Tuesday, December 4, 2012

When in Rome

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.

In Rome.

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?


  1. Lovely photos. And Rome is an amazing place to be ... How can I even say the word? ... stuck. I spent most of a whole day around the coliseum, remembering my Latin teacher with the bunned hair, reading us Caesar's diary. KAY-zar, she made us say. Standing there among centuries old ruins, I could still imagine the gladiators down below the false surface, waiting their turn. Thanks for reminding me, Ms. Lucy.

  2. I LOVE ITALY! The food, the art, the people. It's sublime. Thanks for the mini trip, Lucy!

    We were once stranded in Miami. Our kids were at home digging out from a blizzard. It beat the Chicago airport where I've been stranded for missed flights more times than I care to count.

    But the thing is, at the end of a vacation, the place you want to be most is HOME. Even if there's no water or electricity.

  3. Biil Carito and I were stuck in Rome after 9/11--so I know just how you felt.

  4. And Barb, after 9/11 was much, much worse because you had no idea when life would be normal enough to return to the US!

    Jack, sounds like a wonderful memory!

    Hallie, we were trapped when our plane was diverted to Columbus Ohio by snow one year. with the kids. I am not proud of how I managed to land the last available hotel room, but it seemed absolutely necessary at the time....

  5. Oh, Lucy, I haven't been to Rome since I was in my twenties. You've reminded me how wonderful it was, and how much I'd love to go back.

    Lovely photos! Is there anything better than Italian pizza off the street? I remember a heavenly one with artichokes...

    And I'd love to know more about staying at a convent.

    As for stranded, I've been stranded twice, first by 9/11, in London, and then again by the volcanic ash. That time I was on book tour in Germany (with the flu) and it was only my German publicist's quick thinking that got us an extra night in Hanover, then got me on a train to London the next day. Both times I had no idea when (and after 9/11, if) I would be able to go home. But I was glad I was in London.

  6. Lovely mini-tour of Roma and the nuns sound lovely. I've been many places in the world but not yet any part of Italy except Venice. Plan to rememdy that in 2014!

    I was stranded with my sons in LA because of a blizzard two years ago. Luckily, I am originally from the area and my friend Sarah was more than happy to put us up for two nights. My younger son got to go into Hollywood with his brother and a childhood friend on his 22nd birthday, and I got to sit by Sarah's pool (in January) and write all afternoon. Could have been much worse!

  7. SO FABULOUS! And so happy your home is reasonably okay..

    And yes, Jack, the history is so profound, it's almost unnerving.

    If I have ever been stranded, I have blocked the memory. The memory I have not blocked, however, was last time we were in ROme, I saw the most gorgeous brown leather brogue-ish but slinky boots in a shop window. Prada. NO , I told myself. DO NOT.

    So I didn't.

    And I still regret it.

  8. Hank, too bad about the boots--even John bought shoes:). He couldn't bear to be wearing his white tennis shoes all around the city!

    Stranded with the flu--sounds awful Debs! The convent was really lovely. Twice we ate dinner there because it was raining and cold and we didn't want to walk...food was outstanding. The accommodations are not plush, but comfortable and quiet. We recommend!

  9. Okay Roberta and Barb.

    Stranded in Rome?

    No sympathy. The one time I was stranded, it was in DETROIT!!

    But the convent sounds lovely. I have not been to Rome since I was twenty, and traveling with a room-mate who didn't understand you don't talk to the men who try to follow you out of the train station. I would love to go back as a grown up, and with my husband.

    Happy your home was okay, Roberta! You deserved a break, you suffered pretty badly in an earlier storm, didn't you?

  10. Once, years ago, my husband and I were flying back to DC -- from Rome, as a matter of fact. We had left our four children with a patchwork of care, including a nursery school teacher and a neighbor -- and we were very eager to come home. It was around this time of year, and we had in our luggage one Cabbage Patch doll we had found in London.
    Anyway, it was the middle of the night when an announcement came into the cabin from the pilot.
    "Ladies and gentlemen, we have lost two of the right-wing engines. We will be landing in Gander, Newfoundland."
    Um . . .
    It was a strange and eerie night -- our planeload along with a Russian hockey team -- in the small remote airport. We were given sandwiches, and had to wait for a new plane to come from NY.
    I wish we had been "stranded" in Rome.

  11. Ah Italy...one of the more stellar places to be stranded! I've been stranded in Peru and also Brazil...Not what I'd call a vacation-quality experience!

    I would mind being stranded in the south of France. I could do with that about now, even if it's winter.

  12. I got stuck in the Miami airport, in the international area, when we were on our way to Peru a couple years ago. Not fun, but better than our companions, who missed the connections and ended up spending that night in Atlanta, then the next night in Miami, causing them to miss the whole first day in Lima.

    Stick me anywhere, as long as I can get out of the airport and see something. One of my daughters had a long layover in Seoul, so she put her stuff in a locker, got a cab, and took off for several hours. I thought that was enormously brave for a 20-year old!

    That bit of tablet in the last photo is in nearly the exact shape of Ohio!

  13. Newfoundland, wow! that sounds so scary...and I'm sure you were worried sick about the kids. did the cabbage patch doll make it?

    Lisa, south of France--yes!

    Jan, you and hub should definitely go. I do love that city...we followed the Rick Steves Guidebook everywhere we went walking...

  14. I've never been stranded anywhere as fun as Rome. I've been stranded in Iowa City, Dallas airport, and LaGuardia airport.

    LaGuardia was the worst. All afternoon and then overnight because our plane had lost an engine and had to be fixed before it could make it to LaGuardia to pick us up. Apparently, airlines no longer have extras available for cases like that. You just wait until it can be fixed. We'd have left, but they kept telling us it would just be a couple more hours and we didn't want to go back into NYC and miss our flight.

    On another note, I just wrote the last word on a book this morning and am feeling pretty on top of the world. xoxoxo

  15. LaGuardia overnight--a nightmare Linda!

    Finishing the last word in a book? Heaven--big congrats to you!