We left Manchester in the dead of night (as is the way of these things) on a budget airline (Jet2) with only carryon luggage. This was a complete novelty to me because I normally take the kitchen sink with me on my travels. However, I disciplined myself and realised that, yes, you can have a happy holiday without taking spare hair straighteners, ten dresses and three bags full of cosmetics.
Because we had caught such an early flight we were in Rome by 12 noon. We arrived at our wonderfully located hotel, Relais de Senato, just off the Piazza Navona. The view from our window was of the Senate House opposite, behind which was the Pantheon.
Within a short while we were out the front door and, after walking five yards to the left we were in the Piazza Navona. At lunchtime the square was full of artists painting portraits of tourists or selling their paintings. There were also some living statues, which are not my favourite thing but one of them caught my eye. It was a well dressed business man frozen in the act of running, perhaps for a train, his tie flying out behind him and his jacket blustered about with the effort of running. He stood on one leg, the other poised to hit the ground. How long he stood there I do not know but I hope he had some form of support. Else he will have terrible trouble with those knees when he is older.
We pushed our way through the crowd in the centre of the Piazza, past Bernini’s great fountain of the four rivers, built with public money at a time of famine in Rome. We were more interested in our own stomachs at this time and soon found a lovely little pizzeria in a back street, La Focaccia. We met a friendly young couple from Australia (via South Africa) who were in Rome for ten days, without their children. She was an engineer and he a school teacher. They were very much enjoying their freedom and packing in as much as possible in their ten days.
Our hosts, who were seasoned visitors to Rome, then took us to the Pantheon to see Raphael’s tomb, the Oculus and the architectural wonder of this fascinating building. I could spend hours just walking around the Pantheon, marking the contrast between the external, so solid and ancient, and the internal, intricate and baroque. The way the oculus allows the outside in (in the form of rain, tonight!) but does not impinge on the style of the interior is a wonder to me. We also went to the church of Ignatius Loyola with its wonderful trompe l’oeil dome and 3D effect ceiling.
For dinner on our first night our friends took us to La Carbonara restaurant in the campo di fiori. We all ate heartily and finished our meals with a liqueur. Some of us had a little too much liqueur if you ask me, but, fortunately, no one did ask.
The next morning we ate a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, served by our exemplary waiter, travel adviser and all-round fixer, Newton. We had decided to go to the Capitoline museum and had bought bus tickets but were informed by Newton that there was a bus strike that day. We walked. About a mile. But it was worth it. The view from the Capitoline over the forum was wonderful. And we could see all of the other tourists, like ants, crawling all over the ruins.
Evening meal that day was at La Grotte del teatro di pompeo, again in the Campo di fiori. This proved a very entertaining meal with the waitress kissing us all before we left (I wonder if she liked us or if we overtipped??). This was a fine meal with good vegetarian options for me.
The next morning we had tickets for Opera Omni at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilij. This beautiful palace, just off the Corso, is the setting for a concert of music contemporary to the artwork (Caravagios, Bernini and Velasquez) displayed in the palazzo. The music was superb, especially the lovely soprano. We floated along the corridors and grand rooms, listening to the sound of the vihuela (an early Spanish guitar) and renaissance percussion. I was particularly entranced when they played a Spanish tune very similar to a Solea por Bulerias that I had danced to in my flamenco classes.
I could go on and on and probably will, at a later date. Suffice to say for the time being it is certainly Arrivederci Roma, not goodbye.