ROMA – We are thoroughly enjoying our Roman holiday, walking the neighborhoods, sampling the food and wine, and enjoying the arts & culture scene.
Our hotel, a gem called the Majestic, is on a tree-lined street of cafes, restaurants, book stores and other shops in Via Veneto and Piazza Berberini neighborhood. The Majestic’s rooftop terrace was meant for sipping a Campari and soda or “Italian Mule,” a refreshing locals version of the “Moscow Mule” (Cynar & Punt & Mes, lightly flavored with ginger).
The neighborhood was a swinging place in the ’50s, attracting the likes of Frank Sinatra, Swedish actress Anita Ekberg, even King Farouk. Via Veneto reminds me of neighborhoods we’ve visited in Paris or Buenos Aires in the past.
We walked to the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain from our neighborhood. It also is close to the Metro and a short cab ride to the train station, where we arrived from Perugia and Florence. We also left for a day trip to Pompeii on the train.
Rome is more like three cities wrapped into one: The city itself, the Vatican and the ancient Rome, including the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Roman Forum. It instantly became a hit with our family.
We spent hours at the Vatican Museums. “You are entering one of the most important sites for the history of human civilization,” reads a note from the Director Antonio Paolucci. “The greatest artists of all time will welcome you: Raphael in the Stanza, Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel, and van Gogh and Matisse in the area dedicated to modern religious art.”
We also enjoyed the surrounding gardens of the Vatican, green and meticulously well kept. Pope Francis is extremely popular, “not stiff” like some predecessors, one local told us. “The pope enhanced his reputation as a man of the people when he surprised Vatican workers by popping in to dine in their humble canteen,” as the Daily Mirror reported this week. This week Time magazine reported the Pope will visit America next year. (I snapped up a refrigerator magnet of the Pope across the street from St. Peter’s square as a souvenir).
Selfies in the Sistine Chapel
I have wanted to visit the Sistine Chapel forever, and it was marvelous. We found a spot to sit down and gazed up at the handiwork of Michelangelo for almost half an hour. I pointed out some highlights to our son: “The Last Judgment” (including St. Bartholomew holding his flayed skin),” and “Creation of Adam and Eve.” The flayed skin intrigued our son (who is at that age where he enjoys macabre things). Needless to say, he is eager to visit Pompeii.
There’s no photography or video allowed in the Sistine Chapel, and we abided by that rule. But I did notice the couple next to me sneaking a “selfie” photo of themselves and the frescos with an iPhone.
We’ve been enjoying the Roman food. One of our favorites was a restaurant within walking distance of our hotel called Osteria Barberini. We enjoyed handmade pasta, fresh fish and a bottle of local wine. A display of truffles, with a truffle shaver, greeted you at the door. We are going to spend the day in Pompeii before returning to Rome for another full day.