Roman Holiday - part 2

Day one is always the hardest – 20 strangers, hung-over from the night before and all trying to bond - or not. Already factions were forming. I was there to enjoy myself, not take sides.

Jane was sharing her room with Jennifer – an academic with a friendly soul. The three of us just went with the flow.

Elsa was on a strict timetable. She’d stepped into the breach at the last minute – the usual guide had been taken ill. However, as an English and Italian speaking French woman, she was well-travelled and used to dealing with descent in the ranks. A retired teacher, she was ably assisted by her husband – a retired headmaster.

The kids were gonna be alright.

We marched off (we were Ramblers, after all) towards the Piazza del Popolo – the People’s Square. A beautiful space, similar to Trafalgar Square, but it had apparently been used for the people’s executions. Climbing up high we were rewarded with spectacular views, even spotting the Vatican.

Onwards and we were soon on the top rung of the Spanish Steps. A break here for lunch and then it was off to the Pantheon.

Jane was a schoolteacher and my concerns that she might want to study and read all the information boards soon faded away. Her studying was in the past. But Jennifer was there to learn all she could and we soon left her to her own, independently minded, devices. Now and then she would catch us up, more often than not it was to say she was off somewhere else.

Elsa was happy to let the feisty ones venture off – just so long as she knew.

Marie joined us – remember her from the U3A Italian lessons that morphed into dancing? A veteran Rambler and a fellow solo traveller, we all seemed to gel into an easy-going bunch – leaving the moaners to march along in silence.

After a stint at the wondrous Trevi Fountain we finished the day with a visit to a gallery – home to some of Italy’s finest sculpture and paintings. The Galleria Borghese is a stunning building, set in its own grounds. Art’s not my thing but even I could appreciate what was on offer – and since my return several of the pieces have appeared on Crime Watch – sorry, I meant documentaries about Roman art.

Marie came into her own there. She sensed Jane and I had glazed over hours earlier and read bits and pieces from her book. We all had books, of course. Mine has lovely pictures and the text is interesting, I’m sure.

Tomorrow? Tomorrow was just a bottle of wine away.