Oh, my goodness, the heating has come on! Now, I see new meaning in the one Coldplay lyric I have forever hated: ‘And ignite your bones …’. From ‘Fix You’, I always thought that such an ugly line – still do – but, as the warmth seeps into my body, suddenly, I get it! (That, too, is a horrible turn of phrase but, hits home, I suppose.)
Yes, I am back. No, I have not retired! Actually, the very utterance of that word brings me out in a cold sweat, as does the word ‘pension’. Everyone I know is retiring, looking forward to reaping the benefits of foresight and financial expertise. Me? Well, I was handicapped from the start being that I was blind-folded – deaf and dumb, perhaps, too! Not to worry, one day at a time and when life deals you lemons, for God’s sake, make a Limoncello Spritz. So utterly delicious – if not, a little on the potent side!
Lost none of my ability to waffle, then. Excellent. I, actually, have not ventured out of the house today. Completely disorientated, still, I only returned to this delightful country on Wednesday after three weeks in Rome! Departing on the 26th January, I planned a ten-day sojourn at most but, somehow, one week rolled into the next. Becca was having problems with her psycho landlady and, of course, the protector in me meant I had no choice but to stay. Oh, the hardship! Three weeks. It felt like three days, to be honest. Becca was snowed under with marking and reports when I arrived and, exhausted, had little time for play. Weekends, then, were precious. Making the most of the first, somehow, the next two slipped away and we were left with a burgeoning list of things we had meant to do – but never did. No regrets. After all, I’ll be back to stroll round the forum in the orange hues of the sinking sun; to, finally, enter the Capitoline Museum and see the famous bronze statue of the she-wolf suckling Romulus and Remus; to savour the magnificent views of the Eternal City afforded from the top of Castel Sant’Angelo (with Manny and his camera) and … to visit all my, now, familiar haunts.
As the rain teems down on a grey and dark landscape, how I miss the blue skies of Roma. I never took the colours for granted, the pastel buildings ever-changing in the light, forever up-lifting. Feeling a little down or anxious? Just stand on the Via dei Fori Imperiali, as the music of the buskers drifts by, and wonder at the might of the history all around; take time to pause and reflect beneath my favourite ‘umbrella’ trees in the shadow of the ‘Wedding Cake’ at one end and the magnificent Colosseum at the other. What a spectacle! All the problems of today, dwarfed in the moment … I miss it.
Three weeks is more than a holiday. One adopts a routine, of sorts, particularly left to one’s own devices during the day. I am quite proud to say that I know my way around the city centre, now, and without Google maps! Take me somewhere, once, and I will remember. Monti is familiar territory and most days I would take a wander round the cobbled streets, always in awe at the majestic doors! I have long had a thing about old chairs but now I have developed this passion for doors – particular to Rome, I might add. Characteristically, of great proportion, many (or most) are painted green – varying shades of – the ancient wood panelled; a most stately facade. These are proper doors deserving of respect and nobody is gaining entry without invitation!
Have laptop, will travel. I loved the idea of finding some little café in a piazza where I could sit and write, channelling my Julia Roberts, but, in reality, I ventured no further than a little boutique hotel: Hotel Nerva. Minutes from Becca’s apartment – literally, down the hill and round the corner – I made a little table by the window my own and would sit, of an afternoon, with my coffee and laptop, committing my thoughts to ‘paper’. That is, until Becca finished teaching, when she would walk past the window, take a right, and my coffee would morph into two Limoncello Spritz – one for each of us! Alessio, my favourite. The barman – nay, Mixologist extraordinaire – at Hotel Nerva, would appear at 5pm and his beaming smile suggested that he was as happy to see us as we were to be there. Symbiosis at its best! Friendly and familiar, it was all too easy … and hard to leave.
We spent some time, on my last evening, chatting to Sandro – he of the wonderful marble plaques – in his workshop on the Via Margutta. Returning to collect our commissions from the weekend, it was six-thirty and almost closing time – love how everyone is open in Rome until seven/seven-thirty; just such a holiday feel. Sandro is like everyone’s favourite grandfather, portly and kind, with a twinkle! Synonymous with Via Margutta, it’s eight years since we first met. He says he remembers us – and I think he does. He is a character, in the true sense of the word, and as we sat down on one of the marble ‘benches’ in front of the huge open fire, we learned more of the man as he sat opposite us, happy to chat as the dying embers bid their farewell.
He speaks a little English but Becca was our go-between, fluent in Italian. A proud man, Sandro is the living embodiment of someone who loves what he does – and he reminded us of how important that is! Following in his father’s footsteps, his little workshop moved to the Via Margutta in 1979 and, as we spoke, he paused to wave and shout ‘Ciao!’ many times as his friends passed by on their way home for the evening. I smiled as I watched someone who has got it so right! He lives in the countryside – with a garden and a small vineyard – about half-an-hour’s drive from Rome and, each morning, he leaves home at six-thirty, arriving to light the fire and perhaps relax with a coffee and the paper; to greet his friends en route to work before he starts his day … Tourists passing by stop to marvel at the array of marble plaques, most inscribed in Latin. Quotes, proverbs, inspirational words, they make treasured gifts and mementos and, without doubt, Sandro is a wordsmith and a philosopher rolled into one! Many seek him out, his fame having spread whether by word of mouth or his appearances on film. Speaking of which, he has a photograph of John Travolta in the workshop and his customers have included Jane Fonda, no less. I loved to hear, too, that Gregory Peck had stopped by – tall and very handsome, of course! Roman Holiday …
All good things come to an end. It was a glorious sunny morning as my taxi drove me past the Colosseum and out to Ciampino. I savoured the colours for the last time and, as Ryanair climbed into the skies, once more, I was sad to leave the Eternal City, Becca and all my new friends but content in the knowledge that I would be back. For Becca is right. Rome finds a way into your heart!
‘Never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.’
J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan.
Alla prossima, Roma!
This is Trish, signing off.
P.S. As the plane taxi-ed to a stop in a grey, miserable Edinburgh, I switched on my phone and there was a message from Becca: Nicola Sturgeon (aka the White Stiletto) had announced her resignation while I was in the air … Sometimes the lemons just make Limoncello Spritz themselves!!