JACKIE: We want to Talk about RailEurope and Rome … and being home, ready for Trick or Treat time.
DAVID: For my journey through Italy, I chose to go my whole way by Rail. Simple, convenient, economical, safe, relaxing, and molto comfortable, thanks to the terrific Eurail Pass from RailEurope.com and their outstanding Public Relations guru, Samina Sabir. It’s like having your own magic carpet. I heartily recommend it. My Eurail Pass eased me into my first journey from Milan’s Central Station to Rome’s Termini in just under three hours. Then, into the heart of this great city, up the famous Via Veneto to the tip of the Borghese Gardens to the Splendide Royal Roma, part of the Roberto Naldi Collection of great hotels.
JACKIE: Scusi! This is the sister hotel to Lugano’s (our favorite, classic, heavenly located) Splendide Royal where lucky David’s working holiday will end.
Rome’s Splendide Royal
DAVID: After a full year of re-structuring a 19th century palace which was the headquarters of Rome’s Maronite community, my home away was now a 5-star hotel which easily lived up to its rating. By the way, the Maronites are part of an Eastern Catholic church founded in the 4th century. And, of course, with the Vatican a short ride from my hotel, to the Maronites there’s no place like Rome. (Scusi for the pun!) Rome’s Splendide Royal echoes the exuberance and grandeur of the Baroque Period that swept over most of Europe in the 1600s and is still evident throughout the city. The hotel’s furnishings from elegant seating to brocaded wall panels to marble floors to the glorious Murano glass chandelier in the main hall express the drama of the Baroque. By the way, that chandelier co-starred in Luchino Visconti’s ballroom scene for his thrilling film The Leopard (also starring my late friend Burt Lancaster).
JACKIE: FYI. Burt starred in a miniseries David produced about the highjacking of the Achille Lauro, Voyage of Terror.
DAVID: Much of my three days was spent renewing my friendship with the Rome where I lived and worked for almost a year in the ‘80s. I must have walked fifty miles from the Splendide Royal into the Borghese Gardens with its splendid museums to Piazza del Popolo with its Egyptian obelisk in the center then along Via del Babuino to the lively Spanish Steps, down Via Condotti with dozens of luxury shops, down to Piazza Navona with its magnificent fountains. I walked across to the Pantheon with its remarkable Rotonda and then stood looking down at the Tiber River and went along the endless road passing the Vittorio Emanuele II monument (nicknamed “the wedding cake”), the Roman Forum to the Coliseum (Google all of this, including the hotel, it’s remarkable). On the way back to my hotel, I had to stop at the Trevi Fountain.
JACKIE: Hope you threw a coin in for me to assure my return to Rome! I’ll never forget magically meeting Tina and Tom DeBone at that Romantic Fountain.
DAVID: You bet I did. I saved the Vatican and other sites for other days. But I had staked out my last night’s dinner at the Splendide Royal’s elegant Mirabelle Restaurant under the stewardship of Bruno Borghesi. This was my “dress up time” in one of Rome’s finest eateries with its softly lit furnishings, gorgeous fresh flowers, sparkling crystal, and antique porcelains. All a perfect setting for the excellent dinner prepared by Executive Chef Stefano Marzetti. Maitre d’ Mauro Porcacchia greeted me and led me to a table outside on the long open terrace where Rome at night in all its glory stretched before me.
A 2009 Muffo helped me devour a golf ball sized scallop with white truffles which was followed by ravioli stuffed with cod fish and surrounded by more white truffles. Last course was a melt-in-my-mouth medallion of veal on a lake of potato puree and (you guessed it) white truffles. A Tuscan Belnero ’09 was my wine of choice. And finally an assortment of intensely flavored sorbetti — strawberry, lemon, and passion fruit (who needs truffles!) A regal meal, in a former palace. It made me feel like a King.
JACKIE: My, my. King David. Home and serfdom awaits.