Saturday 30 August 2014


Rome looks like any other European city as the taxi turns off the motorway and trundles through the outskirts.  The usual mix of apartment blocks rubbing cheeks with suburban low-rise cubes is like so many others.  Everywhere there are signs of under-investment: another victim of La Crisis, now six years old and with no signs of improvement – worse if anything.  Then out of the corner of my eye, high above, something catches the suns rays.

Huge brick walls, angled inwards like a pyramid, line the road ahead, defending the Vatican city and its precious jewel, the basilica of St Peters, the marble dome gleaming in the midday sun, dazzling above the surrounding mediocrity. Across the river Tiber, past the Castel San Angelo, left at Piazza Venezia with the garish monument to Emanuele II, along the Via del Corso to the Spanish Steps and we arrive at our hotel; not such an ordinary city.

We are staying again at the hotel Crossing Condoti where the very charming and knowledgeable concierge, Francesco, greets us like old friends.  Armed with his annotated map we begin our two-day whirlwind tour of ancient Rome, fortified frequently with Pizza.  The depth of architectural riches is extraordinary and we wander through the Baroque quarter, stopping regularly to gape at the classical treasures that seem to lie around every corner.  Seeing these sights through the eyes of Jamie and Lucie brings an added thrill for us; their enthusiasm and excitement for the visual and culinary treats is contagious.  We meet an anglophile taxi driver who talks of his visit to Clapham Common, seeing the Beatles live in Rome, and to prove his musical credentials tells us lovingly of his Fender Stratocaster and plays air guitar to the riff of Smoke on the Water.

Our guided tour of the magnificent Colosseum and the Forum leaves us exhausted and by the time we arrive at the Vatican museum we follow the signs for the abbreviated route, straight to the Sistene Chapel.  Of all the glorious sights in Rome this is the only one I find disappointing. It is bursting to capacity; everyone craning their necks to stare up at Michelangelo’s famous frescos.  People are talking in hushed tones, yet the security guards barked requests for silence seem unnecessary and disturb the peaceful echo of the chapel. The frescos are smaller than I had expected; the famous Creation scene on the barrel-vaulted ceiling quite hard to pick out among some of the world’s most famous works of art. We step back outside into the sunshine and walk towards St Peters. Bernini’s Piazza San Pietro is gloriously empty and welcoming, and St Peters basilica is breath-taking, its interior ostentatious and grandiose. But for me, the most exquisite piece is Michelangelo’s haunting Pieta, sculpted when he was only 25 years old, portraying the figure of Mary holding Jesus’ body after the crucifixion, a mothers grief captured in soft white marble.

We celebrate Jamie’s 21st birthday with more pasta, prosecco and Peroni and stagger back to our hotel in time to pack our bags and the journey to the airport. With the Vatican walls receding behind us we are transported once again to an ordinary Italian city, and to the 21st century sight of the Easyjet terminal at Fumincino airport. We wave goodbye to Jamie and Lucie and head back to the marina in Ostia and the final stage of our summer circuit. The next leg takes us back to Mallorca via Sardinia and Alghero where Andrew, Consuelo and Katie will join us. Another big mistral is brewing so we plan to hunker down in Alghero and wait until the wind abates and moves abaft the beam for our journey home.


  1. ciao sono alessandra remember capomalfatano spider men vi seguo sempre un abbraccio anche dal piccolo giorgio

    1. ciao alessandra, ciao giorgio. we remember capomalfatano and our dinner with you and your family - and spider man - very well. salutate il vostro marito. Paolo e Carolina.