Sunday December 29, 2019
Sunny 50°F/10°C in Roma, Lazio, Italia
Apart from the excitement of Christmas Eve, Alexander’s FIRST Christmas passed quietly. We had
|Alexander and Michael Botula|
|Michael, MikeBo and Balcony|
A few days before Christmas, I took the Metro down to the Coliseum to meet Michael for an aperitivo, a longtime custom among Romans. He was back to work as a tour guide and was just wrapping up his full day of showing visitors to Rome the sights. Nowadays, his bookings are made through Airbnb. So, you can rent an apartment, and book one of Michael’s tours in the same transaction. I waited for him in front of the Metro station in the shadow of the gigantic amphitheater. We set off along the wide street through the Forum toward a shimmering Christmas tree in the distance. That’s the Piazza Venezia, said Michael. We’ll see what’s happening there and have our aperitivo. We left the Coliseum behind and strolled past the glories of ancient Rome in the gathering twilight. We passed by the Capitoline Museum perched on one of the Seven Hills of Rome, the seat of power during the heady days of the Roman Empire. I love to stroll through the Forum at Sunset…so many ghosts haunt the city! Soon, we reached the Piazza Venezia and the Christmas tree in the Piazza. We stepped inside the tall, iron fence to Italy’s War Memorial and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier high above us. To reach the tomb, a massive line of granite steps awaited us. I demurred, citing my age and my arthritis, which makes it difficult for me to negotiate stairs of any kind, especially if there are no handrails to assist me.
Il Duce at one point ordered that the boulevard in front of his Fascist headquarters to be widened and straightened to accommodate the huge military parades that accompanied his early military conquests. Mussolini, it seems, was bent on restoring the glories of the Ancient Roman Empire, but he accomplished far less than that. However, in the glory days of fascism, Mussolini embarked on a massive public works program, much of which can still be seen today. Fortunately, by the time Rome fell to General Mark Clark’s troops on June 5, 1944, it had been declared an Open City, which spared Rome the massive destruction suffered by other European cities in World War Two. Il Duce himself along with his mistress, Clara Petacci, were executed by partisans in 1945 in Northern Italy, and, in a final indignity, were hung upside down by their heels in a Milan gas station. In a typical gesture of Italian gallantry, Ms. Petacci’s skirt was tied at her knees, so her legs would not be exposed to the gazes of the thousands of spectators who came out to witness the spectacle. The famous balcony was restored in 2011. So much for the Italian history lesson. And, now back to Christmas.
|Mussolini's Balcony in its Heyday|
On Christmas Day, I got up and went for a long walk around the neighborhood. Our family plans had been dashed by the illness at Laura’s sister’s house. When I decided to stay through Christmas and the New Year, plus my birthday in January, I had expected to spend a lot of time alone or with other friends simply because Laura and Michael would be focusing on the new addition to THEIR family. Which is as it should be. So, I brought my faithful traveling companion with me – my trusty IPAD and a selection of Netflix movies, including the Godfather Trilogy. In the process, I discovered that my entire HBO subscription and most of my Amazon Prime subscription do not work in the European Union. Ditto for CBS All Access. (CBSN works fine for news). But Netflix, with it’s international menu works fine. So, between my long walk and the Godfather Part 1, I was able to put Christmas Day in the “win column.” Then, 5:30 rolled around, and it was time for dinner at Michael and Laura’s. I got to see my new grandson again on Christmas.
The next day, I told Michael when he called, that I would walk over to his house. And so, shortly
Next time, more of my Roman Holiday adventures. Until then,Ci vediamo, (See you soon).
[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a former broadcast journalist, government agency spokesperson and media consultant. Mike’s book is available from Amazon Books. You can read more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com]© By Mike Botula 2020