A 10 hour flight, sleeping like three little ducklings the whole way, a bumpy taxi ride, and a dropped jaw later, we arrived in Roma, Italia last Monday. Beautiful mushroom-shaped tree tops, weaving cobble-stone streets, seagulls flying in circles, and the greatest roof-top hotel apartment in Albergo Santa Chiara. An orange stucco terrace, dark wooden angles in ancient corners, sun roof ceilings, mumbled Italian commercials from a quiet television, open windows and open doors.
Day 1: Breakfast of apricot croissants, learning how to properly eat a kiwi, fresh meats and cheeses. Side streets led to the ruins where Julius Caesar was killed...which are now home to 250 cats. Crossing the Tiber River, we traced our fingers over the Caesar engravings in the walking bridge and found a local flea market. After an afternoon of shopping, we began our daily ritual of stopping by the corner market picking up wine, cheese, and bread to eat on our terrace every afternoon. This repeats for the next 6 days, followed by the nap of those who are tired. A conversation in metal chairs with all the windows and doors wide, the wind blowing papers, the seagulls squawking to the pulse of sleeping snores. Out for dinner and more walking. We snagged a quick tour of The Pantheon from the man with a broken yellow umbrella and enjoyed the sounds from a boy playing the hang drum. Dinner at Insalata de Ricca.
Day 2: The Colosseum stopped sound. Layers of rock, broken down stairs and seats. The floor where the bloody battles played out is no more, but what you can see is down into the cells where men and lions were kept, waiting for their fate. Every crumbling piece, so disheveled and broken, seemed so strong. A giant sleeping bear just lying in the middle of Rome, nothing large enough to wake it. From there, we gazed at the Arc of Constantine and continued onward. We ran all over Palatine Hill, through the house of Augustus Caesar, and paused at the location of the home of Romulus and Remus. We continued onto the Roman Forum, the common ground between Rome’s seven hills and the home of all things government and ancient. Right before our feet were about to implode on themselves, we passed by the ashes of Julius Caesar. A humble place to rest... We stopped by a cafe with a golden-eyed cat, bread, more wine, and grilled eggplant and zucchini. Dinner at Cul de Sac. We squished into small benches and munched on fresh ravioli with duck ragout and sweet & sour boar.
Day 3: Less than 200 people a year are allowed under St. Peter’s Basilica and inside the excavated area surrounding St. Peter’s Tomb. Original stone tombs of bishops with bodies still inside, never touched. We walked down original streets of ancient Rome, preserved over many years by soil. Tiled mosaics of Apollo, pots with the cremated ashes of pagans, 16th Century chapels that have been in use for 100,400 days. We actually saw the bones of those buried next to Saint Peter, the approximate place where Saint Peter's body lay rest, the marble cube put in place to protect the area before building the Basilica above. This was one of the coolest adventures I have ever done in my entire life, hands down. We then ascended to St. Peter's Basilica. You feel like a tiny ant, consumed with the power around you. On the way out the door, we stopped to gaze on Michelangelo’s “Pieta,” his only signed work. Dinner at Miscellanea, a college kid-filled place with monstrous bread platters, ham, cheese, red wine, and carbonara pasta. On our way back around the corner, we stopped by the church of St. Mary above Minerva.
Day 4: We awoke to a sunnier day than the one before, walked up through the hills, up Corso, and past the home of Lord Byron, the Keats-Shelley Museum, and the drowning boat fountain. We stopped to gaze up the Spanish Steps before climbing them, a well-known area in Rome with one of the most spectacular views of the city. We ventured on another long walk to find the Borghese Estate. Gardens, villa, museum...a very rich family had an astounding art collection. Besides all of the art by Raphael and Caravaggio and sculptures you've only ever seen in books, the ceilings were my favorite. Battles spilling down onto the walls, gold details on the framing. Simply breathtaking. We heard the rush of water in our search for Trevi Fountain and low and behold, as you turn the corner, BAM. A monstrous project with majestic nature flowing from its every drain and spout. We turned our backs and threw in coins. This may have been one of the most important moments of the trip, wishing to come back. Dinner at Pizzeria da Baffetto to munch on prosciutto and salami pizzas with red wine. A stop for gelato at the Frigidaire next door.
Day 5: A slow morning, enjoying the terrace while pretending to remember how to speak a handful of Italian phrases. A walk through the market place, filled with meat vendors and vegetables, flowers and melon liquors. A taxi ride over to The Vatican, standing in between rain drops and eating chocolate gelato under umbrellas. After walking around the back side, you're inside a building stretching nine miles long. Hallways of maps, tapestries, and sculptures. If you spent 3 seconds on every single piece of artwork in The Vatican, you would be there for twelve years. Once you've seen all the art you can stand, the Sistine Chapel is the next stop. Pictures were not allowed, and speaking was held to a minimum. But standing in the open area, looking at this monumental painting by Michelangelo, we stood in complete awe. Then, my mother handed us each an envelope. Inside was an invitation, to joyously share the reaffirmation of their vows after 25 years. Sistine Chapel, Rome, 2010. And right there, my parents renewed their wedding vows in the corner of the Sistine Chapel. A testament to the blessing of their driving force as my parents. After taking in all that we could, we walked down the tilted spiral staircase and back into the sunshine. Dinner at Ristorante da Fortunata. The wine arrived with smoked speck, penne arabiata with tomato and basil, and ricotta cheesecake. Another night to toast the anniversary of my parents and their 25 years together.
Day 6: Today was for shopping. We found ourselves swimming down Via del Corso. Lab shoes, H&M, Mango, boutiques, and gelato at a small cafe. We ended the day purchasing entirely too many leather gloves at Alberta’s Glove Shop. The elderly woman inside had been making gloves since she was 19 years old. She had taken the shop over from her grandmother and knew very little English, enough to sell her masterpiece gloves. A huge smile, a waddling shuffle, a matching light blue scarf, suit, and hat. Dinner at Pizzeria Monte Carlo. The original peperone, funghi, and Monte Carlo with wine and zucchini flowers. We ended the evening with a walk back through Piazza Navona. We had gelato one more time next to the fountains while fire dancers flipped their strings of fury. Music echoed off the cornered buildings.