Monday, May 11, 2009

All of Rome in a Day

I have been wondering at the absolute beauty and splendor of this place. I am staying about 30 minutes out of Rome in a restored 16th century palazzo. There are frescos on the ceilings, perfectly proportioned rooms, and an endless view of Rome and the sea off the garden terrace. The town of Frascati is a kilometre away. I will take the train to Rome tomorrow without an agenda, but I will start with the forum and see where the day takes me. I return to the Pantheon always. The city is a museum, so I do not have to actually enter a building. With the warmth and the sunshine, most likely I will soak in the sun and stop off at the fountains to refill my water bottle. I will not take a map and see where my feet take me.

I wrote that late last night. I slept soundly, woke up briefly at 6 AM and  then slept another three hours. Whenever away from home I find myself catching up on sleep; at home there is too much to do to sleep and I am lucky if I get four or five hours, consequently I am always exhausted at home and always well-rested on vacation. One of my goals for our year in Ecuador is to sleep at least eight hours nightly and catch up on years of sleep deprivation. I wandered through the hotel after breakfast looking at the frescos and admiring the view. It was another perfect sunny warm day. 

Rome is a half hour away. The challenge was the decision of what to do on this marvelous day with so many choices. The city of imperial Rome? The Rennaissance? The Baroque? I decided it would be everything today. I walked from Stazione Termini to the forum and the Colosseum, to the Bocca della Verita and the temple of the Vestal Virgins to St Peter's and the Vatican, from Castel Sant Angelo to the Trevi Fountain, Campo dei Fiori and Piazza Navona, to the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti, to Via Veneto and the Campidoglio and Piazza Venezia and everything in between. Most of the museums were closed, so I did not have to make decisions about entering or not. Most of the churches were closed as well. I spent some time in the Pantheon and the church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. I like the concept of the church being built over a temple to Minerva. The paintings in the churches often rival those in the museums and there are statues everywhere to admire. There are ancient ruins being excavated now, and each time I visit Rome, they are excavating more and I see something I have not seen before.

There are tourists, but fewer than I have seen in past visits. Everyone is eating gelato or pizza. There are more ice cream parlours than there were the last time I was here. I ran into two peaceful demonstrations, both with many policemen milling about. Motorcycles and vespas are numerous, and Italians talk incessantly into their cell phones. I could not find public phones in most places and when I did and tried to call my hotel to confirm my arrival time, my phone card did not work. I made it back to the station to catch my train back to Frascati in time for dinner. Every dish I chose had black truffles and I did not dare to order the most expensive item on the menu with white truffles.

I wonder what our lives would have been like had we stayed in Rome and not moved back to Canada. When we lived here we were young and I am not sure we appreciated our circumstances until we moved away. It is during my regular visits back to Rome that I discover more and more. It is my sister Karen who knows Rome best, having lived nearby for years, and visiting often.

I am curious of what the impact of Ecuador will be on both my children. Tara will be volunteering and plans to work mostly outside of Quito. She does not speak Spanish and tells me that is not required for her volunteer positions. Maya will be attending a Spanish speaking school and will definitely learn Spanish. Will each of them fall in love with the country and want to return as adults? There is something different about being American children; both Tara and Maya have a clear identity; my sisters and I were always confused about who we were. We did not identify as Canadians or Italians, so we never quite belonged in Italy or Canada and later Iived in foreign countries for our adult lives. I will have to ask my sisters if they feel French or Swiss or Canadian or Italian. 

I called my daughters and wished them Happy Mother's Day. My mother was delighted to hear that I was in Frascati. When they lived in Rome, my parents would often come to Frascati to eat, but she could not remember which restaurant she ate at. I will ring her tonight again and ask her and check it out tomorrow night.


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