I’d never been to Rome. I can’t tell you why, but for some reason I’d just never gotten around to it. I guess the best explanation would be to point out there are lots of places in the world. After a friend expressed her dismay and assured me it was one of the world’s loveliest cities and also of manageable size, I decided to go.
I rarely just go to a city and move on, and this trip was no exception. I decided to work up to the urban experience by first spending a week in a smaller place, I had no idea where, but somewhere easy to get to on arrival at Fumicino. An online search eventually turned up a small house in the village of Capena, north of Rome, owned by an Englishwoman and it was within my modest budget. After some back & forth and a change in my dates, we came to terms and I mailed Juliet an envelope full of pounds and euros left over from my last trip as a deposit and was altogether confident I’d love it.
Casa Marconi, right entrance, tiny bedroom balcony above.
Casa Marconi, from the other direction, left of the center staircase.
I arrived at Fiumicino Airport and got on the train as instructed. There are trains that pass near Capena but no station so I’d been told to get off at the nearest possibility, called Monterotondo-Mentana. Juliet’s friend and property manager, Pucci, was waiting for me, just as she’d said she would be. Pucci was a charming woman who lived not far from my little house, Casa Marconi, and by the time we reached Capena I felt I had a friend.
The place for my morning cappucinno.
The town library.
I spent my days in Capena relaxing and walking, shopping for groceries at the nearby store and from the friendly greengrocer a bit farther on. Every morning, after tea at home, I went for my morning cappuccino in the small cafe in the center of town and by the second morning they smiled when I came in. Mid-week Pucci came by to invite me to her place for dinner. I met several of her friends and admired her beautiful house, the entrance set with her neighbors’ on an ancient cobblestone courtyard, and back windows overlooking the valley of the Fosso di Morlupo in the hilly Lazio countryside.
The entrance to Pucci's house.
I hadn’t planned to go into Rome during that week but unforeseen circumstances dictated a trip in to buy a long-distance train ticket. This time I caught the local bus at a stop near “my” cafe and rode down the hill to a different train line, to a station called Saxa Rubra. From there it was a short ride on the local commuter to Piazzale Flaminio. I bought my train ticket from a travel agency near Termini Station, to be picked up the following week. Afterward, business done, I thought, well, as long as I was there, was that the Colosseum whispering my name? I discovered on my unexpected day trip that my friend was right, Rome was lovely and very manageable on foot. I returned home to Capena that afternoon, glad I’d gone and also glad to be back.
When the day came to leave Capena, I felt I’d spent just the right amount of time there, while also being sorry to leave. Pucci arrived to say goodbye and to invite me to visit her home in Sicily sometime. I was moved by the kindness of the invitation and for her warmth, making me feel welcome from the moment we met. It’s the best that can happen as we move through the world, that feeling that we aren’t strangers, but friends-in-waiting.
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