musings on rome written to a new friend

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I feel, in Rome, as if I am fully entered into the ancient-ness of the place.
I feel the history in my blood.
I feel almost Italian (with a mix of invading barbarian).

But I tread lightly in Italy.

I try to penetrate the history, the stories, but I tread lightly.
I don’t leave any trace.

I only steal moments.
I steal away people’s feelings in a one second snapshot.

I take more lingering pictures with my eyes.

I really don’t want to be the center of attention, I would rather fade into the background, and let people live around me.

I am greedy for their life spilling out.
Still as much a thief as I was as a child, after all.

This is why I love Naples.

I dread it a little, too.
I want to slap it around occasionally.
I want to remind it of its grit (as if it needs my reminder).
I want to shake it awake to its beauty and history and art.
I want it to not lose its charm, ever.

I don’t even care about the trash that much.
I love the darkest alleys.
I love that life is lived on the streets.
I love that the windows are always open.

I love listening to the strains of a language I cannot decipher because it always sounds like music to me that way.

That’s how I linger in churches so long…
I can’t understand the sermons so I can spend time looking at the art and thinking about pagans all day as if in a dream.

In Italy I am living in the dream and I don’t wake up again until I’m back home in the cold north.

I return to Italy like a lover who cannot stand the separation a moment longer. I want to feel the curves of familiar streets. I want to taste the crushed fruit of summer wine and feel that sun so different from mine. I want to see the stars again against the faint glow of the ruins.

How to have a beautiful time {in off the beaten path} Rome; the short list.

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Swing by the Villa Sciarra park in the residential Monteverde neighborhood. 

If you are going to visit the very off the beaten path Monteverde area, you may as well start at the Giancolo (Janiculum Hill) for the panorama view, which is nice, and the interesting area around it.

Then walk down the hill to the Monteverde neighborhood. It’s a long walk. Via Dandolo area.

You can hit Trastevere after the Villa Sciarra park.
{It’s an even longer walk.
Buses run all over too. And taxis.}


Trastevere is a Rome experience no-one should miss, even on a day trip to the eternal city.

Trastevere is a historical, rustic neighborhood with cafés, great restaurants, beautiful churches church, la Renelle bakery, hand made chocolate and soap shops, the Almost Corner Bookshop with English books, graffiti, hanging ivy and wisteria and lots of great people watching.

The Aventine. (See the Knights of Malta keyhole for the worlds, most unique view of the Vatican through a lemon grove)!

Testaccio (the Protestant Cemetery!!)
Why a cemetery? It’s peaceful, away from it all, gorgeous, John Keats is buried there, Shelley has ashes interned under stone, all the greats have visited, and I am utterly in love with this spot. There’s also the draw of “Mount Testaccio” and the ancient Egyptian pyramid of Cestius.

Villa Aldobrandini (I have managed to miss this every time but the book Quiet Corners of Rome has breathtaking shots of it and it’s been recommended to me by travelers online so I am going to visit it next visit! It’s in the great Monti area (quiet, off the busy coliseum section of the city, at Via Mazzarino 11.

Take a romantic renaissance walk on Via Giulia in the heart of Rome.


Visit the boutique villa art museums; Spada, Doria Pamphlij, Galleria Borghese, Villa Farnesina, etc!

Have lunch and shop at outdoor market shopping at Campo dei Fiori!

See the Roman Forum, the Coliseum and the ruins in the daytime AND by moonlight when the world looks ancient and is silent.

Picnic on Palatine Hill.

Climb the steps to Capitoline Hill, designed by Michaelangelo!!!

Walk on Sunday on the Appian Way and pass through the ancient portico by the Aurelian Wall!!!

Have a coffee by the Pantheon at night.

Stroll through the Piazza Navona.

Fountain hop several piazzas every night!!!

Have a drink at five different cafe bars on the same evening.

Try something local, in season and daring!

Get a little lost.

Cross the bridge of angels at sunset or even better, sunrise to get to the Vatican along side the Tiber.

Watch the sun set on the Pincio, overlooking the piazza del popolo!


Rome in the morning, Rome in the afternoon, Rome at sunset, Rome in the evening – are almost like different cities.


Have dinner one place, a spumante somewhere else, an espresso some where else, a gelato somewhere else.


Enjoy the stroll, see the Caravaggios, embrace the green parks, look for the views, get lost and go for a ramble.

Here’s how to have a beautiful time in Rome

I’m posting some recommendations I wrote in Rome last year for the tumblr blog where I get a lot of travel advice questions.

I am currently on the island of Capri so I am writing this by memory and pasting on my iPad – so bear with any mistakes or typos.

I am in Italy for the 11th time, my last visit was also Capri and Naples, four months ago in May. I was last in Rome a year ago but I have spent more time in Rome than anywhere else in Italy over the years.

Sadly, I return home on Tuesday, flying from Naples to Dublin to Boston. But it is Friday night, I had a magical afternoon swimming in the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, I am completely knackered and holed up in my hotel room praying it doesn’t rain all weekend as it is supposed to do, thunderstorms and all.

From my entry: champagne.tumblr.com/travel (updated and expanded tonight)

I get tumblr asks and emails, sometimes daily, on some of my favorite recommendations in Rome.

This is advice and Rome recommendations I wrote a year ago.

 

I’ll throw out some names and recommend some books:

Villa Sciarra and the Monteverde neighborhood. 

If you are going to visit the very off the beaten path Monteverde area, you may as well start at the Giancolo (Janiculum Hill) for the panorama view, which is nice, and the interesting area around it.

Then walk down the hill to the Monteverde neighborhood. It’s a long walk. Via Dandolo area.

You can hit Trastevere after the Villa Sciarra park. It’s an even longer walk.

Buses run all over too. And taxis.

Trastevere (church, food, la Renelle bakery, the Almost Corner Bookshop, graffiti, passersby).

The Aventine. (the Knights of Malta keyhole)!

Testaccio (the Protestant Cemetery!!

It’s peaceful, away from it all, gorgeous, Keats is buried there, Shelley has ashes, all the greats have visited, I am in love with the spot), mount Testaccio, the pyramid of Cestius.

Villa Aldobrandini (I have managed to miss this every time but the book Quiet Corners of Rome has breathtaking shots of it and it’s been recommended to me by travelers online so I am going to visit it next visit! It’s in the great Monti area (quiet, off the busy coliseum, Via Mazzarino 11.

The romantic renaissance walk on Via Giulia in the heart of Rome.

Boutique villa art museums. Spada, Doria Pamphlij, Galleria Borghese, Villa Farnesina, etc!

Lunch and outdoor market shopping at Campo dei Fiori!

See the Roman Forum, the Coliseum and the ruins in the daytime AND by moonlight when the world looks ancient and is silent.

Picnic on Palatine Hill.

Climb the steps to Capitoline Hill, designed by Michaelangelo!!!

Walk on Sunday on the Appian Way and pass through the ancient portico by the Aurelian Wall!!!

Have a coffee by the Pantheon at night.

Stroll through the Piazza Navona.

Fountain hop several piazzas every night!!!

Have a drink at five different cafe bars on the same evening.

Try something local, in season and daring!

Get a little lost.

Cross the bridge of angels at sunset or even better, sunrise to get to the Vatican along side the Tiber.
http://wantedinrome.com/ (exhibitions and strikes info)

http://thepinesofrome.blogspot.com/ (exhibitions and reviews)!

10 off the beaten path places in Rome (esp 2 & 7-10)!

http://www.revealedrome.com/2012/04/off-the-beaten-path-in-rome.html

A good site in general: http://www.revealedrome.com/ Summer in Rome tips and tricks!

RECOMMENDED BOOKS!!!

City Secrets Rome by Robert Kahn (2011 edition) (incredible!!)

Quiet Corners of Rome by David Downie and Alison Harris (a MUST)

Frommer’s Rome (The one classic guide I’ve learned the most from, consistent tips, great walks and itineraries, clear directions, the most practical info)

HV Morton’s (1950s classic!!!) A Traveller In Rome (love him)!!!

Secret Rome (Local Guides by Local People) – Jonglez 

(INVALUABLE BOOK)!!

The Secrets Of Rome – Love and Death in the Eternal City by Corrado Augias (incredible well written history of Rome – ancient to modern – one of my all time favorite books ever)!!!

Rome in the morning, Rome in the afternoon, Rome at sunset, Rome in the evening – are almost like different cities.

Have dinner one place, a spumante somewhere else, an espresso some where else, a gelato somewhere else.

Enjoy the stroll, see the Caravaggios, embrace the green parks, look for the views, get lost and go for a ramble.

And fall for Artemisia Gentileschi and John Keats, like I did a long time ago.

VILLA BORGHESE AREA



(1). Arrive an hour or two before sunset. Start near the bottom of Via Veneto, there’s a train stop there, around the Harry’s Bar area. That’s La Dolce Vita, 1960s, Rome. Cross through the Aurelian walls and into the Villa Borghese Park. Pause at the Lord Byron statue. Find your way on Viale dell Magnoile (ask for directions if lost).

Follow it through the park, by the cyclists and the children playing, past young lovers kissing on the grass or eating picnics on makeshift blankets. When you see a long line of white faded busts you’re approaching the pincian hill (pincio).

Wander around there a bit but don’t get too sidetracked. Eventually you’ll come to a fountain with a goddess (I’ve featured her on the blog).

In the distance ahead is the beginning of the most perfect view in the world.

The sun should be a little low slung by now, the colors softening, the golden hour already descending with deepening shades of orange, peach and purple in the sky.

You’ll see a palm tree up ahead.

Keep walking to where others are probably gathering at this point.

As you approach the marble fencing you’ll catch your breath at the shock of how close the cupolas seem contrasted to the distant and lovely vatican.

Rome from this angle is layered and rich to me, it’s up close and personal view is worth the plane ticket.

Far down below to the right of the pinccio is the impressive piazza del poppolo.

You’ll want to venture there too, but first watch the sun set over Rome from the best spot in the city, possibly the best spot in the world.

You see it’s really the kind of thing you can do in one day but preferably you can visit the area at least twice on your trip.

Because earlier in the afternoon I highly recommend (to the far left of the Pincio) walking down past Villa Medici and down the Spanish Steps. (I know, the crowds are deafening, the guys selling plastic junk are pushy, watch out for the harmless but sometimes annoying panhandlers (referred to as gypsies by some although I am told that is a derogatory label).

Walk down the nicely designed stairs (don’t forget to pop into the French church at the top of the stairs first) then walk down them (sidestepping American (and European) teenagers absentmindedly texting their friends with blasé looks on their faces and trying to be noticed).

Admire the Bernini (padre) fountain.

On your left is the Keats Shelley (Byron) House, an almost spiritual place for me.

The house Keats died in, a museum dedicated to English Romantic Poets and writers.

To your right is the classic more British than England tea house, Babington’s Tea Rooms (I take tea in there often. It’s a wonderful experience, the tea is exceptional, the scones are Scottish and delicious, the food is very good. It’s deadly expensive but worth the oasis from the noise and crowds and the afternoon tea is served in silver pots and in china cups. They also have drinks).

Back outside, you walk past the Bernini fountain and you go down the street a bit and on your right is Caffe Greco. Keats, Shelley, Byron, Gogol, Wilde, countless other poets, artists, writers, you name it, drank here!

The decor is still 18th/19th century marble top tables, red lush decor, decadent pastries, strong espresso, tea, champagne, aperitifs. It’s worth a drink and a meander. Local artists and writers gather there. Look out for the “caffe greco” sketch artist, he sits at a table and chats with the waiters, sketching people in the cafe for his own collection.

I have managed a few shots of him over the years. He’s been written up in magazines and guidebooks.

My latest visit to Rome was about the hidden spots, little not often visited places I’d never seen before and finding the best views.

I had nearly two weeks and I didn’t get through half my list!

But you see where the day takes you, what you are in the mood for and you see a few rare places and it is a pleasure. Then you hope to return one day and continue.

I love trying to get to know the city in pieces and nooks and crannies, rather than trying to conquer the whole thing in a superficial, not so grand tour.

I like to read and ponder and fall deeply into the art and architecture and the history of the centuries of the city.

Some times I just fall into the sensuality of the Italian sun, the verdant greenery, people watching, eating and drinking and walking.

This last visit I slipped on discreet earphones and listened to the voices of British men recite Keats poetry and I wandered the streets. Absolute heaven.

I listened to the Rome soundtrack on the busy Corso and through the Forum.

 

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tiny beautiful things

“The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.”

Cheryl Strayed, from “Tiny Beautiful Things”

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a walk through the ancient porta san sebastiano on the grand old tour

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The entrance to the Porta San Sebastiano is the modern name for the ancient Porta Appia, a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, through which the Via Appia, now the Via di Porta San Sebastiano at that location, left the city in a southeasterly direction. It was refortified at the end of the 4th century and was again renovated in the sixth century by Belisarius and Narses. The gate, a brick structure with turrets, still stands and has been restored to good condition. Modern traffic flows under it. Inside and upstairs is a museum dedicated to the construction of the walls and their recent restoration.

The gate is next to the Arch of Drusus. – wikipedia

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After walking for hours on the ancient Appian Way (an experience in itself of the historic pastoral Rome) we found our selves heading toward the porta san sebastiano and the celio district. It was one of the best walks I’ve ever had in Rome, practically isolated and beautifully quiet. There was even a local’s park without a tourist in sight (except us but we were trying to be incognito)!

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I felt like I was truly transported back in time, even with the odd car or vespa popping through the arch. Millions of ancient pilgrimages have passed this same way into Rome. I followed the steps of Keats and Goethe and Shelley and Byron and countless other Romantics and writers who went on the Grand Old Tour of Italy between the 17th and 19th centuries.

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Rome is modern sprawl springing itself forward from scenes of eternity.

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An ancient or centuries old pilgrim’s grafitti of an angel.

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The old cobblestone and bricks, filled with ancient marble and stone broken pillars for mending holes along the centuries.

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It is so enchanting.

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The side of the ancient gate.

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The Celio district is strictly off the beaten path and wonderful!!

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There are signs of an old way of life all along the way.

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Greenery hangs everywhere.

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So inviting.

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And we stumbled onto this magical place!

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By the forum far away but somehow fitting for this post I think.

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Caesar and cupolas; my idea of Rome, the ancient and the Renaissance.

favorite views of rome and the fatal charm of italy

 “You may have the universe if I may have Italy.” – Giuseppe Verdi

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The top of the Castel Sant’Angelo from the Ponte Sant’Angelo.

Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning. – Giotto di Bondone

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The golden hour of sunset on the ruins in the heart of the city.

A man who has not been in Italy, is always conscious of an inferiority. – Samuel Johnson

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Looking over the city at dusk from the Villa Medici where the Pincian hill and the Spagna area meet.

“I sometimes fancy,” said Hilda, on whose susceptibility the scene always made a strong impression, “that Rome–mere Rome–will crowd everything else out of my heart.” ― Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The casina view on the tip of the Pincio (Pincian hill) overlooking the Piazza dell Popolo. It is my favorite spot in Rome to watch the sun set. Get to it by the Popolo, Piazza di Spagna or the Villa Borghese park.

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More views from the majestic Pincian Hill. There’s a particular happiness I experience whenever I am on the Pincio. I have so many beautiful memories there. It represents everything I love about Rome; the history, the beauty of the landscape and architecture, the art, the people watching. I love the ivy covered apartments and Renaissance architecture.

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Another one from the Villa Medici with the silouhette of Saint Peters in the distance.

In the world Rome is probably the place where most in beauty has been accumulated and subsists in span of twenty centuries. It has created nothing, only a spirit of greatness and order of beautiful things; but the most magnificent monuments on the earth have extended and were fixed in it with such energy to leave the most numerous and indelible tracks in it, more than in anywhere else on the globe. – Maurice Maeterlinck

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From my hotel balcony overlooking the Aurelian wall, the Villa Borghese metro stop, apartments and the Villa Borghese park. A sign of Rome is the countless antennas on rooftops.

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On top of Saint Peter’s Cupola, Vatican City is laid out.

From the dome of St. Peter’s one can see every notable object in Rome… He can see a panorama that is varied, extensive, beautiful to the eye, and more illustrious in history than any other in Europe. – Mark Twain

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Peeking through a gated fence and cypresses to a private garden.

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There are a thousand little views of the Vatican from different corners of Rome.

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A glass of prosecco and a view from my hotel balcony on the Via Veneto at the Grande Albergho Flora.

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From a Vatican Museum garden, another breathtaking cupola and manicured, statue studded garden.

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Rome through a glass of Sicilian wine at sunset.

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The Coliseum from a distance on a tele photo lens.

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Rome from the top of the observation deck on the Vittoria Emanuale Monument.

Yes, I have finally arrived to this Capital of the World! I now see all the dreams of my youth coming to life… Only in Rome is it possible to understand Rome. – Goethe 

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The Via del Corso from the Vittorio Emanuale (aka the Wedding Cake).

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The rooftops of the historic center of Rome.

“Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

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The Roman Forum and the Alban hills.

“She had always been fond of history, and here [in Rome] was history in the stones of the street and the atoms of the sunshine.” ― Henry James

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Cupolas and sky high statues.

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Churches over the Forum; layers of history, people and ruins.

“Rome was mud and smoky skies; the rank smell of the Tiber and the exotically spiced cooking fires of a hundred different nationalities. Rome was white marble and gilding and heady perfumes; the blare of trumpets and the shrieking of market-women and the eternal, sub-aural hum of more people, speaking more languages than Gaius had ever imagined existed, crammed together on seven hills whose contours had long ago disappeared beneath this encrustation if humanity. Rome was the pulsing heart of the world.” ― Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Forest House

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A beautiful frontpiece to an old church and an arch.

Rome is beautiful, so beautiful, I swear, all the other things seem nothing in front of it. – Charles de Brosses

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Cypresses and stone.

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The cypresses, umbrella pines and verdant green against red stone and brick and roof tiles are gorgeous.

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A lone goddess in a corner.

See the wild Waste of all-devouring years!
How Rome her own sad Sepulchre appears,
With nodding arches, broken temples spread!
The very Tombs now vanish’d like their dead!
Alexander Pope

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Borken temples and pillars.

Rome – the city of visible history, where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.
George Eliot
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Ancient Rome, Baroque, fascist architecture and the 21st century in one sweeping glance.

You cheer my heart, who build as if Rome would be eternal. – Augustus Cæsar

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The Alban Hills appear blue against the sky no matter the weather or season. They once hid Julius Caesar from his enemies in his earlier youth.

For me, Rome is the old center, with her narrow streets, in warm colours, orange,red and even gold. Here is Rome like a house. The alleys are passages, and in three minutes you are in the most beatiful squares of the City, Piazza della Rotonda with the monument, the Pantheon, and the Piazza Navona. These are my reading rooms, my refreshment rooms, my salons where I meet my guests. – Rosita Steenbeek

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The Wedding Cake view of Rome is the view of the gods.

The light that reveals Rome’s monuments is not that to which we are accustomed; it produces numerous optical effect plus a certain atmosphere, all impossible to put into words. The light strikes Rome in ways that I’ve never seen. – Stendhal 

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The back view of the Wedding Cake of the Forum, the Coliseum and Palatine Hill, where the Emperors and the Patricians lived in Ancient Rome.

The traveler who has contemplated the ruins of ancient Rome may conceive some imperfect idea of the sentiments which they must have inspired when they reared their heads in the splendor of unsullied beauty. – Edward Gibbon

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The Piazza del Campidoglio designed by Michelangelo Buonarroti in 1536–1546 at one of my favorite museums and spots in Rome on Capitoline Hill.

O Rome! my country! city of the soul! Lord Byron

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Julius Caesar and the ruins.

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Porta San Sebastiano is the modern name for the ancient Porta Appia, a gate in the Aurelian Wall of Rome, connected to the Via Appia, the old entrance to the city for ancient pilgrims, wanderers and the 17th, 18th and 19th century Grand Tour.

A thousand roads lead men forever to Rome. – Alaine de Lille 

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Another peek from the Pincio.

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The alternate view of Rome from the Janiculum Hill, the Giancolo.

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The Pantheon, which draws me to it at night to admire it’s immortality against a navy sky.

The Roman evening either keeps still or it sings. No one can behold it without growing dizzy, and time has filled it with eternity. – Jorge Luis Borges

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Did I mention how amazing dusk is on the Pincio?

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A private rooftop garden, the Auerlian Wall on the original “1950s & 1960s La Dolce Vita” street of the Via Veneto, not too far from the Lord Byron statue.

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The Twin Churches of the Piazza del Popolo and the Vatican.

“The Creator made Italy from designs by Michaelangelo.” —Mark Twain

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A palm tree (or descendent of) left over from ancient Egypt, planted a millenia or two ago perhaps.

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This spot is disarmingly charming. Below to the left is the luxe 19th century Hotel de Russie with an enormous garden terrace and marble stairs with cafe tables, coffee and cocktails from an outdoor bar.

“Traveling is the ruin of all happiness! There’s no looking at a building after seeing Italy.” — Fanny Burney

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Wandering around the city at night, the cobblestones lit up by cafe lights.

“What is the fatal charm of Italy? What do we find there that can be found nowhere else? I believe it is a certain permission to be human, which other places, other countries, lost long ago.” —Erica Jong

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The Villa Borghese gardens leading out to the Pincio.

For us to go to Italy and to penetrate into Italy is like a most fascinating act of self-discovery… back, back down the old ways of time. Strange and wonderful chords awake in us, and vibrate again after many hundreds of years of complete forgetfulness.” —D.H. Lawrence

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The sun falls over the Piazza del Popolo through construction fencing. At the center of the square is an Egyptian obelisk — it was brought to Rome in 10 BC by order of Augustus.

I found Rome a city of bricks and left it a city of marble. Augustus; quoted in Twelve Caesars by Suetonius

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The Fontana del Mosé Salvato view of the Pincio.
Rome was a poem pressed into service as a city. – Anatole Broyard

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The wide view of Via del Corso always reminds me of the film Roman Holiday and Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s vespa ride.

“Thou Paradise of exiles, Italy!” — Percy Bysshe Shelley

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Near the Piazza di Spagna, at the top of the Spanish Steps. Young lovers are all over the park snatching amorous  moments out in public.

Italy, and the spring and first love all together should suffice to make the gloomiest person happy. – Bertrand Russell

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The sun rises and sets in Rome and each golden hour the view becomes more and more beautiful. It’s what brought the Romantics and the artists for centuries. The landscape, the ruins, the fountains, the art, the cupolas  and the stone and marble bathed in the Italian sun. It’s why I keep returning to the Eternal City. It’s what I live for.

“Italy is a dream that keeps returning for the rest of your life.” – Anna Akhmatova

save the antico caffé delle pace in rome!

tumblr_m3j0701vo21qznevxo1_1280The Antico Caffè Delle Pace / Bar Delle Pace in Rome, Italy. I took this shot in March 2012.

I am posting a photograph of one of my most favorite 19th century cafe-bars in the world because it is in danger of being lost along with many other beautiful old cafes and shops in the historical center of Rome! Romans are protesting these closures. 

I have palpable memories of sitting outside people watching with a prosecco or an espresso, soaking up the beautiful patio, cafe tables, the renaissance church and museum to one side, the hanging greenery. 

One evening we were caught in the rain and had the sumptuous, historical, cozy, beautiful cafe interior to ourselves as I sipped pinot nero and nero d’avola and he had endless pots of smoky tea. I remember the 19th century cash register and the bust of Augustus and the antique mirrors and the waitresses and waiters who looked like fashion models. 

It’s the kind of place that’s built for the “beautiful people” and can be a magnet for the rich and famous (and more interesting the Roman Who’s Who of writers, artists, intellectuals) but I never felt like an outsider there. 

It is a low key, lovely cafe. I enjoy the walk to it on sunny afternoons or on cloudless, starry nights anytime I am in Rome. It is one of the highlights of my trips. 

And if we lose another historical, old world cafe or shop – Rome will love it’s very heart of the centro storico. 
the impossibly cool caffe & bar della pace, rome, italy, 2012.

http://www.wantedinrome.com/news/2002440/rome-s-bar-della-pace-faces-closure.html

http://roma.repubblica.it/cronaca/2013/06/28/news/per_il_bar_della_pace_arriva_lo_sfratto_a_sorpresa-61990474/

I’m not sure what I can do to help but I would like to do something. Any Italians or people living in Rome have a site or petition or anything? I would love to spread the word. alovelettertorome@gmail.com