Monday, January 7, 2013

You. Me. Rome. Snap.

As the taxi cab slides to a halt outside the Hotel Excelsior, Piero, Luca and I unfold our cramped limbs from the back seat and make a woeful attempt to look chic. It has been a long journey and we are, to put it charitably, bedraggled. 

But The Eternal City casts a glittering spell on even its weariest pilgrims.
(Excelsior Hotel, Rome, December 2012. All photos by LBG.)

By the time we head for the elevator a few minutes later, there's a spring in our step and our chins are tilted at a rakish angle. Fatigue be damned. Who could be so unfeeling to let down a lobby that has gone to such effort?

We stroll along the fabled Via Veneto in search of adventure. The streets are empty and our footsteps echo on the cobblestones. Piero hears distant laughter and decides we need to follow it.

We turn a dark corner and run headlong into Harry's Bar, spiritual birthplace of la dolce vita. I know it's probably the wooziness of jet lag, but it suddenly feels like we're in the real-life version of "Midnight in Paris." I swear that's Marcello Mastroianni and Anita Ekberg making out in the corner. A ghostly maitre'd (I'm not kidding -- look at him) crooks his finger at us from a golden doorway. Within minutes, we are sipping Bellinis and everything is bene.

The next morning we awake to the tintinnabulation of bells from that church tower on the left...

...and have breakfast in this chic-y McChic downstairs bar. 

After much tarrying on my part --

Me: Just let me sit here for five more minutes.
The Philistines: You said that ten minutes ago.
Me: I would like one more lungo macchiato.
The Philistines: No you would not.
Me: I feel weak.
The Philistines: No you do not feel weak.
Me: But this room is a veritable MASTER CLASS in design, I tell you! Have you NO DECENCY, SIRS?!

-- I am firmly escorted out.

We take a shortcut along this street that Luca renames "Crispy Frank"...

...and arrive at the top of the Spanish Steps. Lovers of John Keats will know that he met his untimely demise in the third terra cotta palazzo on the left. (And that you can rent the apartment directly above it here.)

After tossing a good luck coin in the Trevi Fountain, Piero and I put ourselves in the capable hands of our fifth grade tour guide who is a newfound expert on Roman history.

We walk through the Forum and listen to him expound upon the days when this ancient shopping mall was crammed with toga-clad citizens clamoring for bargains. (He might not have used those exact words.)

What is there to say about the Coliseum except that no matter how many times you see it, it still takes your breath away?

Our tour guide is especially enthralled by the maze of underground tunnels and chambers which housed all the gladiators and wild animals before the shows.

What are these, you ask? Why, they would be terra cotta oil lamps, the precursor of holding up your lighter (or your iPhone) at a concert. "Freebird" meets "Free Maximus."

Then it's over to the Piazza Navona to get lost in the kaleidoscopic profusion of Christmas stalls. A biscotti-sized woman sees my camera and inexplicably freezes. I find her feet adorably enormous.

We duck into a cafe for lunch and I order a drink my friend Stephanie has been raving about since her last trip to Italy: Amaro with prosecco. It's fabuloso.

The next day we cross the Tiber on our way to Vatican City. Admittedly, it's not the Seine, but I do think it possesses a certain faded majesty.

Anyway, beauty's where you find it.  I refocus my lens and the river gains the shimmering emotion of an Impressionist painting.

Our eleven year-old tour guide has just informed us that we have officially crossed into another country.

We step in with a flock of excited nuns heading in the same direction. When we get to the Vatican, we pay a guide to take us to the front of the line, figuring we can head off the crowds this way.

But guess what? We are wrong. The crowd already inside is overwhelming. That's my husband on the right looking for an escape route. But there is no escape route. There is only one direction through the Vatican and 20,000 people are trying to shoulder their way ahead of us. I'm not going to soft-coat it: it feels like trying to exit the Titanic. I've been here before and have never seen it like this. (Note to self: In future, avoid religious sites on high holy days.)

By the time we reach the Sistine Chapel, we are in need of salvation. Fortunately, there is an exit door. 

Back on the street, we encounter a Holy Hunk (d0 you think the nuns were tempted?)...

...and a miracle of sorts.

Next Monday: You. Me. London. Snap.


Nancy // and while we are here said...

What a wonderful post!

Have a great time and a happy new year!!!

PS: I can't stop looking at the last picture...

helen tilston said...

Hello Lisa

I loved travelling with you on this journey. I could even taste those cocktails and feel the pushing the Vaticano.

Waiting patiently for your next installment.


columnist said...

Yikes, St Peter's looks scary. It was beautifully quiet when I went, but I note what you say about avoiding holy days. You're tempting me to go back. Tomorrow.

Janelle said...

stunning....sitting in an English class in East Africa, dreaming of Amaro and Prosecco on the Tiber...yessss...great post. more please. x j

Mystica said...

Thank you for beautiful, absolutely amazing photos and write up!

pve design said...

Oh you make it all look as if "Rome was not built in a day" - your images and words render me parched and speechless.

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

Next time book a private tour to the Vatican - makes all the difference - you get there before it opens or if you choose - after it closes and you can look at things from every angle!! Also the sistine chapel sometimes turns on the lights and the chapel with the lights on is psychedelic.

The Ancient said...

I second Csw's recommmendation. It's expensive -- mildly extortionate, even -- but it makes all the difference in the world.

somepinkflowers said...

{{ whilst your photographs
are Always yummy
your photo
of the Forum was
swooooon*worthy ...

most often
i come here
for this --->

~~* tintinnabulation *~~


you da best ♥ }}

ArchitectDesign™ said...

Looks like a very merry Christmas was had by all! charming :-)

The Buzz Blog @ Diane James Home said...

Thank you for haivng me join you on your trip to Rome... I'm enjoying myself immensely and can't wait for our next adventure! XO, Cynthia

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

little pink cakes: it was kind of mesmerizing. my husband figured out that the man on the bottom is sitting on a steel plate with a hidden arm that runs up his sleeve and connects to a platform on top. We think!

Helen Tilston:
Happy New Year to you! xxx

See comments below yours. Apparently we did it all wrong!

Now I'm sitting in an office in Hollywood dreaming of East Africa!

You're welcome! xx

PVE Design:
Oh, PVE. xxxx

Coulda Shoulda Woulda:
That sounds incredible and yes, we totally should have done that!!

The Ancient:
Wow, apparently everyone knows about this trick but me!

i love your ee cummings style of writing.

Architect Design:
It was...and happiest of New Years to you too, dear Stefan! xx

Diane James Home:
Thank you so much, Cynthia! Happy New Year to you on the East Coast! xxx

donna baker said...

I love Rome so much. What fun to go with your family. Can't wait for more postings.

Julie said...

Welcome home, Lisa! The images and words are nothing short of spectacular. Our holiday was far less exotic so I've waited patiently to see yours. : ) Happy New Year. Julie

Miss Whistle said...

I would give my left arm for the Holy Hunks calendar. What a magnificent holiday. Miss you xxx

Daniel Shigo said...

No. I don't think the nuns were tempted. Rather, the clergy are. I say this as a gay man who's spend a lot of time in Catholic churches.

Acf57 said...

Have never really wanted to visit Rome until your pictures and description. Thank you for opening up my eyes.

Lisa Borgnes Giramonti said...

Daniel James Shigo:

Touché. xx

debbie bailey said...

Talking about visiting Rome during holy times...I've been to Rome three times and have never seen the Sistine Chapel. It's been closed every time! We always go during Easter Week, so you'd think it'd be open. Maybe next time...

Sandra Sallin said...

Ah, bellissima!

angela said...

Happy New Year to you! I love your pics of Rome, I was just there for the first time in August. Nice to see your trip!

kim at northerncalstyle. said...

Lisa, I loved this. Rome is my favorite city. Your photos were beautiful. You are so fortunate to see it at Christmas! Going to check out that cocktail!

Can't wait for the next post!


Anonymous said...

Quelle deliciousness!

Church bells, late night laughter down alleyways and calendar boys in black dresses.

Ah. Roma.

Waving from Manhattan!

LeeAnn at Mrs Black's said...

Wonderful photographs! Love Rome, reminds me I must return, have not been for far too log. Look forward to your further adventures. Minerva x

Shelley said...

We went to Rome one July and it was a mistake to be in such a hot place. I didn't much enjoy it. Far better to go when coats are required...but since we live in coats at home it seemed like a good idea at the time...


Che figo !!! I find this utterly entertaining, of course I love Rome and everything Italian but still...what fun ! The miracle of sorts is priceless...we're gona have a good time together, I can tell.
Non vedo l'ora !

Notes From ABroad said...

This was such fun ! My husband enjoyed it too, he used to have an apartment at the top of the Spanish steps :)

the art department said...

OMG-can we please be friends!!!?
major girl crush on you and your blog...magical

wcrisler said...

Your blog -- such a reprieve from the mundane, such a sure rekindling of my dulled awareness of the vivid beauty of the world. My little epiphany fix on Sunday mornings. My eyes, my heart, come alive. What a gift you give to us...


Blog Widget by LinkWithin