The day after our 29th anniversary, Chris and I said goodbye to Budapest (for now). It was bittersweet, but mostly sweet. It’s been over three months since I’ve slept in my bed with my perfect pillow configuration, cooked dinner in my favorite kitchen, rubbed Izzy’s belly, had a kitty in my lap, practiced Breathe yoga, or spent time with my family and American friends.
But, first, Rome…..
There is something about Rome – although it is a huge city with lots of tourists (and everything that goes along with that), there is this vibe here. The people are passionate. The ubiquitous ruins (and history in general). The art that can be absorbed. The wine. The food. I want to be here. I feel as though I belong here (or maybe just someplace in Italy). There’s no place like Rome!
We were in Rome during the conclave about 9 years ago which meant that the Sistine Chapel was not open. Here was our opportunity! We arrived at the interesting 3-room B&B Gli Scipioni run by a helpful and cheerful woman, Antonella who gave us a map, suggestions for restaurants, and advice on public transportation. We decided to go for pizza and wine literally next door to the B&B. Derek’s comment to me was: “eat like it’s your last meal on earth” and believe me – I went with this sentiment with no regrets for the two days in Rome. I think for me, possibly the most prominent sense in Rome would have to be taste
The next morning we wandered to the spacious Piazza del Popola, my head on a swivel, trying to absorb the sights and sounds. Eventually we found ourselves at the crowded Spanish Steps where there were many people capturing the moment with their “selfie sticks”. From the Spanish steps, we walked down the avenue filled with designer shops – I saw a pair of soft walnut brown suede boots in a window and I was startled to hear myself “mmmmmmm” (no, I do not own a pair of Italian leather boots!).
We took a small group tour with an Italian art historian, Sabrina. She led us over splendid floors, and past intricate tapestries, flowing statues, enormous frescoes, and the exquisite artwork of the Vatican museums , the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. Walking out of the Sistine Chapel, I felt a sense of satisfaction for experiencing something so magnificent.
At dinnertime we decided to walk toward Piazza Navona, an enormous and bustling square housing three fountains with dramatic white statues and cascading water. Past Piazza Navona we found a smaller, quieter, quaint street filled with small restaurants and pizzerias; we decided on a place called Cul-de-Sac – we drank full-bodied Italian red wine and typical Roman al dante pasta dishes, then of course, tiramisu for dessert.
Chris and I decided to explore the Coliseum and Roman Forum with a guide. We booked a tour with Dario (a 30-something charismatic and informative young man who is starting his tour guide business Mind the Guide). The tour ended up being private for us because, although he is an experienced guide, his online business is so new (Chris and I were his 11th and 12th online clients). Dario guided us through the Forum which functioned as the center of politics and religion, and also the marketplace where the Romans traded their wares . He showed us the massive Coliseum and explained the games, tickets, seating, how the animals were acquired and gladiators were chosen. He showed us underground where the animals and gladiators waited for their “performance” and graffiti depicting the happenings from a spectator’s perspective. He did an excellent job of explaining not just the events and the architecture, but also of the mindset of these early Romans. We finished our tour over an espresso , agreeing to communicate via Facebook and hopefully to meet again in the future. Dario then recommended a place for lunch (and made our reservation) at an out of the way place where locals go. Here we consumed dense and crusty bread, rigatoni with a delicious and smooth sausage sauce, ravioli with a chunky flavorful tomato sauce. Again, I found myself audibly moaning over what happened in my mouth as the food passed through my lips, over my tongue and down my throat – savoring the culinary delights.
Afterwards, we puttered around, looked for a last souvenir for Chris, Rome earrings for me and then had yet one more Italian meal at a place where the staff really made you feel like family – serving us gratis scoops of sample pasta and after dinner drinks. The agreeable old man clearing tables, pushing the cart up and down the middle aisle, scanning the restaurant was the owner. Here I devoured another tiramisu (best one I’ve ever eaten) – one last (semi) guilt-free dessert before I come home.
In the morning, a bulky bald Italian man in a suit came in a black sedan Mercedes to drive us (like a crazy Italian driver) away from our three month adventure and to the airport.