It’s hard to believe our month in Rome has come to an end, but believe it or not here we are! We spent Sunday afternoon and evening in the beautiful gardens of Tivoli, followed by a wonderful group farewell dinner on top of a hill. You haven’t seen a sun set until you have seen the sun setting over Rome, the lights of the city twinkling and the dome of St. Peter’s a tiny silhouette on the horizon. It is truly magical, and photos can’t come close to doing it justice – I won’t even try.
Monday was a day of packing and wrapping up loose ends. We slipped in a quick visit to the church of St. Peter in Chains to view Michelangelo’s Moses, then the Basilica of San Clemente before a lovely lunch across the street from Sant’Ignazio (which of course we had to visit one last time!)
We are tired, and dirty, and ready to move on – but not really ready to leave. This has been such an amazing adventure! At the farewell dinner, each of the students stood and told the group their favorite experience of the trip. It really made me think about what was the most special to me on this journey – no small feat given this has been nothing short of a series of amazing experiences. I loved going to Capri, I loved our time in Venice, but I think my favorite memories of the month are these two: watching Lola’s excitement as she soaked in the frescoes at Oplontis, happily snapping photos of each detail that caught her eye, and listening to Fletcher playing tour guide at St. Peter’s for Aunt Boo, relaying art historical information just like his daddy. They were really paying attention. They weren’t bored by the endless churches and museums and archeological sites. What amazing kids. It really hit me this afternoon as we were walking through Sant’Ignazio again and the kids were marveling again at the amazing ceiling, and I was just overwhelmed by the beauty of it all – the church, my family, this experience. I burst into tears right there in the church. What a gift this month has been!
But now it’s time to say Arrivederci, Roma. In the morning we leave for a few days in Amsterdam and then back home to Savannah!!
Aunt Boo flew down from London to join us for our last weekend in Rome! Honestly, it is one of the best things about these trips, getting to see my sister. We had no agenda while she was here, but managed to do quite a lot. She was a good sport while we dragged her around town, with Fletcher and Raymond alternating as tour guide. We climbed the cupola at St. Peter’s again, spent an afternoon at the Borghese Gardens complete with the most rollercoaster-like 5 person bike/cart ride imaginable (Lola Gray’s screams are still echoing through the gardens!) and ate the fanciest gelato I’ve ever seen at Giolitti. It was a super fast two days and then she was back on a plane to London, but fortunately we will see her again soon!
Thursday morning, the kids and I ventured out on our own to search for a sketchbook Raymond left behind at the Capitoline Museum. We failed in our task (though he later found the book!) but had fun navigating the city on our own. At lunch time we rode the Metro out to meet the group at Museo Centrale Montemartini, an old power plant which now houses Roman sculpture in a really unique setting. It was also a great place for silly selfies (and cappuccino from the endlessly entertaining vending machine) while we waited for the students to draw. Then we headed with Raymond to Eataly for beer, boardgames, and window shopping!
After a lovely Wednesday morning relaxing in the Borghese Gardens with a picnic, a rowboat and Harry Potter, we walked across town to join the students for a long awaited visit to the Musei Caitolini. The Capitoline Museums are definitely among my favorites in Rome. The kids were thrilled to see the statue of Romulus and Remus, the bronze of Marcus Aurelius, the remnants of the giant Constantine, and the magnificent view over the Forum. And, of course, cappuccinos on the roof of the beautiful museum cafe!
It’s amazing how quickly 30 days can pass, and suddenly we find ourselves with only a few more days in Rome and so many things we still want to do! Tuesday afternoon (after climbing the dome of St. Peter’s basilica in the morning) we hopped on the metro and rode well out of the ancient heart of Rome until we found ourselves in a very unremarkable area along the side of a busy road. With the help of a very friendly Italian man who pointed us in the right direction, we shortly found ourselves walking down a dirt road past fields and grazing sheep until, suddenly, acquedotti!
Rome’s Parco degli Aquedotti (Aqueduct Park) is a public park, really nothing more than a few trails and a long stretch of protected land surrounding some of the many aqueducts than once brought water into ancient Rome. Thousands of years later, they are still a magnificent sight, and it was a lovely break to get out of the hustle and bustle of Rome for a while. We enjoyed the walk, the sweet smell of the grass, and the cool breeze of an approaching storm, the hopped back on the Metro and headed home. These are the things that 30 days in a place affords one, and I am doing my best to remember each and every day just how lucky we are to be here.
Don’t try to visit St. Peter’s in late June. Seriously. The crowds are insane. Every time we have tried to go, the line to get into the basilica has wrapped all the way around the piazza. In the sun. We are talking an hour’s wait or more I can’t even imagine what it will be like in July when the season hits it’s peak!
We tried to go in the morning, but the line was just too much. Instead we ate pizza and wandered along the edge of the Tiber for a while. We returned in late afternoon and decided to just bite the bullet (our days in Rome are numbered now!) After a good 45 minutes wait, we were in. And of course it was worth it. The light on the doors to the underworld was perfection, and as they closed down for the night and ushered everyone out the front doors, we hung back a little and were the last people to leave. That’s pretty special.
The one thing we weren’t able to was climb the cupola, but the guard told us if we came back at 7am there wouldn’t be a line. Raymond had to teach, but the kids and I managed to get ourselves out of bed the next morning and across to St. Peter’s just as they opened the doors and started letting people in! And we did it! We climbed to the top! Ok. In the interest of honesty, I took the elevator for the first 200 some steps (which turned out to be the easy, wide steps – the scary, twisty, narrow steps are the last 350 up to the very top!) It was terrifying and amazing and I am SO glad we did it.
Thursday morning we left Rome by train and headed, along with 10 students, for a long weekend in lovely Venice where we stayed in a very hip hostel. It was a whirlwind three days! We spent one full, loooonnnngggg day at the Venice Biennale – ten solid hours of contemporary art, some amazing, some not so amazing. Then, of course, there were the pigeons in Piazza San Marco and an amazing gondola ride, a boat ride out to Murano where we bumped into Michelle Obama and the first daughters, an insanely over-priced but totally worth it Aperol Spritz at a cafe in Piazza San Marco while a live quartet played and the kids chased pigeons (they love those pigeons!) Both kids declared Venice their favorite city yet. I think I agree. I could definitely get used to this life!