The first time we had been to Rome was in 1961, for our honeymoon, la luna di miele as the Italians would say. For some reason it took us another 23 years to return and this time with our 17 year old daughter.
Carlo, our Bolognese friend, a research scientist who works for the Consiglio Nazionale di Ricerca or the National Research Council of Italy, travelled often to the head office in Rome. His hotel recommendation was Albergo Venezia, near the main railway station, Stazione Termini, and a clean, well run, relatively inexpensive hotel to boot. So that's where we stayed for a week.
Public transport in Rome was very good, parking was impossible so we had arranged to give up our rental car at Rome. Often we looked out our hotel window and wondered what all the noise was. Triple parking, not ordinary double parking, seemed to be very common in Rome but sometimes the inner car needed to leave before the outer cars. So lots of honking and shouting ensued in order to alert the hopefully nearby drivers of these cars that they needed to move them subito or right now!
The hotel was very close to the main station and there you could catch a bus or take the underground and that's how we got around in this large busy city. We found a rather nice restaurant nearby and most nights we ate there. After the first night, as soon as we entered the door, the waiter placed a carafe of the house vino rosso and a litre bottle of acqua gassata on our table. We didn't even have to ask. We were "regulars".
Looking at my photo album of this trip brings back the reminders of Rome. I can see we spent some time in and around the Basilica di San Pietro or St Peter's Basilica, seen above, with its wonderful square designed by Bernini and the dome of Michelangelo. Inside this most famous building is the pietà of Michelangelo which is now behind glass since it was attacked and damaged in 1972. It also houses the famous 13th century bronze statue of St Peter which has the feet worn smooth due to the many pilgrims who place kisses there. This church is huge in length, width and height and the Bernini canopy which covers the papal altar under the high dome is as tall as a small building itself, standing at 96 feet high.
We passed almost a whole day in the Vatican Museum which had certainly been much improved since our visit in 1961, being much better organized and its treasures better displayed than previously. This tour included the Sistine Chapel which I have always found rather difficult to appreciate. Perhaps now that it has been restored I would find it more pleasing, although one has to appreciate the monumental task this was for Michelangelo. This site of the Papal Enclaves is a huge overwhelming room, rather dark and completely decorated by some the greatest Italian painters of the 15th and 16th centuries. The end wall with its enormous painting of the Last Judgment and of course the very famous ceiling with the Creation of Man were the works of Michelangelo, both of which were completed over different periods of time. The ceiling which is flat, although it gives the impression of being vaulted, took Michelangelo four years to paint. It was very hard on the neck to look up and see these amazing frescoes and the attendants were anxious for the visitors to move along steadily and were constantly trying to keep the crowds quiet, since it is a church after all.
We spent quite a time around the sites of Ancient Rome, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum with its great temples. Since we had recently watched again the BBC series, I Claudius, with Derek Jacobi as Claudius and Brian Blessed as Augustus Caesar, we went to visit Augustus's tomb, seen here. The ashes of many members of his family, thought to include Claudius, were interred here. It is the largest Roman tomb and sadly it is crumbling away and not open to the public, however I believe there are plans to reopen it in 2009.
One of our most interesting visits on this trip was to a spot was near the Spanish Steps. We went to Keats' house, which is located to the right of the steps and is maintained as a museum to Keats, Shelley, Byron and other Romantic poets. He lived and died there in 1821 and I talked about it here when I posted a photo of the Spanish Steps for Saturday Photo Hunt. We spent several very enjoyable hours there, poking about the treasures and reading the letters. There was no one else there and we made a wonderful leisurely exploration of the museum.
Rome is full of the most beautiful fountains and above you can see the famous Fontana di Trevi, Fountain of Trevi, featured so many times in films. The tradition is if you throw a coin into this fountain you will one day return to Rome. It must have worked in 1961 because here I was again. Remember Three Coins in the Fountain? The other fountain photo is Bernini's Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi or Fountain of Four Rivers, in the Piazza Navona, covered with the ever present pidgeons. It was late afternoon when I took this photo so it's rather in the shadow. Click to improve it a little.
Then it was time to end this month we had spent in Italy and return home. By the time we had returned to Vancouver, my daughter had decided that, in addition to majoring in French for her university degree, she would study Italian. I tried to convince her to take Spanish instead, thinking it would be more useful if she went into teaching. But she was determined and took Italian for two years, only dropping it when she enrolled in French honours and there was no space for Italian. Of course, when she married an Italian, she was able to say, "I told you so!"
I bet you thought you were never coming to the end of this trip to Italy. It only lasted a month, you say. It seemed like years! I hope you found something to interest you as I wrote about one of the trips I have made to my very favourite tourist destination, Italy. Remember the earlier parts of this saga are here, here, here, here and here.
Join me later when I write about my experiences of going to language school in Italy and doing a "homestay" with an Italian family. Not once, not twice, but three times, in three different cities.
I apologize for the spacing problems which seem to be insoluble. What looks fine in the preview turns into a disaster on publishing. Unless I have a brainstorm this is as good as it gets.