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Roma, again and again

I put on my Rome-face as soon as the train passes the acqueducts on the way to Termini. The face is: been here a million times, please stay out of my way. I can keep up this disguise until I exit the train station. Then I am once again overcome with memory and wonder. No place feels more like home to me. The bus comes quickly, which I take as an omen, and I get to the hotel lobby where it seems that everyone on staff remembers me from last year, down to the gluten-free breakfast request. Might have something to do with the fact that I stayed for twelve nights, probably a lot longer than most guests.

The hotel is Hotel dei Fori Imperiali Cavalieri, between Piazza Cavour and the Colosseo. There's a view of the top of the Colosseo from the roof terrace, a very comfortable place to spend some time. The hotel is family-owned, and they all seem to like each other. The rooms (single, anyway) are very efficiently laid out (= smallish), but some have balconies.

The weather is lovely for the first four days, warm with a cool breeze. I have a weekly transit pass burning a hole in my pocket, so the next morning, after breakfast that includes gluten-free treats from the family's bakery, I am off to revisit old neighborhoods and, later, find some new ones. The transit pass for a week is €24, there are other timeframes available as well. I like a bus ride, to find a new place or to give my cobblestone-hammered feet a rest.

Over the course of the next twelve days, I visit two places I haven't seen before: Palazzo Valentini, with Roman houses and a 90-minute guided tour. The audio-visual "tour" offers reconstructions based on the visible remains. I found the most interesting part to be the last segment, on the Arch of Trajan, which is right outside the Palazzo. It's also the only time you can sit down.

I much preferred the Case Romane del Celio, off Via San Gregorio. No guided tour, but the ticket seller will give you lots of information about the rooms. This is right below the church of Saints Giovanni and Paolo (not that John and Paul, but two third-century soldier-martyrs who refused to renounce their Christian faith, and are patron saints of Roma).

I met up with two forum posters during my first week, which was wonderful in itself, but it came in handy when a transit strike was called for the day they needed to fly out of FCO, and I got in touch to let them know to reserve a taxi (at least to Roma Termini, strikes don't stop the Leonardo Express). They got home fine.

On my way to buy a pair of irresistibly soft leather shoes, I noticed a new "stumbling block" on the street leading from Campo dei Fiori to Via Arenula. These are found in many cities in Europe, each is a small, square bronze plaque set into the pavement in front of an apartment building where a Jewish resident was arrested for deportation during the Nazi occupation of Roma. Most plaques in Roma bear the date 16 October 1943. The plaque gives the name of the person, their age or birth date, the date of arrest, and the date and place that they were murdered. Most died in Auschwitz. Seeing the names, and the bare outline of the person's fate, bring me to tears, even writing about it. I go to the Portico of Ottaviana to read, once again, the marble wall plaque on a building in the small Piazza where the Jews of Roma were deported. An American couple struggles to translate the text, so I offer to read it to them. Of the over 1000 people who were deported, only sixteen returned.

Posted by
11613 posts

...continued

Another day, I visit the Catacombs of San Callisto, mainly to get out of the heat (it's in the 90+ range by now). Not satisfied with the tour, my main interest is in the frescoes (and there are dozens on the route), but we barely get a glance at them, and don't stop at any. Next time I will pay for a customized, private tour. This tour moves fast, the leading edge disappears around corners. One of the visitors on a previous visit asked nervously, "what if we get lost?" And I answered, "Crawl into a niche and wait for Jesus." A little theological humor. Fortunately, she got it.

I almost never give restaurant recommendations any more, but if you like super-thin crust pizza, Pizzeria alle Carette is your place, in an alley off Piazza Cavour just before via dei Fori Imperiali. Very reasonably priced, wood-burning oven, open for lunch and dinner. The restaurants along the tourist trail have pretty much given up keeping traditional hours, and start serving lunch well before 1pm and dinner by about 7pm. My other faves are the caffe in the Museo di Roma building on the south side of Piazza Navona, and Cul de Sac, in Piazza del Pasquino.

Things do change in the Eternal City. There is a Gladiator Museum in Piazza Navona, and the suburbs are so built-up that I barely recognize my old neighborhood on Via Nomentana.

On my last morning, the goodbyes with the hotel family were long and festive. I took the bus to Termini. No Rome-face this time, just the familiar sorrow of leaving the beloved.

Posted by
929 posts

Sounds like a beautiful trip although I'm sorry that some of the places/tours left you wanting. How fun to meet up with some of the forum! I am hoping to do that too although it looks like our timing is going to be off by about two weeks. The Holocaust plaques always get to me too, but I always want to do those walks, hear the stories, and honor those who were murdered. Amsterdam has a long row of "stumbling blocks" near the Waterlooplein area where most of a whole street was rid of Jewish residents by the Nazis. They are not in front of the homes but on the other side of the canal with plaques even with each home.
Rome is on our list for a 2018 trip. We didn't have enough time there on the RS tour so want to give it another shot. Thanks for posting and for the info on hotel and restaurants that you gave.

Posted by
715 posts

Zoe, were those memorials on via Giubbonari . I was there in May and don't recall them. Would have liked to see them to pause and think.

Posted by
11658 posts

Feeling your leave-taking sorrow here as well, and sending a comforting pat. :O(

But another stellar Zoe report...and I'm frantically making notes for next time! A shame about S. Callixtus: had done S. Sebastiano last time and had thought do that one on the next Appia walk so good to know the site's tour is not all THAT.

Posted by
2353 posts

Sounds like a lovely visit with an old friend.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, Nance. I can never really be disappointed in Roma.

Yes, jkc, it is via dei Giubbonari. There are some on other streets, and one relatively new one across the street from the Great Synagogue.

Kathy, the catacombs of Priscilla just off via Nomentana are my favorites. Sounds weird to have favorite catacombs, doesn't it?

Nigel, perhaps we can comfort each other over tea when I'm in England in August?

Posted by
11658 posts

I can never really be disappointed in Roma.

The day Roma fails to fascinate is the day I'm stuffed into a niche to twiddle until the Second Coming. ⚰️

Posted by
11613 posts

Kathy, please pass the carta igenica!

Posted by
1500 posts

What a lovely, thought provoking post. Food for thought for our next visit.

Posted by
980 posts

Zoe, I was in Rome in mid-May and Matera just before that.
Reading your lovely writing makes me want to plan another visit sooner rather than later.
Your comfort in Rome reminds me of mine in Paris, which is my favorite city in the world, but it's good for me to branch out a little more!
Thank you for sharing your travels with us.
SharYn

Posted by
1854 posts

You're a terrific writer, Zoe. I felt I was right there with you-again. I spent a long time over the stumbling stones in many areas of Berlin in May. Quite moving for me, too. Thank you for posting your story and your recommendations.

Posted by
134 posts

Zoe, have you been to the catacombs by Santa Costanza?

Posted by
3463 posts

Wonderful post Zoe, the memories you envoked were heartwarming.

I'm returning for a month this fall, basing at my daughters home in suburban Napoli.

Concentrating on the Cilento Coast, more of Tuscany and Napoli and sadly, only four days in Roma.

Herding six of my son-in- laws cousins (ugh). Could be
interesting.

Keep posting, like Kathy, I always have some new places you have mentioned to add.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks, SharYn, andi, Denise, and Gerri.

Denise, I have not been to the Catacombs of Santa Costanza, even though I lived near there. Next year! I have been to the Mausoleum - beautiful.

Posted by
11613 posts

Kathy, the catacombs osf San Callisto are interesting, but I wanted a different tour. Not far is the Fosse Ardeatine, where several hundred Romans were murdered in reprisal for the Resistance' killing 35 (?) German soldiers.

Posted by
11658 posts

Believe it or not, Fosse Ardeatine was already on my list for the next walk!

Posted by
9447 posts

I love the mere idea of a "Rome face." I expect when we return this fall our hardened expressions instantly as we embrace her once again, warts and all. Haven't been to the Case Romane del Celio for about 3 years. Good reminder!

Posted by
1501 posts

Thanks, Zoe. The Priscilla catacombs are the only ones we've visited, so I'm glad to hear they're your favorite. We ended up with a "private" tour because we hung around for awhile and no other English speakers showed up. Yay!

Posted by
2903 posts

I really need to get my butt to Rome, huh? Great description.

The "stumbling blocks" - Stolpersteine in German - started with a Berlin artist in the 80s. They're common everywhere in Germany but Munich thanks to an intra-Jewish community fight (we're good at that - ugh) and I've seen them in Prague but never realized they spread all the way to Rome. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stolperstein

Posted by
7659 posts

The Stumbling Stones are in 21 countries, with about 61,000 of them installed. They are for anyone who was murdered by the Nazis, not just Jewish people. You will find them for Homosexuals, Socialists, Communists, Jehovah Witnesses, Roma & Sinti, Priests, Nuns, or anyone the Nazis considered to be a traitor.

Posted by
11613 posts

Thanks for the additional information, Ms. Jo.

Posted by
7659 posts

Great trip report. It is always fun to meet up with people from the forum.