By the time we reached Rome, it was a Friday mid-afternoon, and we prepared for a weekend at the Villa Borghese Sofitel and to continue following the trail of Rome’s Etruscan heritage. It began with a detailed explanation of the Mausoleum of Augustus, that imposing, round cylinder structure reminiscent of a giant tumulus. Werner talked about Augustus‘ special wish with this design of grave to appear through and through Italic as a leader, as a ruler who was close to the people rather than finding himself tempted by exotic luxuries like some of his contenders. We had a walk through the forum Romanum, just for good measure, looking out in particular for the Cloaca Maxima,
Rome’s first great sewage system, the building and engineering of which can be attributed to Etruscan engineers and the Etruscan king Tarquin, one of the legendary kings of Rome in the 6th century B.C..
In the evenings we enjoyed some handpicked restaurants, dining one time between larger-than-life sculpture casts on golden plates and with golden cutlery at the scenic Canova Tadolini, a restaurant set up in the former sculpting studio of Tadolini himself, and spent the next evening in a far more sober setting, delighting in the impeccably high standard, lovingly prepared and original cuisine at Il Desiderio preso per la coda. The Sofitel’s 1950s style roof terrace bar with its spectacular view of Rome rounded off the evening. We were extremely well looked after at the hotel, which has a pleasantly old-fashioned, old-worldly air about it, boasting red and gold, tassel rope window curtains and lightly striped and silky, not overly starchy bedding, and at the same time offers all the modern comforts one expects from a five star hotel.
there and went instead for sidewalk brioche and cappuccinos, then spent our next day in the Capitoline Museums on a trail of early Roman pieces, although it’s fair to say we soon found ourselves dazzled by the amount of thing to see and each drawn into a separate direction.
We ate lunch on the chic roof terrace cafeteria and even caught the last rays of a real Roman wedding, drama, tears and white dress included. Talking about white stuff, a further Roman highlight of our trip was visiting the Ara Pacis (altar of Peace), which Anke and Werner explained to the rest of us in detail, and we were able to admire from inside and out.
The trip ended with an impressive, though not specifically Etruscan-related, visit to Ostia, the ancient harbor city, now on dry land, which is still standing tall despite its time-ravaged state and has many Roman mosaic floors, sculptures, and interior murals to show off. With its remnants of baths, restaurants and general city living fixtures it gave us a nicely palpable feel for living, and not only dying, in the ancient world.