My first stop is at a newsstand to pick up a copy of Wanted In Rome, the informative English-language monthly. Then I head for Piazza del Popolo, walk up the curving sidewalk to the panoramic terrace above, and head into the Pincio Gardens. The fancy marble street signs in this pleasant municipal park direct me to Viale del Belvedere and then along Via dell'Obelisco to the obelisk. Just beyond that is Via dell'Orologio, named after the water clock fountain that is a true favorite of mine. It was created by a Dominican priest for the Paris Exhibition of 1867 and it still works perfectly. I sit on a bench nearby to contemplate its timeless beauty, and a kind of dreamy peace steals over me. I wonder if the spirit of Fra Embriago is lurking here, keeping watch on his creation.
Retracing my steps to the Pincio, I see that the Punch and Judy show is about to begin. I push in amongst the kids and within minutes we are screaming with delight as the age-old story unfolds before our eyes.
Next I head along Viale Trinità dei Monti until I pass the Villa Medici on my left. Across from it is a pleasant little coffee bar (Ciampini, tel. 06/678-5678; open June - Sept. seven days a week; closed on Wednesdays in other months). It's easy to miss, because it's kind of hidden behind lots of greenery and flowers. I go in, take a table next to the bubbling fountain, and order a sandwich and an espresso. I people-watch, offer my face to the sun, read my paper, order a second coffee. It is soooo peaceful and quiet. I feel just like Holly Golightly must have felt when she went into Tiffany's: surely nothing bad could ever happen to me here.
After a leisurely hour or so, I move on, continuing along the same street until I reach another obelisk. This one's at the top of the Spanish Steps. Artists and craftsmen have spread out their wares around it, and I stop to tell a couple of them of my admiration for their work. They have enough English to get by and have no trouble communicating with me.
I lean for a few moments against the low marble wall above the Steps, giving a deep contented sigh as I gaze dreamily at the colorful scene below in Piazza di Spagna: in the foreground are tourists snapping photographs and lovers with arms entwined sitting on the edge of Bernini's gorgeous marble fountain; in the background the long strip of Via dei Condotti stretches all the way to the Tiber.
I take my time descending the Steps and at the bottom I bend to drink icy cold spring water flowing from the spout of the Barcaccia fountain. I sit on its edge for a few moments to look up at the Steps in all their curving beauty. Too bad that the flower vendor is no longer here! His cart stood at the bottom of the Steps for years and years, a bright splash of cascading colors against the white stone. I'll always remember him presenting a posy to the enchanting Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
To my right is the house where John Keats lived for a year or so. The great Irish poet died of tuberculosis here in 1821 at the age of twenty-five. Twenty-five! That is so sad. Yet it comforts me that he at least had the pleasure of living in Rome for a while.
I stroll over to the opposite side of the Steps to look into Babbington's Tea Room. Ah, Great Britain in Italy! If I were hungry, I'd go in and have one of their true English teas, with fresh baked scones and those tiny sandwiches the Brits do so well, all served on elegant china and silver.... It's expensive but worth the splurge. They make great breakfasts too. Oh, well, I'll come back another day with an appetite.
Leaving Piazza di Spagna, I mosey along Via del Babbuino, turn right into a narrow little alley and come to Via Margutta. Suddenly, I'm in another world making my way along the cobblestones, looking into art galleries and shops that show and sell paintings and handicrafts, stopping to chat with artists working in their ground floor studios. Oh, I just love this place! It makes me feel as if I should be wearing a hoop skirt and high-button shoes.
However, all good things eventually come to an end, as does the utterly charming Via Margutta, so I grudgingly turn left onto the last intersecting vicolo and return to Piazza di Spagna. Here I take a right onto Via dei Condotti, one of the most affluent streets on the planet. I walk all the way down one side, then come back up the other. The shops are so fabulous--Gucci, Valentino, Bulgari--I just can't resist going into a couple of them, pretending to have a specific purchase in mind. It's okay, they're used to it.
Ready for more coffee now, I go into the oasis of the Antico Caffe Greco. It's right next to Cartier's. I could stand at the bar, but I choose the more expensive option of a table in back. It's so much more interesting. Waiting for my espresso to be brought by one of the waiters in black tie, I browse among inscriptions on the pictures and walls: Goethe, Wagner, Thackeray, Stendhal, Shelley, Listz.... It boggles the mind to imagine those greats having coffee or doing a bit of writing at one of these tiny marble tables.
Well, I had intended to wind up at the Cinema Pasquino in Trastevere to see an English-language movie, but I think I'll wait on that. I am deliciously tired. Doing nothing in particular for a few hours in sunny Rome has given me the exact amount of an Italy fix that I needed. And there's time; I don't have to do everything today. After all, as Scarlet put it so wisely, domani is another day.
My heartfelt thanks to my colleague and dear friend, Michael Brouse, for doing the research for this column and bringing me up-to-date on favorite places of mine that still exist in Rome today and which of them, sadly, exist only when I am remembering Italy.