Thanksgiving in Rome

Holidays can be a hard time to be away from home; away from familiar routines, away from familiar foods, away from friends and most of all away from family.  Our prior life of Jim working nights, weekends and holidays makes the transition to the expat holidays much easier as we have never had a set routine for any holidays as they have varied a lot over 40 years of that lifestyle.  In addition our extended family has been spread across the country for many years and it is the rare occasion for them all to be together for any event.  We have also encouraged our offspring to establish their own family traditions and we would just fit in whenever able and where it was comfortable.  This year in Rome our plan was to spend Thanksgiving with our expat good friends and ex-neighbors Henry and Andrew.  In addition two of our good friends from Boston Rebecca Yang and Adam Caper had decided to join us in Rome as Thanksgiving day was Adam’s birthday this year.  Unfortunately Andrew had to return to Boston to take care of some pressing business so he was unable to join us.  Henry arrived in Rome on Monday November 19 and Adam arrived the next day.  Rebecca worked on Wednesday and arrived at 7am on Thanksgiving morning.  After Dick’s (aka Henry) arrival on Monday we had lunch and then walked to the nearby Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore which we have all visited but we were interested in a tour that they advertised.  The tour took us upstairs over the entrance and into one additional room with a Spanish tour guide who had a warped sense of humor.  The tour did not live up to our expectations and we would not recommend it.

Piazza di Santa Maria Maggiore from the upper level of the Basilica.
We saw Papal vestments
and stairs that the priests use going to and from their living quarters.
The Borghese Chapel in the Basilica.

Adam arrived early Tuesday morning and while he slept we went walking with Dick, heading out with no clear agenda in mind.

We came across this burned out Smart car at the end of our street.

As we were headed to Capitoline Hill we passed a museum with a Warhol and Pollock exhibit and decided to go in and view it.  Jim was initially somewhat reticent as we had visited the Warhol museum in Andy Warhol’s hometown of Pittsburgh on our road trip in March of 2017 but after touring the exhibit even Jim was delighted as it was honoring the 90th year of his birth and was an excellent summarization of the life of an artist who has changed the ways of seeing not only art but also music, fashion and cinema.


Jim caught Sandy’s look of amazement as she enters this multi-media exhibit.
Dick in the same exhibit as above.
Dick and Jim enjoying an exhibit on the ceiling.

The Jackson Pollock exhibit was also very well done and we enjoyed it even though we are not into modern art.

After the museum we headed up these stairs towards Capitoline Hill.

As we came to the top of the stairs we noticed some police activity and a red carpet laid out in the street and decided to wait and watch.  From what we have pieced together later we saw the Mayor of Rome welcoming Qatar’s 38 year old Emir who is the most powerful person in Qatar.  His name is Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani.

The 40 year old Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi.  She is the first woman Mayor of this city.


From the top of Capitoline Hill we walked down to street level and then back up these 124 steps.

We had all wanted to visit the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara coeli al Campidoglio which interprets to Basilica of St. Mary of the Altar of Heaven on Capitoline Hill but we had never made it up the stairs until now.  This Basilica has a very plain facade as it was never finished.

The interior of the Basilica with Roman columns which are all different as they were taken from diverse antique monuments.

After our visit to this unremarkable Basilica we walked to the Jewish Ghetto and had lunch and waited out a fairly severe thunderstorm before taking a taxi home.

Our first meal with Adam at La Matriciana which has become our favorite restaurant nearby.

Adam’s first full day with us was Wednesday and we visited Castel Sant’Angelo where we traveled back to 125 AD discovering this astonishing Papal Palace and mausoleum of Emperor Hadrian.  This is a towering cylindrical building that was built as a tomb, not a castle.  In 139 AD it held the ashes of Hadrian and subsequent Roman Emperors until becoming a fortress in 401.  In the 14th century a fortified corridor between the castle and St. Peter’s Basilica was built and the building became a Papal Residence.  During our tour we met a newly married couple from Brazil who had already had an audience with the Pope and as we arrived at the top we witnessed a proposal and acceptance of an engagement ring by a young Polish couple.  It was very special to have interacted in these young peoples lives at a momentous and unforgettable time.

Beautiful weather for a two mile walk.
The Supreme Court building which is close to the castle.  We showed the other side of the building in our blog about the 10K in Rome.
Castel Sant’Angelo.
Italian pines and St. Peter’s Basilica.  The fortified corridor is visible on the far right.
Bridge in the foreground is Ponte Vittorio Emanuele II leading into Vatican City.
Beautiful spot to have coffee but we didn’t, only posed for the picture.
This is the couple from Brazil.
Will you?????
YES I WILL!!!!!!!
Extravagant Papal quarters in the castle.
We had to exit through a museum display which we felt was just a little too much as the building itself had been great.

On the walk home Jim, Sandy and Dick took a detour to visit San Pietro in Vincoli (St. Peter in chains) which is home to Michelangelo’s dramatic Moses and also the chains which bound St. Peter while he was a prisoner in Jerusalem and another set which bound him in Rome.  According to legend the two sets of chains miraculously bound together when they were laid side by side.

The chains are housed in a reliquary just beneath the main altar.
Moses would be much more dramatic if one could get close to him.

Rebecca arrived on Thanksgiving morning and slept for a few hours while we and Dick walked to Trastevere for coffee and a visit to the Botanical Gardens.

The entrance to the gardens is serene and quite pretty.
Two beautiful friends.  Rebecca and Adam met us here.
Most of the gardens seemed bland and uncared for.

The gardens were really unimpressive and quite small given the other beautiful Botanical Gardens that we have visited.  It is probably at its worst in December though.  The gardens are situated at the base of Janiculum (Gianicolo in Italian) which was our next destination involving a steep hike to the top of Rome’s second highest hill but not one of the seven original hills as it lies west of the Tiber and is outside of the original old city.  We were rewarded with beautiful views of Rome’s domes and bell towers and also a beautiful fountain and villas that house ambassador’s, Embassies, Academies and Universities..

Walking Rome can be a stress test for ones heart.


A surprise fountain, Il Fontanone, which faces the view above.
We had a light lunch in this very quiet but cute square.


We taxied home to freshen up for our Thanksgiving dinner together at Brunello Restaurant in the Regina Baglioni Hotel.  We had done a lot of online and in restaurant research on where to have a traditional Thanksgiving meal in Rome and this was the best that we came up with in central Rome.  They served a fixed price, fixed menu catering to American Thanksgiving complete with US flags on all the tables.  Cocktails and appetizers were great but the main course and deserts were quite disappointing, no one finished either course.  The evening was still quite memorable just to be able to share Thanksgiving in Rome with our very dear friends although Andrew was sorely missed.  The day after Thanksgiving we walked to Aventine Hill with Dick to explore Piazza Malta which abuts the grounds of the Sovereign  Military Order of Malta.

A nice quiet park on Aventine Hill with views of Rome and the Tiber river.

There is a keyhole through their gate through which one can view St. Peter’s Basilica.  While standing in Italy, looking through the sovereign territory of the Knights of Malta across Italy and into Vatican City you are seeing three separate countries through the one keyhole.  We were able to see St. Peters but we were also looking through a tall step ladder which was partially obstructing our view.

People line up to look through the key hole.
This is the view through the keyhole which we took after booking a tour inside.  St. Peter’s Basilica does not show up because of the contrasting light but it is there at the end of the tunnel.

Dick suggested that we visit the Non-Catholic Cemetery for Visitors in Rome as he had been there and found it quite interesting.  It is on the other side of Aventine Hill in the Testaccio district which we had not been to.  The cemetery did prove quite interesting as we spent at least one hour there before going in search of lunch.

Burial site of Percy Bysshe Shelley.
This is the tomb of a Roman Magistrate from 18 BC.  They built it into the city walls to preserve it.
Angel of Grief by William Wetmore Story for his wife.  He was a Harvard lawyer who wrote three law books and gave up law at 29 and became a famous sculptor.

Rebecca and Adam took us out to a very fancy dinner at Imago in the Hassler Hotel at the top of the Spanish steps to celebrate Adam’s birthday without Thanksgiving competition.  We had a great view, great food and great company.  Thank you Adam and Rebecca.

That is Rome laid out behind us, not a picture.

Our last big adventure of the week was to attend a rugby game at the Olympic stadium which had been suggested by our friends Sue & Helen from New Zealand as Italy was playing against the best team in the world at the present time, the New Zealand All Blacks.  The game was a rout as Italy was only able to score three points and New Zealand was able to score at will.

Entering the stadium, we were too late to see the All Blacks do their famous Haka.


We were way overdressed, it was much milder than expected and the rain held off.

IMG_0062IMG_4577We walked the three miles home stopping for drinks at The Stravinskij Bar in the Russian Hotel and then going for dinner.

This was a great bar with a huge amount of bar food provided “free” with our €23 drinks.

Rebecca and Dick both left on Sunday and Adam stayed until Tuesday.

Goodby again Dick.

On Sunday we went to see the movie Widows with Adam and Monday morning we met him at St. Peter’s Basilica and climbed to the top of the dome.

We climbed up to the cupola.


7 responses to “Thanksgiving in Rome”

  1. […] Yang and Adam Caper have visited us before in Paris, Rome, San Miguel de Allende and now in New Orleans. They usually visit over Thanksgiving as that is […]

  2. […] ago and now works in New Jersey.  Rebecca and her husband Adam Caper have visited us in Paris and Rome.  We met up with Rebecca at our apartment and had a good authentic Mexican meal at Cafe Frida only […]

  3. […] travel saga they have visited us in Paris, Tel Aviv, London,(twice) Prague, Stockholm, Venice, Rome and now México City.  They arrived late Wednesday evening after a 12 hour non-stop flight from […]

  4. Thank you so much creating this wonderful memory blog of our wonderful Thanksgiving visit!..


    1. It was our pleasure both having you here and creating the blog.
      J & S

  5. Claude E Steen, III Avatar
    Claude E Steen, III

    Although I don’t say much about it, I read each of your blogs and enjoy the photos. You two are indeed “living the retirement dream” and I get to do it vicariously with your excellent reporting!
    Remembering that you are expected to arrive back in Boston on 12/20 and we’ll not be far from you. We plan to drive from Timberlake, NC to NYC on the 18th, spend a couple days with Peter & Kurt, then drive with them to New Hampshire on the 21st, to fulfill a life-long wish of Donna’s to ride in a horse-drawn sleigh. We return to NYC on Christmas Eve, and might be able to rendezvous with you either coming or going. We’d love to see you again if we can work it out. Peter has to be back to work on the 26th, so we’ll probably head back south that day.

  6. Great weekend! I’m glad you were able to get together for Thanksgiving even though the meal wasn’t great. Love the USA details!

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