From pasta to opera, I’ve always loved things Italian, and have always regretted not being able to speak the language. So, when Linda proposed that we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary by going to Italy, I was delighted, although I’m generally not eager to leave home. However, this was different, as we were going to spend part of the time in Italy camping. We packed our camping essentials, and off we went to a truly memorable vacation whose high points almost always had a musical accompaniment. There are many things I’ve forgotten about this trip, but there are some that are simply unforgettable.
We arrived in Rome in the middle of the worst heat wave anyone could remember, with temperatures around 107 degrees Fahrenheit. We spent the first night in a hotel just off the airport runway. The air conditioning if it existed wasn’t working, and between the noise of the jets thundering overhead and the heat, I was ready to go back home almost as soon as we arrived.
The second day, and for several days after that, Linda had managed to book us into a pensione just to the right of the Spanish Steps. A pensione is simply a well-ordered bed- and-breakfast, which serves good buns and the vilest coffee for breakfast.
The Spanish Steps have been repaired many times since their construction in the early 18th Century, but it is still the widest staircase in Europe, and one of the most romantic spots in Rome. Since the 18th Century it had become the spot to gather for young lovers. The amount of deep kissing taking place on every one of its 138 step literally took your breath away, or at least it did for the young women there. After many hours of this salubrious pastime, some of the young women looked both glassy-eyed and comatose. The kissing was particularly active as a late afternoon activity, when the Steps were most crowded, but it also seemed to be taking place 24/7. You had to wonder about what the young men ate (or their technique) who could induce such glassy-eyed unconsciousness in their girlfriends with kisses. While it was not listed as one of the wonders of Rome, it really was, and for more than one reason.
Naturally, we did the regular touristy things, visiting the Gian Lorenzo Bernini fountains (his father is given credit for the one at the bottom of the Spanish Steps), the various other public places, such as the exterior of the Castel Sant’Angelo. Although Castel Sant’Angelo was first erected around AD 139 as a mausoleum for the Emperor Hadrian and his family, I knew it only as the dreaded and somber prison in Puccini’s Tosca.
We also visited the Vatican, and were properly awed by both its exterior (again by Bernini) and the treasures inside. It was all magnificent beyond description. It was also still quite hot, and we welcomed any bit of shade we could find, and inside of the Vatican, it was cool.
In the evening, when we returned to the Spanish Steps, on the way to our pension, the young people were still at it with their deep breathing exercises. However, a group had recovered sufficiently to raise their voices in song. They had guitars, and together they sang and swayed quite well. What they sang was, “We are the world; we are the children. . .”