LUCY BURDETTE: My husband and I were nearing the end of a vacation to the Croatian coast and Italy when hurricane Sandy bore down on the eastern seaboard. Our flight home was cancelled and rescheduled for four days later, leaving us heartsick and worried.
I know, it's hard to feel sorry for someone trapped in Rome.
And once we'd learned that our house was intact and our friends and neighbors and animals safe, we tried to make the best of the extra days. We'd visited Rome a few years earlier and blitzed through the major tourist attractions--the Coliseum, the Borghese Gallery, the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain…
Before we knew anything about the big storm, we'd planned to spend one final day in the city to tour the Vatican museum and St. Peter's Basilica. This turned out to be the perfect distraction on the day we were most worried about things back home. I'd seen Michelangelo's masterpiece 40 years ago--it's still mind-boggling, fabulous, incredible. And the hordes of tourists are mind-boggling too--imagine the Sistine Chapel crammed with people madly taking flash photos even though it's expressly forbidden.
So the next few days, we visited less well known sights that were also amazing--the Galleria Doria Pamphilj, with audio guide narration by a prince who calls it home, and paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, and Titian…
And the Villa Farnesina, a sumptuous Renaissance villa decorated with frescos done by Raphael and others.
Rome is full of shops displaying gorgeous shoes and clothing. And the Romans are so much more fashionable than Americans! But don't be tempted by the high heels--this means you Hank:). The cobblestone streets make fancy shoes and inattention dangerous.
And oh, the best pizza in the world can be found at Forno Campo di Fiori. Here you crowd up to the counter and point at whatever's come hot from the stone ovens--maybe zucchini blossom, or potato and rosemary, or our favorite proscuitto. Even gobbling the squares standing in the rain was heaven.
And even if you don't have room for a real dessert, you can certainly squeeze in a cup of gelato.
We'd made arrangements to stay in a convent for our one night in Rome, Casa di Santa Brigida overlooking the Piazza Farnese, just a block off the Campo di Fiori. Luckily the nuns were able to take us in for the extra three nights, and they could not have been kinder.
The loveliest surprise was their rooftop garden, with roses and a view over the city and a beautiful bell that rang when we were visiting. You can hear the bells on the little video just below--please excuse my dreadful photography--why I was filming the ground, I couldn't tell you:).
Everything is old in Rome--it puts life in perspective...People have survived horrible things for hundreds of years...
All that said, I've never been so glad to be home.
If you had to be stranded away from home, where would you choose?