backpack-and-youth-hostel tour on about ten dollars per day. It was a very different trip, and, since this was my wife's first trip to Italy, I made quite a nuisance of myself comparing the way things were forty years ago with the way we found them this spring.
But on occasion I had to wonder.
The day we visited the Pantheon had been a long one. We took the Metro to the Colosseum, strolled through the ruins of the Forum, hiked up and over the Victor Emmanuel Monument, past the Gesu (and an art supply store, G. Poggi, my wife wanted to visit) before finally arriving at the Pantheon. I was recounting, as we drew closer, how I had actually stumbled by accident on the Pantheon, those forty years back, while looking for something else, how it was late afternoon, the piazza in front deserted, and, one memory which particularly stuck in my mind, a homeless man (though no one used the term then) asleep, alone, on the steps of the Pantheon. The point was to paint a picture much at odds with the bustle and crowds we were making our way through.
But, curiously, when we arrived, I saw at once that the Pantheon has no steps. Its interior flooring is practically on the same level as that of the piazza in front.
I have no earthly idea what I was remembering, when I remembered that man asleep on the its steps. But, I assure you, I still remember him. I can call up the memory even now.
So you may well be justified in thinking, with A.P. Herbert's fictional Lord Chief Justice Light, in the misleading case of Rex v. Haddock, that my memory was "like the thirteenth stroke of a crazy clock, which not only is itself discredited, but casts a shade of doubt over all previous assertions." I will therefore plead guilty, with the mitigation of age, and the long passage of time, and the rationale behind all statutes of limitation.