Ancient Ruins and Christmas Lights

P1000814Monday night we returned in the middle of the storm from a week of sunshine and exploring and reminiscing in Rome. It was a fabulous week of pasta and tiramisu, espresso and wine and Roman ruins mixed liberally with the wild hubbub of Christmas preparation. There were leisurely hours of reading simply for pleasure in quiet café’s – something I’ve not had much time for recently, there were long walks beneath the rainbow wave of Christmas lights along the Via Del Corso. There were quick stops into bars in the middle of the afternoon for espresso. There were walks in the Palatine and outings to Tivoli and to Ostia Antica. And there were wonderful memories.

Raymond and I are quite familiar with Rome in the winter. We married in mid-December and spent P1000885part of our honeymoon in Rome and Italy. The place is full of good memories for us. It’s always magical and romantic and irresistibly sexy. It will also be the setting for the third Holly novel, so this was a chance to soak up atmosphere and do a little research.

It’s been eight years since the last time we were in the Eternal City, and we both agree that’s way too long in between trips. Even though there have been plenty of changes over eight years, it still felt like coming home. There were more excavations in the Forum and the Palatine area. Above the Forum there was a different band dressed in Santa Clause suites playing Jingle Bells endlessly in that uncommon alto sax and accordion combo. The pasta and pizza at every little trattoria  was delish, there were too many pastries to sample in three lifetimes, let alone one week, and the rule about not making eye-contact with the drivers during that heart-stopping moment when you P1000918step into the traffic at the crosswalk still applies.

In the Forum, we spent quality time in the ruins of the House of the Vestal Virgin, with its climbing pink roses and with its thin skin of ice on top of the reflecting pools. We were early enough to miss the worst of the crowds.

In the Villa d’Este in Tivoli, we walked among the fountains and plotted wonderfully sexy stories about love run amok in a Renaissance garden. The place was, in no small part, an inspiration for my novella, Surrogates.

We arrived early in the ruins of Ostia Antica and stayed until the whistle blew at the end of the day and we were chased out. I could have lingered for hours in the ruins of the temples from the Roman Republic, the temple of Hercules, and the Domus of Psyche and Eros.

It’s not difficult to understand why Rome is called The Eternal City. It’s not difficult to get caught up in the layer cake of modern and ancient and the manic honk of car horns and the shove and push of Christmas shoppers.

Our flight home was delayed by the heavy wind storms that have plagued the UK the past couple of days. We sat in the lounge at Fiumicino Airport drinking coffee, then wine and reading for pleasure, not really worrying too much. When the window of opportunity presented itself, we left the sunshine for the windy wet British shores. Ours was one of the last planes to land as the storm closed in again, leaving us sitting on the tarmac for an hour and a half waiting for a stand. But we made it home, with little prep made for Christmas – though we never have stood on tradition where Christmas is concerned. Ours will be the hodge-podge of our own non-traditional Christmas treats along with the memories of our first Christmas together when we were only just married, living in a cold flat in Croatia, decorating our tiny tree with chocolate ornaments and watching the cornbread for our turkey dressing bake in the oven. True, we had no television, but even more important, the kitchen, in front of the oven, was the warmest place in the house.

Ah, but I digress! The thing is, we celebrated then and we celebrate now. We celebrate not Christmas per se, but all things that are good in our life, and all things that this year’s brought, all things that our life together has brought. We celebrated in Rome, we celebrated in Croatia and we celebrate now in soggy, windy England while we catch up on our laundry and prepare to cook our Christmas favourites.  And we wish all of you many, MANY wonderful reasons to celebrate during this holiday season and many more in the year to come.