When in Rome

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.

DSC03686Finally 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 serieA voice in the Wind1s 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.

DSC03803Ancient 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!

16 thoughts on “When in Rome”

  1. Oooh — now that’s the way to bring a story to life! Wouldn’t it be neat to vacation in all the places we read about? What an awesome trip you took — and kudos for your husband for learning Italian. I’m impressed!!!!!

    Dare I confess to the fact that I haven’t read any Francine Rivers yet? I know…shocking. I’ll have to remedy that soon.

    1. Kav, you haven’t read Francine Rivers??? Well, you better march right down to your bookstore or library & pick up the Mark of the Lion series and The Atonement Child and Redeeming Love and … Well, you get the idea. You’ll be hooked. IMO, her older works are the best.

      1. Yes ma’am. I have put a hold on A Voice in the Wind at my library. I didn’t mean to scandalize y’all. 🙂 It’s just hard to stay current without catching up on all I missed before I started reading Christian fiction. But that’s been one of my goals this summer, reading books I missed the first time round.

    2. Kav, I would express shock and dismay that you haven’t read any of Francine’s books except that everyone else beat me to it!! Glad you’ve got at least the first one on hold at the library. Hope you love it as much as we do.

  2. First…what an exciting trip!

    Second, I’ve never read Francine Rivers. I have one of her books and people urge me to read her all of the time. I just don’t know what stops me. After reading your blog post, I’ve decided I’m going to make it one of my personal goals next year. Read at least one Francine Rivers novel.

  3. Ooh, Stacy. What a wonderful sounding trip! I read of Francine River’s novels but I don’t remember which one-it’s been a while. This one really does sound good. Thanks for the story. I can just picture it all.

    1. It’s been so neat being able to picture the narrow streets, the buildings, and the countryside, Shari. It really does change the reading experience.

  4. Oh, one of my favorite books of all time!!! Love the Mark of the Lion series, especially the first, A Voice in the Wind. I’m thinking it’s time for the umpteenth read of it. And how cool that you got to visit sites from the book! I’m even more jealous than I was before. 😉

    For those of you who haven’t read a Francine Rivers novel, I recommend her earlier CBA works like Redeeming Love, Atonement Child, & Mark of the Lion series. She was at her best when writing those.

  5. Did I say somewhere that you and I had the same tastes in books, Kav? Guess not, if you haven’t read any of Francine’s novels yet. I liked the Mark of the Lion series the best, and have read it numerous times!

    1. Yikes, I’m feeling soooo guilty now. What kind of Christian fiction advocate am I? LOL Marianne, I think we’re still kindred reading spirits — I just haven’t caught up with yet. 🙂

  6. Oh my! How fun. And you got to have your very own translator!! It’s always amazing to go somewhere that a book you read was set at. I’m sure you were in Italian heaven!

    1. I forgot to mention that in the post, Dawn. He did GREAT with his Italian. He chatted up the cabbies and our tour guide, the shop keepers, people on the street. It was such fun to see him actually speaking Italian to Italians (rather than me).

      The funniest story was what happened on the final morning. We were up at 3:30, getting ready to leave the hotel at 4:30am for the drive back to Naples and the start of our flights home. Our tour guide, Nicoletta, was up with us (to make sure we all got on the bus!), and when we came down to the lobby, Mike greeted her with what he thought was good morning. She nodded and smiled. He then said, “I just said good pencil, didn’t I?” She laughed and said yes, but the difference was only 1 letter so he ALMOST had it right. We greeted each other the rest of the day with “Good pencil to you!”

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