Where all the roads lead...

Trip Start Jul 26, 2010
1
4
Trip End Aug 08, 2010


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Flag of Italy  , Lazio,
Tuesday, August 3, 2010

  All roads lead here, and so - here we are, in the eternal city of Rome...the sky is always blue here, the women are always beautiful, the people are always happy, and wine - not water! - is flowing in the Tiber river...no wonder all the roads lead THERE!

 

  

    Well, maybe I exaggerated a little...but only a little!!! ...anyway, you got the idea - I love Rome...

 
    

 

    I love its sunny disposition, its charming messiness...love the graceful silhouettes of the cypress trees swaying over the ancient ruins...love how you can walk into a modest unremarkable church and suddenly find yourself looking at a Bernini or Michelangelo...love how easily you can get lost in the maze of its streets, and how every turn brings you a new discovery and delight...love the taste of the incomparable coffee they brew here and the sound of the song-like Italian speech...love the energy, the fountains, the people, the hills, the cobblestone streets...

 
    

    "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." :)    but nooo, I was not aspiring to re-write Browning's sonnet in prose...I was just trying to say that I could return to Rome any time in a heartbeat, but this year our return had a special purpose...

 

 
  

 

 
    Last time we were in Rome together in spring 2007...but way before that -  32 years ago in fact -  my dear angel spent a whole summer there...he used to call that summer the best time of his life, and - ah! - it's so easy to imagine - Rome...romantic city...warm-warm-warm balmy nights... hot-hot-hot Italian girls...


 
  

    And it was during this summer in Rome that his father met a childhood friend whom he hadn't seen for 32 years...this friend had managed to leave then communist Russia and settle in Israel, and it had seemed that the iron curtain separated the best friends forever...yet here they were -reuniting in Rome, 32 years later...they met for dinner in a restaurant called Hostaria dell Orso...my angel was there with his parents, and this friend brought his own son - Dan - with him...and so the sons - on the spur of the moment - agreed to meet on the same date, at the same place in exactly 32 years...to honor their fathers' friendship...It was the 4th of August, 1978...

 

  

 

    I am not a very sentimental person, but I found this story very-very sweet...both fathers are no longer alive, and the sons had lost touch with each other, but there was no question in our mind that at least we two will be in Rome on the 4th of August, 2010...but then we wrote to Dan, and he responded that he would definitely come to this meeting...

 

    

 

    Dan's own children were too young to come with him and really appreciate the meaning of this meeting, but we thought that - on our part - my angel's oldest son Sasha would join us...aren't firstborns supposed to carry on the tradition anyway?...but then it turned out that one of the youngest - David - would be traveling in Europe during that time and could make it to Rome on the 4th, and his twin brother Geoff could also take some time off and join us...unfortunately their sister Tricia could not come, but she was with us in thoughts...

 
 
  
 
  

 

    And it suddenly looked like we could have quite a company!...it also so happened that the following day my daughter Sasha (Alexandra) and her boyfriend Neno would stop in Rome for a few days en route to their vacation in Greece and Bulgaria...indeed - all roads lead to Rome! :)

 
    It all happened almost like we hoped...I say "almost" because there was a minor disappointment:  the original restaurant from 32 years ago - Hostaria dell Orso -  was closed for the whole month of August...we took a few pictures of it from the outside  but had to find a replacement for the meeting...the restaurant we chose - Casina Valadier - was high over the city in the middle of gardens of Villa Borghese, with big terrace and beautiful views of Rome...

 
 

  

  



 
 
    Dan came with his wife Elina who happened to be originally from Russia...it's such a small-small world!...the company was great, the setting was perfect, and we had a really wonderful evening...memories, laughter, stories, jokes...time flew so fast!...
 
    We definitely hope to meet again...maybe Dan and Elina would come to the US, or we would go to Israel...or we could always meet somewhere else...like Belgium, for example...Dan went to medical school there, so I hope it would be pleasant for him to return...we, on the other hand, haven't been to Belgium yet, so - it could definitely be a possibility...besides, it's a French-speaking country...and we always feel very comfortable in French-speaking countries...anyway, it doesn't really matter where...but we will meet again, I am sure...


 
 
  



  


 
    Meanwhile, the boys actually arranged a future meeting of their own...they even put the promise into writing...but being impatient (or should I say - just practical?) they cut "32 years" in half and agreed to meet at the same place on the same day in 16 years...not that they won't see each other until then, but it's fun to set such an official randez-vous...plus - another reason to come to Rome!...if all is good - we, too,  are looking forward to joining them on the same terrace on the same day in 16 years!

 
  

 

 

    Unless you have some important event of your own, my suggestion would be to avoid going to Rome in August...many locals are gone on vacation and replaced with ten times as many tourists...the city will always have lots of visitors - it's Rome, after all...but nothing like in summer when even such a simple innocent tradition as throwing a coin in the Fountain di Trevi requires navigating a challenging obstacle course  (the obstacles being human bodies with cameras)...

 
 
     


 
    We spent some time in quieter places though - the Jewish ghetto on the east bank of the Tiber, the colorful Trastevere just across the river from it, secluded corners of Pincio gardens, old neighborhood of Testaccio...


 
 
     This time we also went to Castel Sant'Angelo near the Vatican...originally built as a tomb for the emperor Hadrian, it is a museum now (although used to be a fortress, a castle, a prison, a shelter for popes at various points during its existence)...the views of the city and the river are really nice from there...almost as nice as from the top of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican...we climbed it last time we were in Rome, and even though we wouldn't mind to do it again - we didn't...those of you who have been there in August would understand why  :)

 
 

   

    


 

    But even in August, when the city is swarming with crowds of tourists, you can find something slightly off the beaten path...like, Cappuccin Crypt, for example...it's not something you see often - artfully arranged human bones...thousands and thousands of them...wall ornaments made of human bones...chandeliers made of human bones...I probably should've felt appalled, but it amused me...like Halloween in August...


 
    The bones belonged to Cappuccin monks who died between 16th and 19th century...the
Crypt itself was about 10 minute walk from our hotel and even less than that from the American Embassy - on Via Veneto, in the church of Santa Maria della Immacolata Concezione...there were several smaller crypts inside - including Crypt of the Skulls, Crypt of the Hip Bones, Crypt of the Three Skeletons...just to name a few...but you got the idea...


    


 
    Why the monks decided to put the bones of their deceased brothers on display - who knows?...one can only guess...lack of cemetery space?...perpetual source of donation (each visitor pays 1 euro to enter the crypt)?...wicked sense of humor?...attempt to remind us that nothing is forever?...
but what I really want to know is - how did they procure the bones - dug up the graves?!...

 
 

 
 
    Another corner of Rome that we returned to was the stretch between Termini train station and Piazza Cinque-Cento...this stretch is lined with little kiosks selling old books, maps,records and various curiosities...like on Quai des Grands Augustins on the left bank of Seine in Paris... it was a nostalgic place for my dear angel - when he lived in Rome, he used to spend hours browsing here...I don't know what is it about places like this, but I love them...maybe it's an anticipation of some delightful discovery?...


  

  

  

  


 
    Speaking of delightful discoveries...when we were in Rome last time, my angel brought me to the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria...and that's where it was...Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Teresa ...now - poor ignorant me! - I had never before seen this sculpture even on a photograph, let alone "in person"...it wasn't just a single sculpture, but rather the whole spectacle in marble with St. Theresa in the center of it...back then I hadn't yet read the art critics' descriptions of it -  "divine joy", "epiphany of senses", "unity of sensual and spiritual"...none of that came to my mind...I could only tell what my eyes saw, and my eyes saw -  plain and simple - a woman having an orgasm!...the woman was made of marble, but what was written on her face was so unmistakable and so real!...I rarely hold my breath and stare, but I couldn't help it then...how in the world can anyone capture this fleeting moment in marble?!...how can one turn it into eternity?!...
 

  

  

 



    And ever since I "kept my eyes open" for Bernini...which is not really difficult in Rome, and I am not even talking about museums, like Villa Borghese - but just the streets, the churches...the fountains on Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Barberini - they are all Bernini's...the colonnades in front of St. Peter's in Vatican are Bernini's, too...and so are the angels lining ponte Sant'Angelo...and another "St. Teresa" that I discovered this time - well, actually her name is Ludovica :)

  

    While walking in the neighborhood of Trastevere, we went inside the church of San Francesco a Ripa and there, in the chapel, we found her - Beata Ludovica Albertoni...another mesmerizing miracle made of marble...and for me - the delight for the eyes and the highlight of the Trastevere walk...

  

    Our evenings were mostly spent together with the children...we would do our separate things during the day and then agree to meet in the evening for aperitivi...I wrote in my Milan blog more about "aperitivi"...it's hugely popular in Italy - a cocktail hour before dinner (usually from 6 till 8 in the evening) when for the price of one drink you can enjoy the whole buffet of various appetizers...the variety of these buffets in Rome was not quite as rich as in Milan; nevertheless, after a long day it was a convenient way to get together, have a drink, chat, relax...


      


    We all left Rome within a day from each other...first Sasha - for Israel...then David and Geoffrey -  for the United States...then Alexandra and Neno - for Greece and Bulgaria (their vacation was only beginning)...and we were the last to leave...


        

 

    As it often happens on the plane back home - my nose stayed glued to the window until the last inch of the ground disappeared under the clouds...this is the time when I re-live the past few weeks of vacation in my mind...but then - the city below is gone, and there is nothing but the clouds...that's when my mind (fortified by a couple of glasses of champagne!)  begins to imagine what our next vacation would be like...true, my images don't always materialize, but! often they do...and I have quite an imagination - vivid, wild and unpredictable, capricious, rich and illogical...and I already have an idea about where we would go next...so - stay tuned! :)
   



 


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