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Published: March 21st 2014
It has been said that the mark of a good meal is when each course leaves you craving just one more bite. If you have too much of one flavor, you lose your desire for it. A perfect meal has a variety of courses, each complimentary to the others, however not so similar as to cause lack of interest.
I think travel is similar. If a destination has primarily only one dimension, it is difficult for me to stay interested for long. That is the problem with “fun in the sun” beach paradises for me. Once you have seen the sunset and had a few Margaritas by the pool, there isn’t much else to keep you motivated. The sand is warm and soft and the water is clear and blue. The hammock sways easily in the sea breeze. The beer is cold and the music mellow. Day three and I’m going nuts. Maybe too much of a good thing.
Not so with the great travel destinations. Tired of historical attractions, go shopping. Tired of grand churches, go dancing. Tired of late nights in exotic nightclubs, get up early and have coffee in some small café
by the river. Grand boulevards provide access to small alleys. Small alleys lead to tree lined plazas. Music comes from a classical piano in a museum alcove or an accordion in a crowded subway. Variety abounds everywhere.
We have been in Rome for a month and it is time to go. I want one more bite. Every time I think we have seen everything, we turn a corner and my interest is peaked again. The citizens are stylish, friendly and passionate about life. The food, whether found in a simple osteria, trendy trattoria or a grand ristorante is delicious and served with great passion and flair. The streets can be busy and sidewalks crowded. Traffic is crazy and it’s hard to cross a street. Then you turn a corner and find yourself in a small piazza with two old ladies sitting on a bench having a conversation and feeding pigeons. A couple of students reading on a wall next to an ancient fountain. Complimentary, yet completely different. This city is gorgeous and I haven’t had my fill.
We spent a day taking in the great Christian pilgrimage churches. We visited San Giovanni in Laterno
first, crossing the street to see the Scala Santa (Holy Stairs) said to have been climbed by Jesus in Jerusalem. We made our way through the neighborhood stopping at an interesting museum where Italian Resistance prisoners were held by the Nazis in World War II. After eating our picnic lunch in the grand, but slightly rundown Piazza Vittorio Emanuel , we made our way to the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. Both churches were gorgeous and while less visited than St. Peter’s at the Vatican, they were equally as spectacular.
We spent another morning visiting the Porta Portese flea market along the Tiber River near the Trastevere neighborhood. The market is huge and has everything from antiques to cheap plastic toys. Certainly huge, but very crowded and perhaps not as interesting as it was in the past. We spent the rest of the afternoon re-visiting the Trastevere neighborhood, easily our favorite in Rome.
We live very close to the Vatican and had visited St. Peter’s Square and Basilica multiple times. It is a great place to watch people and is a nice place to enjoy our lunch break. We had not visited the Vatican
Museum and we questioned whether it was worth braving the crowds and cost. The museum is filled with priceless art and wonderful statues and most of the hordes of visitors seemed to be having a good time. Of course the highlight to the museum is the famous Sistine Chapel which contains the famous paintings covering its walls and ceiling. Maybe we were expecting too much, but I thought the chapel was the one thing in Rome that was a little underwhelming.
We enjoyed a day trip to the EUR neighborhood south of town. It was constructed in the 1930’s by Mussolini to show off Fascism to the world. It features wide boulevards, patriotic murals, man-made lakes and stern plazas surrounded by Italian modernist buildings. Quite interesting and completely unlike anything else in Rome.
Tired of crowds and want to see a bit of countryside? You don’t need to go farther than a visit to the ancient Appian Way. A section of the road is blocked to traffic and it is possible to take a walk along the cobblestone road through ancient ruins and a few beautiful villas behind ancient stone walls. The countryside is
beautiful and for most of our time, we had the whole road to ourselves. Most people choose to visit the section containing the famous catacombs, but we chose the less visited section that has more sheep and goats than tourists.
We spent another afternoon enjoying the warm springtime sunshine climbing the hill to the Santa Sabina church on Aventine Hill above the Circus Maximus. We enjoyed gorgeous views over the Tiber River from a beautiful orange grove planted in the 14th
century. We stood in line to look through the keyhole at the Knights of Malta villa which shows a perfectly framed view of St. Peter’s Basilica dome on the other side of the river.
Like a wonderful meal, our time in Rome and Italy has come to a close. Each course was delicious and we are left with great memories. People throw coins into Trevi fountain to insure a return visit to Rome and I truly understand why one visit may not be enough.
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