Not long in Rome – only enough time to eat, drink and do a little exploring.
We went to the Non-Catholic cemetery which is near our beloved Aventino Hill. It’s just behind the Piramide and is a hidden little oasis, despite the fact that it’s a cemetery. It’s built up a hillside and the graves are tightly packed in and each one is a unique garden. It’s an amazing place – lush, quiet, and peaceful. It was developed originally for Protestants, because heaven forbid they were buried in the same cemetery as Catholics. Over time, it was expanded to include any faith. There are even Catholics buried there, but the only way a Catholic can wind up there is if they married a heathen and the heathen died first. Then the Catholic can rest in perpetuity next to them.
Among the notables buried there are John Keats and Percy Shelley. They died in Rome and back in those days you were generally buried where you died. Keats headstone is the featured photo on this post – his name does not appear there at all by his own wishes. He’s buried in a plot with his dear friend, Joseph Severn, and his young son. Severn promised Keats he would be laid to rest beside his son and because of some Catholic edict, the authorities wouldn’t let him be buried in that part of the cemetery. So, Severn, ever true to his promise, had the remains of the child dug up to be moved to the new burial spot. The skeletal remains that were under the child’s headstone were 5’6″ and clearly not those of the child. The whereabouts of the child remain a mystery, but Severn assumed that he must be buried nearby. The headstone marking Keats’ son is mere ornamentation.
Shelley drowned near Rome and was cremated on the beach. For some reason, his heart would not burn, so his friend Leigh Hunt, who witnessed the cremation, claimed the heart and had it sent back to England. Apparently, Mary Shelley kept it wrapped in a silk shawl and carried it around with her for the rest of her life. Frankenstein, indeed.
Our first meal in Rome was just the kind you hope for. At a familiar, comfortable trattoria just down the hill from our hotel with the kind of traditional, straightforward food you want for your first meal. Our waiter was one we had before and we remembered he was from Amatrice, the site of one of the devastating earthquakes last year. He lost an aunt and his childhood home to the quake. I had the pasta Amatriciana in honor of him and his hometown. Steve had the Cacio e Pepe. It was a meal for the ages. Just right for us and just the thing to make us feel at home again. Bella!