Natale Italiano | Rome – Day 2: Roman Holiday
It seems odd to be thinking about Christmas day. While we’re only just over 3 weeks further on in the space of a year, the Christmas period seems like an age ago. And yet my memories of my recent Italy trip seem far closer – probably because during that holiday, the hope of all the joys of Spring and Summer never seemed far away; a hope which the rays of sunshine falling over Rome only helped to engender. And yet while our Christmas day was, for all of its Roman surroundings, a very different way of spending Christmas from English Christmases past, it was an utter joy from day break until nightfall, and well worth remembering on this blog.
We woke to the sun streaming through our hotel window – that in itself made this Christmas different from the norm – and for our breakfast, a soft panettone, generously gifted to us by our hotel, and a creamy nespresso, amply supplied within the luxurious confines of our bedroom. Sitting round the little pop-up Christmas tree which we had already unpacked and packed again in Venice, and which had now become the central focus of our Rome bedroom, we promptly opened the little cards and gifts which surrounded it in a flurry of Christmas excitement. Thereafter, full of the joys of the season they brought, we strolled out into the unusually quiet streets of the city to enjoy the sunshine and another coffee.
Our pop up tree and a fresh panettone…
…and the sunshine which made it feel more like summer
That second coffee, consumed before the astounding sight of the Pantheon, turned out to be a mistake – for it meant venturing the long way around towards the Colosseum to catch the tube. That would have been alright in itself, had the tube station been accepting credit cards or euro notes – but with coins required to buy a ticket, and no human ticket salesman in sight, we found ourselves faced with the Herculaneum task of walking all the way to the Stazione Termini to make collection of the most important Christmas present of the day – the arrival of my partner’s mother, train-bound from Tuscany.
Much exhausted, and sweating profusely from the effort of crossing Rome in 10 minutes, we made it to the station just in time to reunite the family in a flurry of happiness and emotional rapture. For that was the moment when the happiness of Christmas really began.
Whisking her back to the hotel and then off to the Forum, it was clear that our Christmas Day was not going to follow the usual path of sofa-stagnant stupor which is the norm for so many households across the world (and England in particular). For we had a lunch to get to (or a “banquet” as they extravagantly called it) set on the rooftop of the Hotel Fortyseven, where breathtaking views over the Vestal Virgin’s temple and the Forum beyond made this a Christmas lunch to remember. Although strangely I don’t remember all that much of the food – but that’s what comes of indulging in one spectacular feast too many across a 9 day trip to Italy.
Present exchange, and a rooftop Christmas banquet
But what I do remember well, despite polishing off a super-strong bottle of Tuscan red over lunch, was our afternoon attempts not only to enjoy this Roman “Holiday” to the full, but also to recreate the magnificent 1953 film of the same name, starring Audrey Hepburn in her first major (and Oscar Winning) role alongside the debonair Gregory Peck. This turned out to be easier than I had thought. Our hotel room looked directly onto the entrance of the Via Margutta, where Peck’s character – Joe Bradley – had famously stayed at number 51. We had already spent the morning ambling past the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, both featured in the film, and had coffee that morning in a “sidewalk café” with the same view of the Pantheon as the twosome had enjoyed in the film. And now, after lunch, we headed off to see the famous “Bocca della Verita” (aka The Mouth of Truth) just as Princess Ann and Mr Bradley had done in the film.
Stills from Roman Holiday
It was difficult to recreate precisely the charm of the film some 60 years later when so many tourists visit the ancient monument (even on Christmas Day!) that you have to queue for around 20 minutes just to place your hand in the mouth for mere seconds while your companion takes the ONE photo allowed. Still, we managed to get away with two, and found that, as well as recreating this seminal scene in the film, the queue had also been worth the wait for leading us to the stunning Orthodox Church in whose portico the mouth resides. A beautiful atmospheric place to visit on Christmas day.
…and our own venture inside the Mouth of Truth!
But talking of Christmas, it was back to our hotel where the mini Christmas tree once again provided focus as we went about an even bigger round of present exchange commenced (now that our group had increased by one), and some wonderful presents such as the perfume I have had my eye on for years – acqua di parma, luxury clothes items, and cute teddies were enthusiastically exchanged along to the accompaniment of a bottle of Mumm’s champagne artfully chilled in the tiny hotel minibar (its contents having been emptied in order to fit the bottle inside…).
After a day of ultimate indulgence, we had very little space in our tummies nor energy in our legs to eat much more nor venture far, but for atmosphere’s sake we headed to the nearby restaurant Dilla (Via Mario de Fiori 41) whose stylish interior strung with fairy lights and fantastic grocery-shaped baubles beckoned our entry. And thank goodness we succumbed to the temptation – for the unctuous, soft pork and pistachio polpette (meatballs) I had there with a luxurious creamed potato easily rated my favourite dish of our Roman Holiday, if not the entire trip across Italia.
Belated Merry Christmas to all!
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