Saturday, 17 October 2009
Rome was important in my life – standing in the Forum at the age of 8 with my mother telling me the story of how Julius Caesar was killed by his best friend was the exact moment when I ‘got’ history and decided to become an archaeologist. The fact that I was told this week that he was actually killed at another temple nearby and that I later discovered – halfway through an archaeology degree – that I would be a really bad archaeologist and became a travel writer instead are incidental. Rome has quite literally changed my life. At the age of 8, I literally cried when I had to leave.
So I was happy to be back there this week, staying at the gorgeous Regina Hotel Baglioni on via Veneto. It’s just had a make-over and is sumptuous – all black and gold and art deco, with Moroccan lanterns in the bar, an ostrich leather bedhead in my room and a pumpkin risotto at dinner that converted a lifelong loather of pumpkin to drools of delight.
Rome itself, after a ferociously stormy introduction, turned on a smiling face with cobalt blue skies, perfect for gelato at Giolitti’s, via Uffici del Vicario, a local institution that has stood near the Pantheon since 1900 and is considered by Romans to serve the finest icecream in the city. It was an ideal way to rest the aching knees after the steep climb up to the roof of the Castel Sant Angelo, Hadrian’s tomb converted into papal fortress. Another great thing about the city – the way it is so multi-layered and recycled – history heaped on history – Raphael and King Vittorio Emmanuel buried in the Pantheon, an ancient Roman temple, the colonnade of St Peter made out of columns recycled from the forum and the Colisseum. Sensible and frustrating at the same time.
In the afternoon, we were invited to visit Gattinoni couture house where we had an amazingly entertaining interview with superstar designer, Guillermo Mariotto, and got a chance to see up close some of the stunning creations, from frocks made for Audrey Hepburn in the 1950s, to this year’s collection. Sometimes I do love being a journalist, even if I did feel like an elephant at an elf convention. From there to the Etruscan museum (which I hadn’t ever seen before – amazing exhibits, badly labelled) before a quick trip to the Campo di Fiori in search of parmesan and porcini to bring home.
Fat lady rating for Rome as a destination – food 9/10 (it loses a point for being too tempting); getting around (7/10 – relatively easy public transport, but it does involve a lot of walking, stairs, uneven streets etc and it gets tiring. Overall rating – 10/10.