It may have been the perfect vacation moment. I was rowing Francesca around a lake in Rome's huge central park, Villa Borgese. Suddenly the sweet sound of a mandolino drifted though the cool air. A man on a distant bench played "Somewhere My Love".
"Ahh", I thought, "It doesn't get better than this". Roman Boaters
I can't write about everything we enjoyed in Italy's central city but let me share a few more snippets...
We stepped into a small museum by the Garibaldi Piazza dedicated to Rome's war for independence (in the 1840's). They were fighting Pope Pius IX's soldiers who were allied with the French and Austrian armies.
The Romans lost. In final siege, one of their leaders, Ciceruvacchio, and his 13 year-old-son were captured. They and their five companions were quickly condemned to death. Ciceruvacchio begged them to spare his son's life. They laughed and replied, "We'll shoot him first".
They did. The monument outside captured that horrific moment.
On the Fourth of July no one was celebrating our country's independence in Europe. They have their own histories soaked with blood shed in fights for freedom.
I never gave our country's Independence Day more serious thought than when I looked up at that bronze casting of the father and son spending their last moment together.
Rome is so hot in July.
Public drinking fountains help. They are everywhere, all different and very old. The water flows continuously and is super-refreshing on summer's torrid days.
I was putting my mouth into the stream on one occasion when a smiling old man tapped me on the shoulder. He gestured, "This is how you do it". He put a finger in the end of the pipe and water spouted up through a tiny hole, like...a drinking fountain!
400 MORE FOUNTAINS
We visited Tivoli Gardens in the cool hills outside of Rome. The tour begins in the over-the-top, 17th century mansion, Villa d'Este. It is something like Viscaya at the top of a hill in the town of Tivoli. The four-acres of manicured water gardens lie below.
What a view!
Water dances everywhere in the garden's 400 fountains.
It shoots out of cannons, dragons, and gargoyles landing in troughs, cascades, and fish-filled ponds.
We loved that place.
The next day we visited the most well-known ruins in Rome.
The Forum, just west the Colosseum, is a complex of fallen down temples, markets, and government buildings that once were the heart of the Roman Empire. You walk its paths and imagine what was happening all around you in the bustling kingdom that died 1500 years ago.
Desperate men dressed as Roman soldiers ask you for five bucks to have your picture taken with them. The real ones didn't have this opportunity. Sadly, cameras had not been invented yet.
Remember the chariots racing around Circus Maximus in Ben Hur? It's now a sunken field filled with gravel and wildflowers, the thunder of hoof beats long gone, replaced by the bleats of passing vehicles.
I could go on about visiting the Pantheon, a former first century Roman temple now used as a tomb for the royal, the rich, and the famous,
or the cool cars I passing by,
but it's time
to head 200 miles north
to a city composed of so many little islands -connected by boats and bridges-
there are no cars.
Even the door knobs are different in Europe.