Monday, December 25, 2017


Sparkling clear skies and a temperature allowing for nothing more than a light coat persuaded us that the best way to spend our last full day in Rome should be a walk in the Villa Borghese gardens. We put on our best walking shoes and headed up the Via Veneto and through the ancient arches of Rome's Aureiian Walls and into the park and the marble arms of Lord Byron.
What was completely unexpected once we entered the park was how lush and intoxicating the various shades of green were for a time of year where everything in our memory book would be either covered in white snow or laid bare in dirty browns. In Rome, in the gardens of the Villa Borghese huge stretches of green carpeting broken only by the shadows of the umbrella cypress trees that dotted the lawns stretched out before us.
Everything in the park seemed to have a clarity and pristineness as if it had been purified and scrubbed.
Even the water in the fountains seemed so clear and clean we felt as if we could dip our hands in and drink without fear.
It was right near this fountain more than fifteen years ago that our daughter had her one and only meltdown. She was either three or four and her love for animals had already fully developed. When she spotted those ponies and the cart all she wanted to do was jump on and ride like a tiny Cinderella. She went for ride after ride but when the time came to move on she wasn't budging. It was the only time the terrible twos ever manifested itself in a full-blown tantrum. We, of course, repeated the story to her several times as we walked through the park.
The Romans have always been known for their sculptures and statuary which dot their parks and piazzas.
Much of the sculpture around the park was antiquarian and rich in patina with just a touch of the ravages of time softening their features.
Yet there were exceptions with much later pieces highlighting a new era of sculptors.
At the far end of the park there's an irregularly shaped lake with a  temple set on an island in the middle of the lake.
Similar to the boat basin in Central Park you can rent rowboats and paddle around circling the waterfowl that make the lake their home.
The insular temple on the lake's tiny islet houses a statue of Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine and healing. When I first approached the lake and the temple I stood at the edge and snapped this picture. Because the eyes of Asclepius seemed to glow I thought the eyes were either glass or carved out of a lighter marble making them appear to glow. There's a path you can walk that circles around the lake. After completing the circle around the lake
I noticed that the eyes were no longer glowing. That's when I realized I'd been given a small piece of magic from the Roman gods. I had snapped this photo just at the precise and only time that the sun hits the statue of Asclepius illuminating only his eyes. It could have only happened for a few seconds and then it was gone. It gave me chills. I felt honored.
As beautiful and mysterious as the grounds of the park are it is also filled with significant architecture.
Some of it on a small scale and converted into alternative uses like the Casina del Lago that now houses a gracious café.
Other buildings are much grander and contain a collection of museums like the Villa Borghese, now an art museum with a current exhibit of the work of Bernini.
This gazebo called the Tempietto di Diana was a favorite spot for couples to meet. It was a stunning example of the monuments scattered throughout the park.
I don't think we had planned on spending the better part of the day in the park but the day never stopped being perfect.
Even peering through a locked gate into a formal garden was worth the time spent in a garden remarkably free of other wanderers.
As dusk finally approached we headed back to our hotel for a light dinner and to pack for our following day's journey to Armena. We needed a break from shopping and eating and the Villa Borghese Gardens provided the rest and peace perfect for recharging our touring legs as we looked forward to our time in Tuscany. Buon viaggio!

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