Well, what a treat. The weather was perfect (25-30 degrees celsius and glorious sunshine) and the cities I visited were less crowded (which, to be fair, are still very busy.) The first stop was Rome and everything I wanted to see was open including Saddlers Union. There were a number of smaller businesses and a few restaurants that were closed, but it did not prove to be a problem.
I took a number of Classics courses in undergrad and after a couple of thwarted attempts to visit Rome, it was amazing to see everything I'd studied. I visited the Coliseum and threw a coin in Trevi Fountain. I also toured The Vatican, which is amazing.
While the major attractions were amazing to see, I always love exploring the road less travelled and was eager to get away from all of the tour groups. (Must people travel wearing sneakers and fanny packs? This is not the Grand Canyon, people. It's ROME!) A highlight was the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj which had the added benefit of being open on Mondays when most other museums are closed. The place was almost empty, which was a surprise because it's amazing. Imagine a gorgeous, still-lived-in palace filled with amazing art by Caravaggio, Titian, and Raphael. It was Downton Abbey, Italian-style. I'm not sure why it's such a secret.
My favourite painting there was Putti Fighting by Guido Renni. One explanation given was that it is meant to depict the battle between elevated love (the winged putti) and lust (the more diabolical looking tots) If you look closely, lust appears to be winning.
Another fun find was Babington's Tea Shop, a cafe that has operated in the Spanish Steps area of Rome since 1893. I try to have tea and scones in every city I visit. Tè freddo seemed appropriate for August. And the toasted current scones? Molto bene!
It might seem odd to spend part of one's Roman holiday in an English literature museum and having tea, but worry not: I ate my weight in gelato as well.
We were staying in the heart of the shopping district, with Prada, Tod's, Bvlgari and Max Mara just around the corner. It was very hard to stick to my austerity plan, but I did so in spite of the fact that I'm still lusting after the jaguar t-strap Beverly pumps from Gucci. The only thing I bought in Rome itself was a little garnet cross at the Vatican. I deserve some sort of medal.
Some of the best shopping in Rome was at Fiumicino airport. Terminal 3 had duty-free Gucci, Ferragamo, Valentino, Bottega Veneta, and Prada. The little angel and devil that perch on my shoulder had their own little version of Putti Fighting as the Gucci shoes continued to call my name. In the end, austerity won and I limited my duty free shopping to one Rockstud hair clip from Valentino, the new YSL Glossy Stain in Grenat Acrylique, and some modena vinegar.