My husband has been teaching himself Italian for 8 years now. The last few years he had a teacher for private lessons, but most of it he’s learned on his own. My Italian vocabulary consists of “Si.” As he walks around practicing phrases, he’ll ask me questions. Since I have no clue what he’s saying, my standard answer is “Si.” That seems to work for both of us.
Finally this year we got to take our long-awaited trip to Italy. It was fabulous. For 10 days, we traveled from Venice to Assisi to Florence to Pompeii to Rome and on down to Sorrento. We stopped for lunch at a winery near Monte Cristo, and had dinner at a farm in Tuscany. Did I mention it was fabulous?
We stayed 3 nights in Rome. The Coliseum was just blocks from our hotel, as was the Roman Forum and remains of the emperor’s palace. We sat on the Spanish Steps, stood in silent awe of the Sistine Chapel (if you weren’t quiet, they yelled “Silencio!” which struck us funny), and threw pennies into Trevi Fountain (or the little bit that had water since it was mainly under scaffolding).
As we toured the Coliseum, my mind constantly went back to one of my favorite series by my favorite author. Getting to stand where her characters stood, walk the streets that her characters traveled, and study drawings of what it all looked like centuries ago made me anxious to reread the series as soon as we got home.
The Mark of the Lion, by Francine Rivers, is a historical series set in Rome and Ephesus. Many of the scenes happen in Circus Maximus (which is now just the oval track in the midst of a park area) and in the Coliseum. While much of current-day Rome bears little resemblance to the books, much of it does.
Ancient Rome is still there. Modern day Rome just developed around it. The Coliseum sits amidst racing traffic. There are modern toilets within the Forum. The Spanish Steps, upon which people rest while talking on cell phones, are surrounded by billboards and fashionable shops. Illegal vendors are everywhere selling cheap trinkets (much to the annoyance of the crowds).
Once we were home, and I’d recovered from jet lag, I jumped back into the world of Hadassah and Marcus, Julia, Atretes, Phoebe and Decimus. I loved the books the first time I read them, but this time they’ve come alive as I can now picture the streets, the monuments and Roman architecture, the river and palaces.
I just might need a field trip to Ephesus soon as I delve into the rest of the series!