The Home Stretch

So, I’m entering my last week in Rome, which is bittersweet. But even more so is that today was the last day with Giulia Chapman as my guide at the Villa of Hadrian outside town, in Tivoli.

As always I’ll be posting pictures, but I want to take a minute to talk about what a great experience I’ve had, and it’s one that I will treasure for the rest of my life, the time I got to experience Rome through the eyes and viewpoint of a true Roman, whose knowledge and passion for Rome is seemingly boundless.

I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating; the most refreshing aspect of having a guide like Giulia is spending time exploring Rome with someone whose passion for the city, the people and the civilization at the very least matches my own. Sights that I’m sure to most people would be a “Meh” moment are items of huge excitement and interest for me, and having someone who feels the same way definitely makes each discovery more enjoyable, even if it’s something I might have seen before.

Whether it be trying to figure out the true purpose of what to almost anyone else is just a big pile of ruins, or marveling at the detail of a mosaic that has clearly seen better days, having someone who is just as appreciative of the fact that these artifacts were produced by people two millennia ago and they still are beautiful, or well-designed is extremely meaningful, at least to me.

In particular, I will miss Giulia’s exclamation, “Oh, this is my favorite thing!” repeated at least a hundred times over the course of our time together, but only because I know exactly how she feels; everything I’ve seen has been my favorite as well.

Still, I’m not unaware that I am extremely fortunate to take advantage of this service, because it’s not cheap, especially when it’s several days, and for several hours each day.

So what I would suggest is that for those of you who are as passionate as I am about Rome, pick ONE site where you will be escorted by a guide the caliber of Giulia, or in the case of the Vatican Museum, Paola Militerno. Because I am as close to positive as I can be that you will not regret the expense, and will come away with a much deeper, richer understanding than anything you could learn from a guidebook. Or one of the guides hanging around outside.

What I found particularly valuable is in how their knowledge helped to humanize these figures from the distant past, although I can’t really point to a specific moment that would illustrate what I’m talking about. But there would always be some small fact, or anecdote that they would mention that made me connect with Livia Drusilla, or Hadrian, or….whoever.

Except for Augustus, ’cause I still can’t stand him. 😉

The only bad part, at least for me, is that it has to come to an end, because I know there is still so much to see and do where I would love to be able to turn to my guide and ask, “What about that?” And get an answer that you know is not only accurate, but illuminating.

I don’t normally consider myself overly sentimental, but this experience has truly been one that has already made this the most remarkable trip of my life; and I still have more than a week to go!

So be ready to see and hear more about this amazing, wonderful, maddening, bewildering, sometimes infuriating place over the next few days!

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some grappa to drink; I still can’t get the taste of the grilled cow’s intestine out of my mouth.


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