36 Hours in Rome

We arrived in Rome late Friday night to the Hotel de Ville at the top of the Spanish Steps, where Mike secured a screaming last-minute deal on Priceline. (Thanks Bill Shatner!) On my last trip here, some eight years ago, I got into a fight and broke up with my then-boyfriend over a romantic rooftop dinner; I literally burst into tears at the table. I’ve been eager to replace that memory with another one. We got right to it Friday night. My new association with romantic Rome rooftops shifted to sitting with Mike, sharing a couple of lovely glasses of Prosecco overlooking the Spanish Steps.

Meals generally dictate my daily activities when traveling in Italy. First step: pass up the hotel breakfast buffet. I always get sticker shock at the price, but the de Ville’s was a mind-boggling 33 euro per person. Can anyone eat enough eggs and soggy sausages to justify it? Why miss out on the local color that comes with breakfast? We headed over to a nearby piazza to linger over cappuccino and pastries. All around us, people were talking about the death of Michael Jackson in no less than five languages. An Italian woman behind us said, in English, “What do you think of Michael Jackson dying?” A French woman answered her, “What a sad life he had. I feel bad for him.”

Since we’ve both been to Rome before, we didn’t feel the need to rush around to see the sites, we had the luxury to leisurely explore the city together. We spent the rest of the day taking in the historical sites, the beautifully dressed Italians and the swarms of tourists. Given the global recession, we were surprised to find the city packed with American and Europeans on holiday.

For lunch, we stopped at Angelino del Fiori, lured in by the beautiful outdoor deck covered with vines not far from the ruins of the forum. We sampled a huge ball of local mozzarella, simple pasta and cold Italian beer. Since we’re in Rome, we decided to do as many Romans do and escaped the heat of the day by heading back to the hotel. Jet lagged, we promptly fell asleep.

We awoke to the sounds of a string quartet in the lobby below playing Michael Jackson songs. He’s all the news here – on the cover of every paper, dominating the local TV news and his music is playing everywhere. For the rest of my life, when I hear the song “Got to Be There,” I’ll think of Rome.

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