The search is still on…but nearly over. Our vision for the fixed-up manse is all but a thing of the past considering the new water damage in three walls. If the fixing the windows and painting was such a challenge, it seems unlikely that a quick wall repair will happen in time for us to move, by Feb. 1. So…
Apartment A: Marimekko. Located up by what seems to be Rome’s most celebrated (and gorgeous) park, Villa Borghese, this 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom, 2-balcony flat is the new front-runner. The rooms are all large with high ceilings and lots of light. It’s in excellent condition, much loved by the owners who lived here for 25 years themselves; I only wish their decorating choices didn’t make this history so obvious. The living room and dining room are combined and just off that, they’ve built a library with walls of bookshelves that Paul and I love. There’s even a fireplace. While the balconies aren’t wide enough for dining tables, a few chairs and bistro tables would do nicely. The only downsides are a difficult commute for Paul (Vespa anyone?) and…the kooky tiles.
Fundamentals: Less expensive, more sturdy, unfurnished, two year lease.
Apartment B: Pantheon. Extremely cute, nestled right in the historical center of Rome in between the Pantheon and Via Del Corso. This 3-bedroom, 1 1/2 bathroom flat has two large terraces (square shaped) that would be wonderful to spend time on with Carter and baby or eating dinner with friends. The owner is an artist, who’s filled the space with lots of special touches. The open kitchen is appealing and the extra room with the beamed ceilings would be a neat office for me. On the downside, it’s much more lived in (read: could use a nice paint job), only one full bathroom, there are no parks nearby and the whole area will be mobbed by tourists…very soon.
Fundamentals: More expensive, more charming, fully furnished, one year lease.
No, it’s not a mistake that “White Christmas” keeps playing on the radio; today is a bonus holiday in Italy. It’s the Feast of the Epiphany, celebrating the three wise men’s visit to baby Jesus–plus a feisty witch sidekick.
Shops are closed. Many people are off work, people who don’t work for the UN.
Anyway, it’s the last of the Christmas holidays, described by In Italy Online:
The period between mid-December and early January was one constant celebration even in pagan Rome. It began with the Saturnalia, a winter solstice festival, and ended with the Roman New Year, the Calends. After Emperor Constantine adopted Christianity, instead of ending the holiday at the New Year, the celebration extended to January 6 when the Three Kings were believed to have reached the infant Jesus, and so the Romans, too, began to exchange presents on the Epiphany.
Children in Italy believe in a female version of Santa Claus called La Befana, an old woman who flies on a broom and brings presents. According to Italian legend, Three Wise Men asked La Befana for directions to Bethlehem. La Befana was asked to join them but declined three times. It took an unusually bright light and a band of angels to convince La Befana that she must join the Wise Men, but she was too late. She never found the Christ child and has been searching ever since. On January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, La Befana goes out on her broom to drop off stockings filled with treats to all the sleeping children of Italy. Just as children in America leave milk and cookies for jolly Santa Claus, La Befana collects messages and refreshments throughout the night.
When you’re in the urbs aeterna (Eternal City), you’ll see these four letters everywhere. And if you paid attention in high school Latin class, you already know that SPQR stands for SENATUS POPULUSQUE ROMANUS, which means “the Senate and People of Rome.” The city government has long attached this abbreviation to any kind of municipal property or municipally approved works, including monuments, lampposts, sewer lids, garbage cans, taxis — even Russell Crowe’s shoulder in Gladiator. Lovers of Italian can have all kinds of fun traipsing around Rome, tracking down inscriptions and translating them, whether carved into triumphal arches or printed on banners at the soccer stadium (UBI MAIOR MINOR CESSAT).
— From Frommer’s Irreverent Guide to Rome (photos by CCM)