#1 Italy/Berlin, May 15, 2007

Dear Everybody,

Here I am in Rome with my sister, Jeanne, and brother-in-law, Bob. After getting settled in our hotel we started our brief three-day Rome experience by taking the metro to the Pantheon, that most remarkable building that Hadrian built in 120 AD. This dome was the largest dome in the world until the 15th century, and still is the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome ever built.

Light enters through a 25-foot opening in the ceiling, which also permits rainwater to come in but it drains away in almost invisible holes in the marble floor.

After lunch we walked to the beautiful Piazza Navona, highlighted by Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers. With two other beautiful fountains, many hawkers, sidewalk cafes, performers, and crowds of tourists and locals, it is quite a spectacle. It was built over the ruins of an arena, constructed in 86 AD. From the 15th century, for 300 years, it was the city’s main market.  We walked to the Trevi Fountain and made our wishes in the beautiful sunshine.

The next day was our ‘church’ day. With hundreds to pick from, we visited three including the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, built in the 5th century with its gorgeous 5th century mosaics depicting Old Testament scenes, and the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli that contains Michaelangelo’s “Moses.”We walked to the giant towering Colosseum, which was inaugurated in 80 AD with the killing of some 5,000 animals. By this time we needed a beer, which we drank in a café overlooking this massive historical landmark.

We walked a long ways to find a restaurant that my daughter and Italian son-in-law had recommended: Ristorante Pastarita. It turned out to have just the right mixture of local patrons, nice ambience, good Tuscan wine, and good food, putting the cap on a very satisfying day.

The next day we tackled going to the Vatican, deciding to take a tour. When we assembled for the tour, it turned out that it went on the Metro, which we could easily do by ourselves, so we bid them ‘arrividerci’ and went on our own.

When we reached the Vatican, there were lines literally miles long so we opted for a look at St. Peter’s Basilica and the Piazza, then crossed the river past the Castel Sant’Angelo, stopping in a cafe for a beer. We then walked back past many interesting old buildings, heading once again to our Ristorante Pastarita.

One more day in Rome started, as usual, with a cappuccino, which equipped us to take the Metro to the Spanish Steps.

We visited the Bernini ‘sinking boat’ fountain and the Keats-Shelly Memorial House where Keats died in 1821.

We took a long walk through the Roman Forum.  I learned that the Roman Forum was once an Etruscan burial ground in 600 BC.  All of these columns, markets, temples and old stones give off  quite a unique feeling—-how very old it all is!

We found Trajan’s Column, and Trajan’s Forum, and ended up at the Arch of Constantine.

All of this took most of our sightseeing time and energy. Rome is inexhaustible, but unfortunately, we weren’t!

Today we picked up our rented car at the airport—not an easy task as, of course, I had rented the ‘cheapest, cheapest’ on the internet, and this little fly-by-night outfit wasn’t able to: Speak English, Produce our car, or Reassure us that a car would actually materialize. Just as Bob was making plans to find the Avis Car Rental Agency, up drove ‘our’ car, which turned out to be an upgrade and all was well, except for a little wear and tear on our nerves!

We drove to Tuscany (about three hours), stopping in Bibbiena to visit the supermarket and pick up dinner provisions. We absolutely LOVE cooking in Tuscany, in my son-in-law’s house in the tiny town of Partina. After getting settled, we enjoyed a couple of gin and tonics and then cooked a splendid dinner of pasta carbonera, with a secondo of steak, asparagus and sautéed mushrooms.

Our table was decorated with a beautiful rose cut from a rosebush in the front yard.

We drank our coffee on the terrace as the sun was setting, finishing off with chocolate candy, while playing a Luciano Pavarotti CD. The car hassle was forgotten and we reveled in the magical atmosphere of this tiny village and it’s tranquility.

Carol

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