Felicity Cobb has come back from a week in Rome filled with renewed enthusiasm for the delights of the Eternal City, as well as a touch of poetic sadness.
Hildebert, "De Roma"
“Rome, thy great ruins, still beyond compare,
Thy former greatness mournfully declare,
Though time thy stately palaces around
Hath strew'd, and cast thy temples to the ground.”
Rome, the capital of Italy, and source of much culture and history, was at our disposal for just one week. Under the expert guidance of Evelyn Gregory, our leader, we did our best to gain an overview of the wonder of the city by walking, taking buses, trams and trains. We also gained a snapshot of the negative side of city life: homelessness, begging and a view of the difficult life that may thousands of needy people experience.
We were a mixed group: some first-time visitors and others returning to rediscover Rome's delights. We visited a far-reaching assortment of venues: the Borghese Art Gallery (pre- booked) and Gardens; the Trevi fountain; the Spanish Steps (closed for repairs); the Jewish quarter; Circus Maximus, as well as three villas – the Villa D'Este, Villa Gregorian and Hadrian's Villa.
We spent a day in the Vatican City and its museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's. Another day we explored the Colosseum area: the Palatine Hill, the Forum, Capitoline Hill, and, of course, many ancient and beautiful churches.
For me, the place that left the deepest impression was the Protestant Cemetery for Foreigners, at Pyramide, named ampo Celestio. Here we discovered the remains of two English poets; the grave of John Keats and a stone and ashes of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Keats died of TB at the age of 30, following criticism of his work, and Shelley drowned in an Italian lake. In fact, Keats was so depressed by the views of his critics that his grave bore no name. Just "Here lies one whose name was writ on water". Very sad.
The graveyard was absolutely beautiful with elaborate headstones, and it was here that a cat charity ran its mission. Consequently, the place was full of needy felines of all colours and conditions.
Eating is an integral part of Italian life, and we all enjoyed sampling the delicious gelati as well as different evening menus at local restaurants.
We returned after a week filled not only with culture and local knowledge but with an abundance of the joy of life that is so typical of Italy and its people.
Returning to this fascinating city must surely be a "must" for all the members of the group.