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Goodnight, Rome.

October 18, 2011

The last post of my Roman series will be devoted to one of the most romantic weekends of my life. It started by checking in at the wonderful hotel Bristol-Bernini after a pleasant ride through the sunny Tuscan countryside. We arrived in Rome at sunset, which sprinkled the last flaming sunrays over the Piazza Barberini. Located in the historic heart of Rome, the hotel not only boasted a perfect location, but also featured an elegant Michelin-star restaurant and stunning décor.

For the rest of the night we were wandering the ancient streets of Rome, with no map or navigator, just looking around in awe—every single building on our way was worth memorializing on my camera. I had to constantly remind myself not to annoy the rest of my group with countless stops for photo opps during our evening stroll.

The most memorable part of that evening was stopping for a drink (two or three) at Harry’s Bar. I’ve heard the one in Venice is the legendary one, but the Roman replica also carries the venerated spirit of time. After a couple of Bellinis for myself and a number of Johnnie Walkers for my boyfriend, the evening transitioned from promising to magical. A great atmosphere, a warm summer night and the gradual realization that I was finally in Rome, made me want to pinch myself to make sure I was not asleep.

The next morning my boyfriend and I had to say goodbye to my family, as they were returning to Tuscany. It was so bittersweet—on one hand, I wanted to finally immerse myself completely in the essence of Rome, which was much easier to achieve without my loud family being around; but on the other hand it was one of those tearful goodbyes when you’re not really sure of the next time you see them. Pictures of one family’s weeping and hugging in front of the Pantheon probably made it in someone’s scrapbook.

After the emotional farewell, we decided to tour the Vatican. Unfortunately, most of the museums were already closed, which is just another reason for us to go back! The line to St. Peter’s Basilica looked terrifying—I was this close to just giving up. But miraculously, the line moved fast, and in 30 minutes we made it to the entrance. Most tourists probably know this, but it won’t hurt to mention that ladies must cover their legs, arms and shoulders before entering the basilica.

I can’t describe exactly how I felt when I found myself under the famous dome; I guess this feeling is very private to each individual who is somehow spiritual. But besides my personal emotions, I was astonished by the grandiose architecture and décor. So much energy concentrated in one place!

We decided to finish our tour of St. Peter’s Basilica with a courageous climb to the very top of its dome. Not only was it physically hard, mostly because of the 100F heat, but it was also very disconcerting, as at some point the narrow corridor with no doors or windows started to slant, giving you the impression that the world had turned on its axis. However, the view that opened up to us from the observation deck was worth all the hardships.

That evening we had reservations at a restaurant on Piazza della Magdalena. The square was like a hidden pearl in the heart of Rome—small, cozy and full of history. It featured a church, which used to be a children’s orphanage during wartime, built in a unique-to-Rome Rococo style.

We ended up having an all-course feast, accompanied by aromatic Italian wine, street performers playing my favorite Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra, and the whole atmosphere of relaxation and happiness that could only happen in the summer.

I hope you enjoyed my Roman series, and if you haven’t yet visited Rome, I also hope I inspired you to do so in the near future. Arrivederci!

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