Tuesday, November 22, 2016

#Andiamo16 - Roma

The first time I visited Rome George W Bush had only been in office 5 months.  The Italian currency was still the Lira and September 11 2001 was a unimaginable two short months from then.  Early July 2001 on a Sunday night I tentatively stepped out of my hotel located near the Vatican at my friend's insistence (see my first blog post how this one walk literally changed my life personally and eventually professionally) and participated in the Roman daily evening parade called the pasigeata.  As we strolled through the city finally ending up at the Piazza di Spagna, as corny as it sounds my confidence grew with every step.  Rome stopped being a famous place where I would be lead around by an organized tour group - to an alive city.  Alive with food, cultural and its smiling, laughing joyful people.  Pasigieta literally means 'little walk'.  Escaping their small apartments, simply enjoying life and family.

Spanish Steps at twilight

Sunday November 20, 2016 I arrived in Rome for my sixth visit to this literally 'Eternal City '.  Riding the highway from Rome's Fumicino airport I was pleasantly surprised how many landmarks I recognized and as we approached our Bon Compangi and the Hotel Romanico Palace, how it felt like visiting the 'old neighborhood'.  Winding our way through Borghese Gardens (Rome's 'Central Park') following the 1900 year old Roman built city wall and entering through the main gate to the city - this was as far from rural Michigan as I could get - but still seemed oh so much like home. We dropped off our suitcases and headed to our late afternoon lunch at one of my favorite ristorantes, La Lampada.   The staff had kept the restaurant open just for our group of 12, fresh food served quickly and deliciously to the hungry travelers.  But as much as the old neighborhood eatery looked and tasted the same - I kept looking for my favorite waiter Salvatore.  My halting Italian combined with the staff's halting English explained Salvatore had retired.  The business opened all these years by first Salvatore's parents, then with he and his brother Pietro was now run by Pietro and his children.  His chicly specced oldest son was excited to let me know he was departing for the US next week.  "Nuovo York, baby".  Mindful that in late November the sun sets early in Rome, we headed to the Spanish Steps and found ourselves in the midst of hundreds of tourists.... and Romans indulging in an early evening stroll after their Sunday dinner - the pasigieta.  Nothing reminds you as quickly that you aren't in Kansas anymore than strolling the streets of Rome with a few thousand of her people.

Pantheon Occulus - or hole at the top of the dome
Ponte San Angelo

Rome has many many treasures.  Over 900 churches, 367 are historically important,  ancient times, medieval, renaissance, baroque, etc. etc. etc. you will find a different age around every corner.  This visit to Rome is a quick one.  We'd have to skim the surface of the most important sites and promise to return another time.  Private guides are absolutely worth their weight in gold, they bring their personal knowledge, education, as well as their magic passes that literally whisk you past hundreds of people waiting in line (the VIP treatment). With our two local guide, Alejandra and Francesca,  the last two whirlwind days we visited:   the Renaissance: Vatican City (Vatican museums and St. Peters),  Ponte San Angelo and Piazza Navona, ancient Rome : Pantheon, Colosseum, Forum as well as Baroque Rome: Trevi Fountain  Borghese Park and Villa.  These are all favorites of mine,  places I have seen on each Rome visit.  By seeing these favorites through my first time co - travelers I got to enjoy that first sense of wonder, as well as better understanding of a city by experiencing it with its citizens.  I was literally surprised at every turn.  Like catching up with an old friend over lunch - your shared history is the start, the ways they have changed and grown... the revelation.

Trevi Fountain