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ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND AGING GRACEFULLY
ADVENTURES IN TRAVEL, WRITING AND AGING GRACEFULLY
It was bad enough that our flight out of Marrakech was delayed, but an hour after we finally landed we were still hopelessly watching the baggage carousel turn, empty of our suitcases. The good news is that there is nothing more entertaining than witnessing a bunch of angry Romans scream and gesticulate over lost luggage. No one has ever accused me of being a laid back pushover, but compared to the Italians, I am a mere amateur. When we finally collected our bags, we jumped into a cab, and headed to our loft in Pigneto.
What is Pigneto? Why, according to several travel guides it is only “the coolest neighborhood in the world." Artists, bohemians, great bars and cool cafes? I mean, when would you not want to stay there? When the mattresses are doused in blood, urine and body hairs. Filthy bathroom walls, floaters in the toilet, not a single clean utensil, dealers loitering on the corner, chairs thoughtfully marked "BROKEN. DO NOT SIT HERE", and the doors and windows covered in bars. After a terse discussion with the owner and several emails to Airbnb requesting the return of our $3,200 payment, we quickly booked a hotel, jumped into a cab and hightailed it across town. We arrived at the Hotel Alimandi and was told that despite our online reservation, they did not have our family room, so Isoo and I ended up on one floor, and Chris and Oona on another. By the time we dropped off our bags, made our way to a restaurant and ordered our dinner, it was nearly 11:00 p.m. and we had already spent our entire daily budget on cab fare.
Desperate to find a last minute place to stay (in expensive Rome), we ended up booking a sweet two bedroom apartment in the charming Trastevere neighborhood. Yes, it broke the bank, but the beautiful, airy, light-filled apartment was exactly what we needed after hectic Marrakech and our bumpy start in Rome. When we met Silvia, the owner, I couldn't stop staring; she was stunning and chic. It made total sense when I later learned that she is an Italian film actress.
The Coliseum, Roman Forum, St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Piazza Navona, the Spanish Steps, Pantheon. I could go on. A city could be built around any ONE of these monuments and yet Rome greedily houses them all. Everywhere you turn there is a mosaic tiled church, hidden piazza, ornate bridge. The city is just unreasonably beautiful. Even our local Farmacia, purveyor of foot spray and band aids, is ensconced in a centuries old ivy covered building. And you can keep your Pigneto, I could not have loved our Trastevere neighborhood more: charming winding streets, sparkling Christmas lights, cobblestone lanes, leisurely sidewalk cafes, gorgeous people, Santa Maria church bells, bookshops, the lazy Tiber River.
We had originally planned to hunker down in Rome for a full month to celebrate Christmas, but the new apartment wasn't available for that length so in all, we only had 17 days in this glorious city. With all the hassles of travel, and the prevailing homesickness, I thought I'd never say it, but I could live here forever. Even Isoo, who is not easily impressed nor a fan of urban environments threw an extra coin into Trevi Fountain to ensure his return.
The Pantheon. Nearly 2000 years old and perfectly preserved. It was raining the day we visited so we got to see the ancient Roman drainpipes in action.
There are so many priests and nuns walking around Rome. They are everywhere - the local pizzeria, the newsstand, standing at the bus stop listening to music on headphones. It's a cool and wonderful reminder of how human we all are.
The Map Room in the Vatican Museum.
St. Peter's Basilica. We thought the kids would enjoy climbing to the top of the dome.
The view of Vatican City from the top. Oona loved it.
Isoo did not. In fact, he thought found the entire Vatican City visit to be "pure torture."
Poor baby. We felt terrible for him.
Inside St. Peter's: Michelangelo's La Pieta. Believe it or not, we all preferred the sculptures and was somewhat underwhelmed by the Sistine Chapel.
We took a walk to the Coliseum, but after wandering around with a guide book, we decided to return with a tour guide.
The day we returned was freezing and rainy, but Elena did such a great job even the kids were captivated. Isoo was full of questions.
The Coliseum's remains. The stage was partially rebuilt to give visitors an idea of the the layout. The Coliseum's true floor was covered in sand to conceal trap doors and soak up the blood of the gladiators. The labyrinth beneath housed a series of rooms where animals where starved and then hoisted up in rudimentary elevators and released for the games. The three rows of arches were where the spectators sat - the wealthiest closest to the action. Just like the Bulls game!
The Roman Forum and Isoo among the umbrella pines.
Soaked to the bone, but the kids were great sports.
La Bocca della Verita. Tell a lie, it bites your hand. Oona must be telling the truth.
We spent a lot of time hanging out at the Spanish Steps eating gelato and people watching.
Trevi Fountain is being given a good cleaning (courtesy of Fendi) so unfortunately, it's under scaffolding and heavily concealed. However, if you want to throw a coin to ensure your return, this PHOTO of the fountain will be happy to accept your Euro.
We rented bikes at Appica Antica to check out more ancient ruins and ride on the very bumpy original cobblestone roadways (not pictured).
Gorgeous sculpture of Goethe at Villa Borghese park. According to Isoo, also a great place to bird!
Piazza Navona by night.
On December 8, Piazza Navona hosts a carnival in celebration of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Most Romans celebrate by going to church. We visited the Sant'Agnese in Agone cathedral, then we hit up the carnival. When in Rome.
The Orto Botanico Roma was right behind our apartment. We thought it would be an easy way to kill a half hour. Turned out to be a fantastic place to bird and write. Chris and the kids went twice.
Modern Rome? That would be the Maxxi, the new contemporary art museum. Still trying to gain traction, the museum's exhibitions are very slight. In fact, the day we visited, there was not much to see, which even the museum acknowledged by reducing our entry fee. Give it a few years before making a visit.
Rome does Christmas well! Just ask these happy Santas.
Better yet go to the Christmas tree lighting at Piazza Venezia!
National flags represented on Via Corso.
Just some of the gorgeous lights around the city. While I wholly intend on returning, I honestly can't imagine that I could enjoy Rome more. There is something magical about discovering a wonderful city for the first time at Christmas.
While walking around our neighborhood, we stumbled upon a little shop that teaches mosaic art. Of course we had to take a class. This is Nadia teaching Oona how to break tiles. I thought this was about the most therapeutic thing I've done in a long time. Absolutely loved it.
The tools of the trade. First we drew a picture on a small piece of paper. Then we selected bits of glass and tile and then broke them down to our desired size and shape using the wooden block with the embedded ax point and the crazy hammer looking thingy. After that we used glue to paste the tiles to the pictures. Note: Nadia did not speak English and we don't speak Italian so we might be a little unclear on the correct terminology.
Oona set the tiles. Then we mixed cement and filled a a 4'x4" square, placed the tiles inside the cement and then gently pulled off the paper.
Isoo learns how to set tile in cement. So fun.
But our learning did not stop there! We also went to Gladiator School where we learned all about the battles of Ancient Rome.
Oh yes, there were costumes involved.
Lots of them.
Any many useful tips like "How to Stab Your Father When He is Wearing a Ridiculous Helmet"
And "How to Catch Your Father in a Fisherman's Net". Btw, I was under strict orders by the kids not to share these images so you don't know anything about them or else you will get stabbed by a three pronged pitchfork.
But don't worry. When it came time for the duels, we parents got our revenge,
Needless to say, we had a blast. Our teacher was fabulous. I think we all laughed incredibly hard that day.
And we have been eating exceedingly well....
Top: Gelato at Frigidarium. Best pizza ever at Pizzarium.
Middle: Aperitivos at the Eden Hotel. So much pasta.
Bottom: Our favorite resto, Pianostrada Laboratoriodicucina. Just another insanely charming little corner trattoria.
But mostly we just hung out in our neighborhood of Trastevere.
Lounging in our beautiful apartment.
Walking our winding streets.
Keeping the kids up past their bedtime to hang out in the Piazza Santa Maria.
Running by the Pont Sisto.
And dreaming of all the things we'll do when we come back!