This weekend's "Wish" magazine landed in our front garden this morning. The monthly magazine from The Australian newspaper is based this month around the theme of Rome and made for a wonderful morning tea read (never breakfast unfortunately, that is a very rushed time of day for me). Interviews with the head of Tod's, the Ferragamo family, Gucci, several luxury suit and shirt makers such as Brioni, and a guide to beautiful hotels, restaurants and things to do in Rome make for a wonderful read, even if you are not travelling to Italy any time soon.

I have been thinking quite a bit about Rome this week. Almost exactly one year ago, I was there for three days on my whirlwind Italian holiday with Mr AV. With the resignation of Pope Benedict in the papers this week, I had been thinking of our trip to the Vatican. We walked there from our hotel, which was located near the Spanish Steps, and ended up amongst a group of excited Nuns while passing through the metal detectors to go into St Peter's Basilica. We weren't able to go any further than the Piazza however, as it turned out the Pope was making an appearance and saying Mass. Now this would have been completely exciting if we were Catholic, but we aren't. I have to say it was a slightly bizarre sight to see the Popemobil slowly start on its way to the podium with the Pope waving and blessing the over excited crowd, simply because the last person I actually expected to see at the Vatican was the Pope. He passed quite close by us, looked me in the eye and raised his hand to bless me. I have to say I started to get a fit of the giggles at how ridiculous it all seemed. After that, he began Mass, and we left to go through the (quite excellent) Vatican Museum, which was the main purpose of our trip.

The Pope, just after he blessed me
If there is one museum worth visiting in the world, it is the Vatican Museum. It houses an absolutely gob smacking amount of Classical statuary, artefacts from the ancient world, as well as all the Renaissance masterpieces. But one of the best things about it are the galleries that it is housed in. I can't think of another museum with such a beautiful setting - they were designed specifically to complement the items they contained.

Herds of tourists, with only one looking up at that amazing ceiling
That's me with the yellow bag

Rome is such a different city to its northern neighbours, like Florence and Milan. It's quite big for a start, and likes to remind you how ancient it is by sticking a column or a fragment up in a slightly random location every now and again.
The Palm trees and sandstone classical buildings circa 1880 reminded me a little of Adelaide

The Forum

The shopping in Rome was interesting too... it seemed to be either complete luxury (Gucci, Ferragamo, Tods et al), or Zara. There wasn't much in between. And the pride that the Italians take in their appearance was always apparent. I loved looking at the little old men, very carefully groomed and wearing impeccably tailored suits on their Passaggiata (evening walk) at about 5pm. Mr AV and I would sit outside at a bar, order Prosecco for me, and Aperol Spritz for him, eat olives, and ogle the locals. It was fun.

I think that the Italians certainly know how to do menswear well. Mr AV had a lot of fun stocking up on 'essentials' while there. It's the little details - such as the beautiful mother of pearl buttons on his Ferragamo sports jacket, or the way that Italian men will wear their Gucci or Tod's loafers without socks (Mr AV tried his hardest to assimilate with the locals, but after purchasing the sports jacket and a Zegna suit, plus some Ferragamo work shoes, I banned Mr AV from any more purchases, so no Gucci or Tods for him). The women's wear is equally lovely, but I think that you can find wonderful women's wear in Paris, London or New York (or Australia for that matter). Men's wear is neglected elsewhere, aside from Saville Row.... is it because men have traditionally not put that little bit of flash into their appearance in the past compared to the Italian man? Certainly all the metrosexuals are making up for lost time now.

Ferragamo Buttons

We actually didn't do any shopping in Rome, it was more about seeing the sights for me - I studied Classical Studies as a subject, but hadn't been back to Italy since that fateful Eurailing holiday with my mother and sisters aged 10 (they've cleaned it up enormously since then). Sadly, I probably won't be going back any time soon, but we squeezed a lot in, and if you're feeling like a little Roman Holiday yourself, perhaps you will also be sated by reading the Wish magazine this weekend as well..... or maybe you'll be booking your plane tickets.

The doors were open so we snuck in.... private garden in a Roman Palazzo


  1. Breakfast is mayhem for me too...I adored Rome when I went 2.5 years ago...I was a reluctant starter as it was summer and I was quite pregnant yet I was surprised by how much I LOVED it. I couldn't stop laughing when we'd venture out for dinner (had friends who'd given us a list of great places to go) at 9.30pm with 3 children and in my condition and I'd get ogled...we also scored a lot of free gelati! The remnants of history were amazing and the food was fab...didn't see the pope yet had seen the last one years ago in Sydney when he came to the Powerhouse Museum where I was working. Agree about how wonderful the Vatican Museum should be on everyone's list. Rx

    1. I would have been reluctant too if I were pregnant and it were Summer - you were very brave! My husband was not keen to go to Rome strangely. I told him we couldn't go to Italy and not see Rome, it's so vastly different from the North. And Ancient Rome! You can't miss that. He was very glad we went, and felt the same about the Vatican museum and St Peter's Basilica (which we did get into after the Pope had finished Mass), which he thought was just the most amazing Church/ Cathedral he'd ever been in. The might of the Catholic Church was definitely on display there. xx

  2. Ancient Rome is fascinating...our eldest daughter was reading the 'Roman Mysteries' series at the time and we were all horrified by how gory gladiatorial contests really were yet intrigued by how they lived. It really made it all come alive for the children....they are a great read with a firm foundation in historical research and worth bearing in mind when yours are ready. From Rome we went to Naples.....what can I say except that it was like journeying through a portal onto another planet, a cross between Italy and India.....yet we just had to see Pompeii with our own eyes. Rx

    1. Thanks for the tip on the series... will definitely look them up. I'm currently reading The Odyssey to my 7 year old (a child's version.... slightly simplified (less sex and gore) and with great illustrations) and he is loving it. I'm reading it to him v's him reading it alone as I thought it better to be able to explain parts to him if he didn't understand.... but haven't really had to as it's been well designed for a younger reader. I've never been that far South, and would love to go to Pompeii and Naples. You were probably actually there when the Melbourne Museum staged a big Pompeii blockbuster 3 years ago. We took the then 4 and 2 year olds along, and got a lot of questions. xx

  3. It's funny - I have been thinking about Rome a lot lately - even before the pope resigned.

    I was there last October with one of my best friends who was visiting from OZ and as she was only in Europe a month and it was her first time, Rome was on the itinerary.

    I had been several times before but I had never been to the Vatican museum due to the queues. I loathe queues.

    Next time you go, I highly recommend you go on a private tour to the museum. No queues and no people! And it isn't as dear as people think it may be. There were only about 50 people in the sistine chapel when we were there as the tours are outside opening hours,if you get lucky and grouped with another tour who happen to be VIP's like we did - they turn on the lights!

    Plus you get to walk around like you are a character in the Borgias -we were enacting Lucrezia going to see one of her boyfriends. Silly I know! Plus they take you to areas that are not normally on the route - we went to see the private chapel that the pope sometimes uses which is just off those main reception rooms when dignitaries arrive.

    I regret not having done a semester or year in Rome. Lucky you for having done classics - for me it was just an overload of beauty but I couldn't really see the wood from the trees. But it was still amazing - I was thinking I must go for at least two days every year from now on.

    But yes men do get carried away shopping there don't they? And all the men look like they are straight off the Sartorialist! Really lovely post x

    1. You're lucky it's so close to you now and you can pop over for a weekend. Will definitely do a private tour next time. Fortunately it wasn't too bad.... all the tourists were being entertained by the main act outside St Peter's Basilica, so we didn't have it too bad. I did get one of those head phone tour thingys where you punch in the number of what you're interested in and it tells you all about it, which was great. I'll definitely do that more often - have always shunned it in the past. As for my husband, he did No Research before the trip, and relied completely on my Renaissance Art and Classics Studies. Unfortunately I was quite rusty as it was so long ago, and he'd become frustrated if I didn't recall something immediately. Nothing like feeling under pressure tour guide style when on holiday! xx

  4. Old Mr FF puts flash into everything but then again I spose he is Italian. Or at least his parents were.

    I'm sick to death of people not making an effort with their appearance. So selfish for the rest of us.

    Meanwhile some one in my office nicked the magazine out of my paper!! Naughty.

    1. It's a genetic thing I think. The Italian (descended) boys at my old Uni who studied Architecture with me were all absolute geniuses. Design was completely innate and part of their DNA. Mr FF will be the same, I'm sure, despite the Law thing. Agree re lack of effort. Drives me up the wall when you spend good money going out and no one else has made an effort to give you good people watching.
      As for the office.... you need to set up a witch hunt for your magazine, Salem style. xx

  5. I really love Rome, I never understand the blogospheres obsession with Paris, I think Rome is far more beautiful, interesting and passionate. I really fell in love with it the first time I went on my own at 23. I did however have my 40th there which was awful - long story!

    1. Oh dear about the 40th.... would love to know why it was so awful though, as mine is fast approaching. Agree with the Paris bloggers obsession, although I wouldn't say no to a trip there, I've really not spent enough time in any European city to feel that I know it well. xx

  6. I always think it's so weird/funny/peculiar to see so many people so excited over a religious leader.:) But anyway, Rome... It's a gorgeous city!! Great photos, honey.;)

    1. It was quite interesting to watch, quite detached, at the level of fervent excitement over the Pope's arrival. But then, I don't really understand it, as I've never personally held that level of belief. xx

  7. I've only recently been following your blog Heidi so didn't realise that you'd done a special trip - sans children I assume? It sounds like it was wonderful. I haven't been to Italy for a few years but would love to go back. Great for a romantic, children free trip!

  8. Hi Charlotte, the blog wasn't around when we did the trip, but yes, we went on an 11 day holiday, first child free holiday in 7 years - London (conference for my husband) for 3 days, 2 days Venice, 3 days Florence and 3 days in Rome. Pure Bliss! I joked to my friends that I was excited just to go on the plane ride and be uninterrupted by children for 24 hours and have someone else bring me food. xx

  9. After reading many of your comments and of course noticing Dovima and the elephants I thought it's about time I checked your blog Heidi , Im really glad I did

    I agree absolutely Rome is tops. I was there in winter about 10 years ago and unfortunately missed the Vatican museum which closed early in the day. I think that is par for the course in Winter in Rome , ie museums and galleries closing early in the afternoon

    Had a great night out in the suburbs of Rome as well,women in furs and lipliner you could see at ten paces, and the Trevi fountain at 3 in the morning just me and Roman policemen and women enjoying the sights. The policewomen looked like Anita Eckberg in La Dolce Vita

    1. I love visiting cities in Europe in the Winter - much better from the tourist perspective with a lack of crowds. It's a shame you missed the museum though.... definitely put it on your list for your next visit. As for Dovima, I chose that image because it's uncannily looks just like me. No really! Some days I do feel that I am holding back herds of elephants, at least that's what my children seem like from time to timexx

    2. Dear Heidi

      I adore Paris. But also love to visit Rome. Remember going for the first time to the Sistine Chapel in December 1973 well before the ceiling was cleaned. No queues, no crowds. There was almost no-one there and it was terribly cold. We spent so long gazing up, my neck was cricked for days. So much to see, so many different Romes. Vatican Museum wonderful, and so many surprising things you can discover by chance, like beautiful vestments Matisse designed for his beautiful chapel in Vence.

      We also love the passagiata around the Piazza di Spagna and the Via Condotti area. So many fascinating little streets. Very close to where we always stay in a tiny private hotel just near the top of the Steps. Agree, the old men are wonderful, so beautifully dressed, so smartly casual. I admired them so much, husband became interested and ever since always puts much thought into dressing, even to go out for lunch somewhere casual on weekends - or even just shopping. Not Zegna suits or Ferragamo though, rather outside our price range. He also knows it's never acceptable to go out in a tracksuit or shorts, only good for sports or walking the dog. Pity more Aussie men don't understand.

      Italian policewomen are something else aren't they! Almost every one we've ever seen, whether in Rome, Florence or Milan or elsewhere was of tiny build with tightly cinched in waist, long bleached blond hair (usually waved or bed hair) under a cap, heavy dark eyemake-up and a tanned thin face you could crack nuts on. They always seemed too busy flirting with their male colleagues to be of much help if you might have needed it.

      Next time in the South try staying in Sorrento. Unfortunately it seems to be rather a destination for lower end English tourists at times - we even saw chip butties in a coffee shop, but it's a great jumping off place for visits to iconic destinations like Pompeii, Herculaneum, Capri, Amalfi, Positano etc. There's also a great Foreigners' Club that you can just walk into, with an enormous terrace on the edge of the cliff with views looking across the enormous expanse of water to Naples. So, incredible views, good food, drinks, reasonable prices, friendly staff. They used to do the most wonderful mushroom risotto!
      From Sorrento you can catch the little train to Pompeii and Ercolano (Naples too) and the ferries from the port to Capri (not to be missed! - so beautiful), Amalfi (wonderful church - and from there take the little bus up to Ravello,quite breath taking) and Positano. I just wouldn't drive there unless you're very confident, some of the roads are steeply scary, particulary the road to Ravello. But as much as I love this part of Italy, I love Sicily even more. When you can, when the children are much older, Sicily is a wonderland, a melting pot of so many civilisations and cultures - you'd love all the different styles of architecture. Lampedusa's "The Leopard" is one of my favourite books - and the movie was great too. Best wishes, Pamela

    3. You have been to so many places Pamela - I love reading about your travel (and the tips, which I will store away for when I am next able to go over). When I visited Rome with my mother, we saw the Sistine Chapel half renovated - one side under scaffolding looking so incredibly dark compared to the cleaned up section, so much brighter. It was interesting to see it completely renewed - the colours are so vivid. How wonderful that your husband took inspiration from the Italian men and has upped the ante with his wardrobe. As for the Zegna suit, I was assured it was "so cheap" compared to the Australian prices. I have no idea if it was, but ironically it has been a disappointment to Mr AV, the stitching on the pockets went very quickly, so things would drop through, and I have spent a lot of time snipping off loose threads for him. Zegna Australia have repaired it, but it wasn't good to have it happen at all! xx


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