29 June 2024

Arrivederci, Roma

Arrivederci, Roma, Goodbye, au revoir

It is now nearly fifty years since I first set foot in Rome, and then it was only thirty years since the end of the Second World War.  How times change?  But then it is over two thousand years since the death of Julius Caesar.....  But who's counting?  Tomorrow may never come, so carpe diem, as someone once said.....

I get drunk drinking my tears.....

It's great to be back in the city.  I meet friends and visit old haunts. Some things haven't changed:

The Basilica of Saint Praxedes, or Santa Prassede

The Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere

There is a sunny positivity about the city.  I cannot help but smile:

All will be well

Even though some folk may have seen better days:

I walk past places that hold fond memories, like this restaurant on Via Panisperna, where the waiter and the chef played opera music on their radio while we ate and on one memorable night we pushed the chairs and tables back after dinner and danced to a harmonica for someone's birthday.....

And past Trajan's Forum, where in the early hours of a moonlit night, Antonio and I played hoopla with bicycle tyres over the broken columns:

By the Teatro di Marcello, which includes the Palazzo Savelli Orsini, I pay my respects to Iris Origo, author of War in the Val d'Orcia, who acquired this piece of history in the 1950s:

In Trastevere, close by where I used to live, I seek out the quietude of the forecourt of the Church of Santa Cecilia, who was martyred on this site:

Then, wandering past No 169 Via di San Francesco a Ripa, where I lived for seven years, I take a drink in the Caffè di Marzio, where my flatmate Malcolm Farr, Editor of the International Daily News at the time, was stabbed in the stomach one night.....

I wander down the Via della Lungara and detour into the Orto Botanico di Roma, ring necked parakeets (there weren't any of them in the 1970s) squawking in the palm trees, a puff of smoke drifting up over the Gianicolo from the 12 o'clock gun:

The bougainvillea gorgeously in flower and the acanthus modelling for Corinthian columns:

Near here Raphael wooed his baker's daughter while decorating the Villa Farnesina; then a few paces further along someone exploded a car bomb outside the Regina Coeli prison one night, coincidentally blowing me out of my bed - though it is quiet now as a breeze flutters the flags of Italy and the European Union......

Maderno's Fountain cools the Piazza in front of St Peter's, 

While tourists flock up and down the Via della Conciliazione (will the UK ever be reconciled?)

And gaze at the city from the heights of Castel Sant'Angelo (Hadrian's mausoleum) from where Benvenuto Cellini made a dramatic escape in 1537, with knotted linen and a leg-breaking jump to round it off.

Time for a little lunch......

Though not at Pierluigi's, which was founded in Piazza de’ Ricci as a small osteria by Umberto Pierluigi in 1938.  I had many wonderful fish lunches (the risotto all crema di scampi is still beautiful) here in the 70s and early 80s, but then Roberto Lisi took over and eventually transformed the small family-run trattoria into an expensive and refined restaurant, now managed with his son, Lorenzo.

No, long lunches in the heat of the day are part of my past, and a glass of fresh white wine and some light snacks are more my idea of heaven, as here at the Antica Enoteca, Via della Croce.  This too used to be a simple place where you could buy loose wine cooled in a marbled refrigerator - now it, like so many places, has gone up-market, but it is still a pleasant place for refreshment:

There is so much to see in Rome - a lifetime is not enough.  The Spanish Steps, next to the room where Keats died (and near the hotel where Tony Soprano met his caviar-infused fate) lead up from the Fontana della Barcaccia towards the Pincio and the gardens of the Villa Borghese:

Across town I bypass the crowds around the Colosseum:

And instead head for the relative peace (hardly a tourist to be seen) of the monumental ruins of the Terme di Caracalla, which is hosting a photographic exhibition (as well as preparing for the opera season - my dad saw Aida here in 1944, and I also saw her here in 1978, remarkable for her age.....)

This bath complex, covering 25 hectares (62 acres) was the second largest in Rome.  It was opened in the year 216 and remained operational until the mid sixth century.  The complex included two libraries (remember them?) and was built over some recently discovered Roman houses whose paintings were exquisite:

As it is some of the mosaic floors are immaculate, using tiny pieces of red and green porphyry, basalt and white and numidicum marbles:

But it is the enormous space that is breath-taking:

Dwarfing the likes of Mat Collishaw, Carlos Labrador, Cecil Beaton, Ilse Bing, Fosco Maraini,  and many more in the photo show:

Outside the sun rains down through the umbrella pines:

And I wander back to my hotel, past the Irish College, stopping briefly (the lovely cloister was closed) at the Basilica e Monastero Agostiniano Santi Quattro Coronati, the only fortified Abbey in Rome:

It is late afternoon, and still very warm, but beneath my room a never-ending procession is passing by, with much music and good cheer.  It is Rome Gay Pride 2024, and it dances its way past for almost two hours, happy in harmony and sunshine:

I am not sure what Mark Anthony would have made of it - perhaps he might have joined in?  Ovid would certainly have taken part....  But, hey!  times change.....

And the sun dims as the corteo disappears past Santa Maria Maggiore:

And night falls.  I will leave Rome again in the morning.  

So, Arrivederci Roma - Until we meet again......

Oh, I nearly forgot!  Someone scrawled a message on a wall for me!

Live and smile about your troubles - I love you Ric!


This post is dedicated to my daughter Sarah and my new son-in-law Marcel

Love to you both

Roma, Roma, Roma
Core de 'sta città
Unico grande amore
De tanta e tanta gente
C'hai fatto innammorà

Antonello Venditti


  1. Simply wonderful photos and comments -- and best wishes to Sarah and Marcel.

  2. Grande Richard!

  3. Agbrader@gmail.com30 June 2024 at 15:56

    What a beautiful piece of prose on Rome. Couldn't read it without feeling the longing for this magnificent place and pinging away a small tear of nostalgia. Thank you for bringing back so many beautiful memories.