Rome, Italy
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By Meeta Gajjar Parker
Photography by Frank and Meeta Parker

Those words evoke images of Audrey Hepburn in my mind for good reason. 

It was Thanksgiving Day in 1994. My father Bharat, my husband Frank, and I were eating subs for dinner in the New York airport while everyone ate turkey.  We were on our way to Rome.  We had become Millionaires for the first time in our lives after exchanging our currency for the Italian Lira and it felt exhilarating! 

It was a curious time when we arrived in Rome.  The Pope had received death threats in the form of a dead goat with his throat sliced laid on the front steps of the Vatican.  It was due to his outspoken comments against an opposing political party.  The Pope’s secret service men were put on high alert.

This was Frank’s first time out of the country.  By the look on his face, I couldn’t tell if he was experiencing cultural shock or maybe just plain shock.  We had just stepped out of a taxi that had driven us to our hotel at one hundred miles per hour and surprisingly,    had arrived in one piece.  We had discovered that this is how they normally drive in Italy. Luckily, we planned to use the bus system as our primary means of transportation as well as take some tours.  We heeded the warning of several guidebooks suggesting that we should avoid bus 76, as it was known to be a bus that tourists commonly got robbed on.  Point well taken, we avoided that bus completely. 
It was cold as we bundled up and took the subway to the Spanish Steps.  Bharat was delighted to find a man selling roasted chestnuts on the street corner and asked to have some packaged up to take with him. The city of Rome looked particularly enchanting, decorated with Christmas lights that November evening.
A city tour took us to the Quirinal Palace where the Italian President lives.  We visited the Trevi fountain where, following the Italian custom, we tossed three coins over our shoulders to ensure our return to Rome someday. We were fascinated by Bernini’s most famous statue, “The Fountain of the Four Rivers,” and had our first glimpse of St. Peter’s Square and Basilica.  We wanted to see the Castello Sant’Angelo (Castle S Angelo), but it was closed.  It was during this tour that we discovered that pizza was not really Italian food.  We had hoped to eat the most amazing pizza we had ever eaten in our lives while visiting Italy, but were ultimately disappointed.

Photo Below - Vatican Square. Story continues after photo.

Vatican Square
The Vatican was quite an amazing sight as we imagined.  Cardinals were being indoctrinated the day we visited, so we saw many of them walking around wearing their red robes.  Our guide told us that the 149 statues that line the top of the mighty court were taken from the Coliseum and other places.  Their faces were then changed to look like Saints. 
The “Colosseo”, as the Italians call it, or the Coliseum was grand.  Walking into the open air amphitheatre where the fates of people’s lives were decided and lions were released, was eerie.  Fierce Gladiators had fought here to the death.  The building facades appeared somewhat bare, knowing that statues once decorated the windows of this amazing arena.  The people in the audience, in the glory days of the Colosseo, filled the seats in anticipation of the great events that took place here.  Those spectators decided who lived and who died if anyone actually survived the lion.
We sat down at one of the round tables at an outdoor café on the cobblestone street in an open air market, desperately needing a break from the walking we had been doing all afternoon.  We noticed the amazing fountains with sculptures of Romans and Mythological Gods right in front of us, and ordered cappuccinos like nothing we have ever had before.  Perhaps it’s the Italian water or their milk, but this cappuccino was unique in taste.  We wanted one last one before we left Italy, but they have many strikes and the day we left , they had a restaurant strike and not a single cappuccino could be had.  We were left forever longing for that one last cappuccino.

Continue: page 2 of A ROMAN HOLIDAY

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