My first yearnings for Rome began when I was sixteen. I became closely associated with an Italian family from Reggio Calabria. I was drawn to their natural warmth of manner and admired their stoic qualities and most of all their strong family feeling. Migrating to Australia would not have been easy. They encountered language difficulties and often racial discrimination. I listened to their stories about life in their village and the beauty of the mountains and sea, and I drank in the music and emotion of their Italian language. I bought Italian records, watched Italian movies and even studied the language. You could say I was devoted to the Italian culture by the time I saw the romantic film, “Three Coins in the Fountain,” and the theme song became a hit. I made up my mind that one day I would go to Rome.
As the taxi sped along the motorway from Rome’s Fiumicino airport my heart sank as we passed miles of modern housing development flats and industry. It wasn’t until we were approaching the city itself that I became absolutely enthralled by the sight of a great, ancient, Roman wall. I had never seen anything so massive.
I gripped the seat while the taxi driver forged on among a mass of mopeds and small cars all vying for position on the congested road. The sight of immense monumental buildings transfixed my gaze and helped to take my mind off the impending danger of the traffic.
The taxi pulled into a lane way to park and the driver pointed to the hotel around the corner. Heaving heavy cases, my friend and I negotiated the pedestrian crossing through a maze of people to find the hotel entrance was off the street, down a passageway, then up an elevator to the third floor. The manager greeted us half heartedly. He was obviously irritated because our presence was interrupting his viewing of the soccer on the television. Ungraciously, he gave directions to where we would find our suite.
Tired, after early morning flights from a Greek Island I had been loathe to leave, my first impression of Rome was disappointing. Faced with the greyness of old buildings, roaring traffic and a hotel room that was dim and poky after the luxury of our island accommodation my spirits were low. But after a short rest we ventured out, determined not to waste a moment of time as there was much to see. We headed for a highly decorated church building across the