May 31, 2009
If you'd just one wish...
What would it be? I was faced with that decision at the Trevi Fountain in Rome
By Sumiko Tan
Jessica Alba is really petite in person and exceedingly pretty, but she doesn't exude the stand-out star quality that makes you stop and stare when she walks past.
Selma Blair is also tiny and comes across almost Asian with her dark China doll-styled hair. She has a stronger presence than Alba and attracts more attention, but it must be said she looked tired.
Chloe Sevigny eats a lot. Perched on a high stool with a plate of food in front of her, she shrugged off her 5-inch heels, swung her bare feet and tucked in with gusto, not bothering that people were looking at her eat.
At 81, Gina Lollobrigida is what you'd call sprightly. She sports big hair and quizzical brows and was wearing a beaded, figure-hugging black gown and sensible black shoes.
Alain Delon is 73 and looks it, although he still has a good head of hair and a rakish charm. When a little old lady went up to talk to him, he gallantly kissed her hand.
I saw stars - actually, I was ogling them - when I was in Rome two weeks ago to cover the 125th anniversary celebrations of Bulgari, the Italian jeweller and luxury goods maker.
Alba, Blair, Sevigny, Lollobrigida and Delon were among the celebrities at the launch of an exhibition of Bulgari jewellery at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni on May 20.
Besides the international celebs, the toast of Italian society - which unfortunately I couldn't recognise - was out in full force too.
Everywhere you turned, you saw beautiful women in chic, short, cocktail dresses, all tottering on this season's impossibly high high heels and dripping with serious bling. It was a sight to behold.
Alas, I hadn't expected the night to be quite so glamorous and was wearing a yellow, no-label, knee-length vintage dress I'd bought from Japan. I felt like a dowdy secretary who had stumbled onto a society ball.
Actually, Rome has the ability to make a visitor feel overwhelmed. It was my first visit to Italy, too, and I found the capital a bit too much to take in, in one gulp.
Rome's 2,500-year history means every corner is heavy with historical significance and monuments.
Everything you've read about in the history books is here within touching distance: The Colosseum, The Pantheon, The Forum, Vatican City, St Peter's Basilica, the Spanish Steps.
Everywhere you turn is a building that dates back hundreds and hundreds of years. In fact, a tour guide who was showing us a lesser known site told us that it's considered rather new - built back in only the 16th century.
Before I set off for Rome, a friend had texted me to say I should throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain and make a wish.
Once I got there, two Singaporeans on the trip told me separately that I must go to the fountain because 'your wish will really come true'. Both said theirs did and they looked happy at the memory of it.
Well, I'm a sucker for making wishes. I'm one of those people who still mutter a wish every time I blow out the candles on my birthday cake.
So as soon as the interviews were over and I had time to spare, I made my pilgrimage to the Trevi Fountain, or the Fontana di Trevi, as it's known there.
At least 400 other people had the same idea. The square around the fountain was teeming with tourists. It felt like the United Nations had descended there.
Well, it's a majestic fountain all right.
It was completed in 1732 and is the largest Baroque fountain in the city. It is not a fountain in the sense of how we know, well, Sentosa's musical fountain. There's no central water feature.
Instead, a huge, building facade-like structure takes centre stage. Like many buildings in Rome, this facade is wrought with a wealth of columns and sculptures, including those of Neptune, god of the sea, and winged horses. Water gushes around the giant statues and rocks and there's a pond in front of the facade.
The fountain was famously featured in movies like Three Coins In The Fountain (about three American women who dream of finding romance in Rome) and La Dolce Vita (about a journalist in Rome and his search for meaning and love.)
The tourists were gathered in front of the fountain as though watching a show. People were sitting, standing and taking pictures of themselves and, of course, merrily tossing coins into the clear blue water. About ¥3,000 (S$6,000) are thrown into the fountain each day and the money is used for charity projects. During last week's Champions League final in Rome, fans of Manchester United and Barcelona flocked there. We know whose wishes came true.
Before I got to the fountain, I'd spent some time thinking about what I should wish for. When faced with the possibility of your wish coming true - as the two Singaporeans had sworn it would - you really want to get it right and make it count.
So what is it I really want? What would make me most happy? What would give more meaning to my life?
Should I be selfish and wish for something nice for myself, or should I be big-hearted and wish for good things to happen to my loved ones? Definitely I knew I didn't want to waste this chance by wishing anyone ill.
Should I wish for something important but boring (good health), or save this wish for something more whimsical? Should I keep it simple or be greedy and cram more wishes into it ('I wish for 100 more wishes')?
In any case, I knew I had to be careful how I phrased my wish. If I used the past tense, for example 'I wish I was rich', it might be taken literally by whoever the Trevi Fountain Wish-Giver is and could be interpreted as something in the past, not something that could happen.
I managed to work something out.
My next problem was getting near the fountain. Brazenly I squeezed past the throng of people and found myself next to the water. Then came the matter of throwing the coin. I saw some tossing it with their backs to the water. That must be the way it's done, I concluded.
I fished out one euro from my bag. Then, in typical Singaporean kiasu fashion, took out another euro. Two euros might give me a higher chance of getting my wish come true, I reckoned.
By now feeling embarrassed by all this, I closed my eyes and tossed the two coins with my right hand over my right shoulder. For good measure, I touched the water before I left.
When I returned to Singapore, I read up on Trevi Fountain. Here's what I found in Wikipedia:
'A traditional legend holds that if visitors throw a coin into the fountain, they are ensured a return to Rome.
'Among those who are unaware that the 'three coins' of Three Coins In The Fountain were thrown by three different individuals, a reported current interpretation is that two coins will lead to a new romance and three will ensure either a marriage or divorce.
'A reported current version of this legend is that it is lucky to throw three coins with one's right hand over one's left shoulder into the Trevi Fountain.'
Oh, dash it.
I do like Rome but my wish had nothing to do with returning to the city.
I'd thrown two coins but a new romance is certainly not on my wishlist.
I also didn't throw the coins over my left shoulder. Does that invalidate my wish?
Well, dear reader, if my Trevi Fountain wish does come true, you'll be the first to know.
Wish me luck.