Awaking came with the bittersweet awareness that this was my last day- this trip – in Italy and in Rome. My beautiful room in the Albergo del Senato surpassed what I’d already come to expect: exceptional. The Pantheon exerts a powerful attraction for me. Divine grace arranged my room with a view that gave an even better angle to the entry portico front than ever. I was doubly delighted, savoring the moments gazing out onto the magnificent structure, fountain, and piazza/urban square below.
In the early morning shade, I watched the crew perform the highly orchestrated trash removal: glass tinkling and cans clanking. Next, scrubbing, whirling street cleaners waltzed through. These vehicles actually do pick up grit between the sampietrini/ cobblestones. At last, the stage was set: rehearsal done, as the next audience begins to arrive in the Piazza della Rotonda. First to arrive: horse drawn carriages have come to rest alongside my hotel. A pair of horses nuzzle their bags of oats, or casually cock a hind hoof tip while catching a few more ‘Zs’ before work. Water falling from the central, tiered fountain splashes, as its sounds fill the air. Doves alight atop a gargoyle’s head. A man in shorts and T-shirt jogs across the piazza with a pair of sprightly dachshunds on red leashes.
Happy for the early hour of the morning, I walked over to the great portal of the Pantheon, open and welcoming. I’m lucky: only one other person is inside. The giant scale geometry of the checkered floor paving gives a sense that is far greater than palatial: it imparts a kind of cosmic immortality. The sun streams in to highlight the oculus and the coffered dome. After an indeterminate period, Passing back through the granite columns supporting the front, I exited the inner sanctum. The al fresco/open air portico, shields me as a mother hen’s wings protect her clustered chicks.
Slung over my shoulder, I’ve got a pale linen tote with a few of my paperbacks to show some bookstores. Feltrinelli’s, for one, on the advice of Fabio, the hotel receptionist. I’d previously set two appointments: one with the owners of an English speakers bookstore in Trastevere. The second stop was to visit a friend of a friend. Weaving through the streets, I arrive at the shop. He was on his cell phone talking away in Italian so I waited. The morning was still cool and I listened to the staccato rhythm of two chisels ringing out from a darkened doorway across the street. He and I laughed a bit as I exclaimed, “It is going to take them a while to finish that construction.” Then, with more appreciation, I affirmed, “knowing what I know, it will be fantastic when it is all done!” We sat on the front sofa and visited at length. I’ve made a new friend. Out the door, I waved and thanked him.
By now the sun was gaining strength and I held to the shade as I walked along, across the Tiber and into the Jewish Ghetto. The way passes alongside the Largo del Torre Argentina – site of the ruins and the cat sanctuary! Lo, Feltrinelli’s is open and I entered. As I handed the clerk a copy of my book, I assured her, “Torno/”I’ll be back.” People are out finding their favorite lunch haunts. One of mine is “Nonna Betta” in the Jewish Ghetto. It is a place with long murals that depict common daily life in that area, perhaps a century ago. Satisfied and refreshed, I returned to my hotel to observe the afternoon riposo/ rest. Where did the time go? True, I was ready to be home and love on my twin cats, who I’ve missed every day, but in another way, I never want to leave. Refreshed and relaxed, I went downstairs to go out for the evening. I stopped to speak with my receptionist friend. As a flurry of guests come in and go out, and I heard Fabio inquire about a couple’s dining experience the night before. Their faces lit up in vigorous approval.
“So, where is your restaurant?” I ask straight-faced.
“Oh, it isn’t mine…” he reached for a business card. “Would you like to go? Yes? Let me call them to save a table for you.” He does and they do and off I thank him as I set out. It was an easy, short walk to “Il Falchetto.”
The outdoor seating, I was surprised to see, was already completely filled this early, A good sign. Inside I was in a prime location: well situated to view the understated yet elegant interior: modern, in a softly crisp way. A rotund older gentleman speaks quick, direct orders, as a father to his sons, then moved swiftly past me to another dining room behind me. I didn’t turn around. The menu was solid with many winning options. I gave my order: insalata di finocchio e frutta and – one of my favorite dishes – ossobuco/ marrow bone. Vino? Between Chianti and Primitivo, I decided to be adventurous and went with a glass of Pirimitivo. Perfetto. Next, a couple entered and were seated next to my table. They spoke English. As my dishes arrived, he asked what I’d ordered, then proceeded to order the same – even the wine. We laughed and enjoyed our intermittent yet thoroughly enjoyable volley of conversation.
They insisted on buying a copy of my book, “We love buying books from authors!” he affirmed with gusto. They had a connection to the owner, but hadn’t seen him. Following my hunch, I led them to the room behind us and introduced ourselves. Pleased, the owner graciously treated to complimentary limoncello – one of the lightest and most flavorful ever!
For me, the best gifts – wrapped in surprises – are the friendships forged along the way. What a memorable way to fondly bid a hearty “Arrivederci, Roma!”