A luxury short break Spectacular Rome

| August 20, 2012

Lord Kenneth Morgan and his wife recently went on a luxury short break to Rome with Cox & Kings. Their highlights, among others, included the Spanish Steps, a day at the Italian Senate and a trip to Tivoli.

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Rome, the legendary eternal city, is one of the most familiar wonders of the world. But my wife and I, who had previously marvelled at the splendours of the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s, Colosseum and Forum, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, found plenty of other joys when we went there last April. One of the great pleasures was that we stayed in the very same small hotel as last year, the aptly-named Albergo del Sole. It is a quaint little building in the Piazza Rotunda looking out over the Pantheon, very close to the Piazza Navona and a maze of delightful narrow streets with an abundance of trattoria (informal restaurants).

We began with San Giovanni in Laterano and the much crawled-up Scala Sancta; then on to the operatic Baths of Caracalla nearby, followed by a drink beside Hadrian’s Temple – now, oddly, the stock exchange. The next day we climbed the Spanish Steps, but to a new pleasure, the little-visited French convent next to Trinita dei Monti at the summit of the Steps, with fine cloisters and astronomic maps of the heavenly bodies. In the afternoon, anxious to enjoy the countryside outside the great city, we took a trip to Tivoli, with a visit to Hadrian’s villa and the myriad of fountains at the Villa d’Este. The following day we revelled in the Tintoretto exhibition at the Scuderia gallery opposite the Quirinale presidential palace – around 50 masterpieces of the great man, each massively influential on the art of his time. Then on to the colourful market in the Campo dei Fiori, with a new dress for my wife to mark our wedding anniversary, celebrated at length that evening in a restaurant in La Madallena, near our hotel.

The fourth day was in a way the most memorable, since we got access to the Italian Senate, of much interest to both our academic concerns and my parliamentary work. The building, the Palazzo Madama, built for the Medicis in the early 16th century and once the residence of various popes, is glorious, with mementoes of the Risorgimento, the movement for a united Italy, launched 150 years ago. Alas, the present-day senate debates reflect not historic national idealism but present-day chaos and political apathy, with speeches droned before a few senators breaking every parliamentary convention – reading newspapers, speaking on mobile phones, conducting loud conversations and throwing litter on the carpets. Garibaldi must be spinning in his grave. But it was great fun and we had a pleasant stand-up lunch. That evening, we visited a genuine theatre, the Teatro dell Opera, to see the Barber of Seville, brilliantly performed with style and verve.

The final day meant another visit to our beloved Spanish Steps, lamenting the prices in the Via Condotti, taking in the dome and bell tower of Borromini’s San Andrea del Fratto nearby, and having a nostalgic lunch in Babington’s, that Anglophone oasis just across from Keats’s house. A joyous vacation – and we’ll do exactly the same next year.

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