Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Ciao Roma!

The last (and only) time I was in Rome before this trip was 32 years ago. It was the spring of 1982. I was going on two years out of college, and one of my best friends from my old fraternity was studying abroad for a year in Paris. He invited me to come over for his spring break. I would spend a few days in Paris, and when he became free, we would take an overnight train to Rome and spend a few days there. 

It was a memorable trip - or so I thought until we arrived in Rome yesterday and went out into the city and I realized (a) I either didn't remember a lot of my visit in 1982 or (b) my memories were very different from the Rome I am now experiencing. Funny how life is like that.

We booked a very reasonably-priced place in the Via Urbana, in the Monti District of Rome. I had read that Monti is considered one of the hip new areas of Rome (it's very old but hasn't become hip until fairly recently). Where we are staying is more of an inn than a hotel. It occupies parts of the first and second floor of an old apartment building. To access our room, we go through a door at the end of a hall that leads onto a small private terrace, then go through another door that leads into our room.

We love it.

Our room

View of a church bell tower from our terrace.

After getting settled late yesterday morning, we headed out for a bit of a walk and lunch at a taverna that our innkeeper had suggested. 

Doormat at an apartment on the landing of the first floor

Entry Hall to our building

Mark descending the stairs to street level

S. Maria of Monti

Ceiling of S. Maria

Our taverna wasn't too far from our inn. When we walked in, however, the staff were eating their own lunch and asked us to come back in 15 minutes or so. We took advantage of this time to walk a little further down the street when to my surprise I realized that the Forum was just across the street. I looked to the left and, sure enough, I saw the Colosseum. 

I felt totally disoriented from what I recalled from 1982. Everything looked different. It made me wonder what it would be like to go back to the two houses in which I spent my childhood and early adolescence. Would it evoke additional memories or merely confuse the ones I have, or both? Mark had visited Rome much more recently, in 2000 and again in 2009, and his memories were much more in line with what we were looking at. 

Our first meal in Italy was simple but very enjoyable: carbonara with a half-liter of their table red.  For dessert, I elected for the ricotta cheese and cherry torte while Mark went for the pear /walnut / pinenut torte. I had asked our innkeeper for a place that didn't cater to tourists and whom should be see as we came in but a table of Dutch tourists. (For you, Koen.) But it was still a nice experience.

Yesterday evening, we went on a walking tour of Rome with a company that had been highly recommended. It was, well, an interesting experience. Our guide, as it turned out, is Dutch. (They're everywhere, Koen.)

Joseph, our guide.

There were four couples in our group, two from the Toronto area and one from San Diego. We learned that the church at the top of the Spanish Steps is being renovated and is covered with scaffolding. We also learned that the Trevi Fountain is also being renovated and is also covered with scaffolding. But most of all, we learned that Rome is crawling with tourists right now. They are everywhere, in groups and on their own. I didn't recall there being nearly that many tourists in 1982.

The Pantheon. I recall eating lunch with my friend in 1982 at a small cafe just in front of the Pantheon. It was very pleasant. Last night it was full of tourists.

We left the tour early and went back to our room. I processed memories, feelings, emotions. In the end, we went to bed early, and I told myself that the following morning would be different than the night before.

1 comment:

  1. Yes. Our room is lovely. It's an oasis from the persistent hustle and bustle of the city. The tour guide told us that tourism was definitely up and he attributed it to the unrest in the Middle East stating that people are reluctant to go to that part of the world and so are coming to safer places.