It has been over 20 years since I first visited you, and came to a slow appreciation of your wrinkled beauty. Now I am a grown woman, with the fine lines of age tip-toeing across my own face, and I am completely enamored and charmed by your grace and class. It seems that the beautiful Italian women who skillfully stroll your cobblestoned streets in designer heels always understood your secrets.
Our arrival was off to a rough start, but at no fault of Rome. The 12 hour flight had taken it’s toll and Stella ended up puking in the streets of Trastevere as we waited for our apartment manager to show up with keys.
By day 2 we had pushed our bodies to adjust to the time zone and spent the entire day exploring Rome west of the Tiber river. We were awed by the Vatican museum, dripping with wealth and the ostentatious jewels of the art world. After a 3 hour shuffle through one grand room with sumptuous frescoes after another, the Sistine Chapel almost came too late for the kids to appreciate the significance of the “hand of god”. Despite our sensory overload, St. Peter’s basilica still beckoned. After an obligatory nap, our day was capped with a dinner reunion with a dear Canadian friend, Carolynn. We had met 13 years ago in Brazil, and have since than had some planned and random meet-ups in New York, San Diego, Edmonton, and Portland.
Day 3 was all about the ancient ruins of the Colosseum and the Roman forum. Although Gabriel was disappointed that gladiators no longer fight to their death in public expositions, he was delighted by the naked marble sculptures in the Capitoline Museum. I had to explain that many of the penises had been chiseled off by the prude, long ago, and that “dick-less” men were not the original intent of the artists. We continued our marathon by foot through the Centro Storico, marveling at the piazzas of obelisks and fountains (notably Navona), and joining the swarms in the Pantheon, straining our necks to stare at the masterful dome ceiling.
Our final day started at the Borghese Galleria, home to an amazing collection of paintings, portraits and a temporary show(?) of Azzedine Alaia couture fashion. Stella went from room to room quickly scanning the art, as she was more interested in the game of “which dress was her favorite?”. After exploring the Borghese park by a family quad bike, we headed to Piazza del Popolo and strolled through the wealthy fashionista streets of the Tridente and Campo Marzio neighborhoods to the Spanish Steps. I was both envious and uncomfortable in our surrounds. There were many beautiful people dressed in designer clothing, perfectly coiffed, thin and tan, carrying bags worth more than a month of travel. These obvious displays of wealth were spotted not only in attire, but also in the many Mercedes and BMW’s parked in the side streets, and the high-end window displays of the stores. I wished for a Fairy godmother that could magically transform my traveler’s wardrobe into the dreams of Cinderella, as much as I mentally rejected the conspicuous consumption around me. I wonder if this will always be a personal conflict for me. I love beautiful clothing, art, and the comfort of a luxurious lifestyle, but I also want to be free of a need for the superficial, and strive for a simpler existence. I digress…
After tallying an average of 12 to 13 miles of walking EACH day, eating our fill of fresh pasta, pizza and gelato, getting lost on purpose, only to discover the best nooks and crannies, we all opened our hearts to Roma. Gabriel declared that he wanted to live here when he grows up, Dan said the city was much better than he ever remembered it, Stella had an eye and great enthusiasm for all of the cutest dogs and shoes, and I shed tears in a church, at the sheer beauty and palpable wonder of it all.
With all my love and respect, I bow to you and kiss your hand, as one who can only hope to emulate your grace and sophistication.