Friday, March 22, 2013

Rome inspires, Italy enchants as new pope takes throne

The Colosseum remains one of tourism's most visited sites.

     Story by Christene Meyers
     Photos by Bruce Keller

     "Rome doesn't compete. Rome just watches all the fussing and striving, completely unfazed. I am inspired by the regal self-assurance of this city, so grounded and rounded, so amused and monumental, knowing she is held securely in the palm of history. I would like to be like Rome when I am an old lady.”   Elizabeth Gilbert, author of "Eat, Pray, Love"
      The sights, sounds smells and tastes of Rome linger long after one leaves her.
     Is there a city more unique? Some might say New York, London, Stockholm, Rio, Bangkok or Paris.  All have their graces and enticements.
     Is there a city more exciting?
I've been around the block and most of the world, and I can't think of one.
     Rome's mix of decorum and cutting edge, excitement and calm, hipness and history holds it dear to my heart and the hearts of thousands of other poets, painters and tourists dating back hundreds of        years.
Pope Francis now calls Rome home.
Rome's stately buildings
inspire and fascinate,
here against a perfect summer sky.
       All roads lead to Rome for her grandeur and gaudiness, her enticing ethnic mix, her intoxicating blend of elegance and bawdiness. Here is a city which hosts the Pope and more women in tight pants than anywhere else in the world. So a salute to Francis and sexy women.  Why should they be mutually exclusive? Where else can you admire hundreds of statues and monuments paying homage to the human form, then round a corner to come face to face with a $12-shop-window apron sporting a decal of a fat, happy man flipping a pizza. Oh, yes, he's buck naked!
Cookie and Keller at the Trevi Fountain, before the coin toss which guarantees their return!
     Rome remains vibrant while historic, trendy while old-fashioned.  There is no other city remotely like her. Once one has strolled the boulevards of Rome, savored her gastronomy, prowled her ruins, there's no looking at other cities in the same way.
     Rome endures, literally layering the old upon the new.  The original city is 25 "layers" beneath modern Rome.  One looks down a several-story excavation to see the site where Julius Caesar was assassinated.
      I try to get my Rome hit at least once a year.  I'm always reminded of her constancy and her ability to adapt and embrace the new.
           I remember having my fanny pinched in the early morning hours when my girlfriend Susan and I hopped off in Milan for a slice of pizza.
Rome's architecture continues to change and grow,
as ruins are discovered and old buildings restored
      It was fun!  I hope I never stop having my fanny pinched, nor appreciating "fun" when it presents itself. Back then,  I was a cute little teen-aged girls and the pinchers no doubt had had consumed copious amounts of vino.
Ice cream in Rome
is simply a must.
     Rome has changed with me  from puberty to menopause.  Still today, the allure of Rome and all of Italy has never abandoned me.  Through several decades and a couple dozen  visits, I've never stopped loving the country and wanting more.  It is an addiction, not unlike the one I've developed for gelato!
 A buggy driver pauses to go on line.
      Rome remains a wonderful starting point from which to head south or north, exploring the rest of Italy.  From the cypress groves and vineyards of Tuscany to the canals and bridges of Venice, the villages of Sicily and the picturesque fishing town of Portofino (founded at least 1,200 years ago), Italy will not disappoint.
Pause in a Roman holiday.
      We once rented a villa half way between Sienna and Florence.                                                                                                                               "How old is this building?" we asked the owner, our host, Gulia.
      "Not so very old," she said. "It is only 14th Century."
      Recently, we stayed in a lovely harbor suite at Hotel Martini in Olbia, Italia, on the island of Sardinia.  We'd flown from Atlanta to Roma, then spent six hours touring the grounds surrounding the Colosseum with old friend Lucilla, who has her doctorate in ancient Roman history. Back on the plane to Sardinia, with a quick shower and dinner in the old center. Finally we slept after 36 hours, enjoyed a restorative breakfast of cheeses, prosciutto,  brown bread, yogurt, figs and cappuccino. A couple museums, a stop in a local market, pasta in the piazza and plenty of red wine.
Rome's museums, fountains, squares and government buildings are legendary.
       The next day we rented a car to explore the island's east coast.  Again, we were surprised and delighted: lunch of freshly caught squid, a soak in the sea and  vespers in a 14th Century monastery.   We'll return to Italy and Rome, to toss a coin over our shoulder at the Trevi Fountain.  Lore says that means                           we'll return. So far, it's worked
Hollyhocks in their glory, at High Chaparral in Montana.
  COMING WEDNESDAY:   Flower power! What would the world
be without the wonders of flowers? We'll share some of our favorites
from Montana to California, islands, and other continents. Please
tell your friends about
and sign up if you have not yet done so.  Grazie.

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