Greetings from a very chilly South of France. While many parts of the north are under flurries of snow, we still have a few rays of sun that are keeping me company this morning. And even though I'm currently huddled over a cafe latté and wrapped to my eyeballs in a big woolly scarf, the sunshine feels like a nice "welcome back" to France after my five days in Italy.
And what a glorious five days they were - eating, drinking, strolling, and, most importantly, catching up with old friends. Not to mention a certain someone special made me a blueberry pancake breakfast, complete with maple syrup and a side of bacon. Um, I'd get on a plane just for that. Heartwarming.
And while Jennifer and I spent a lot of time visiting our old Roman "haunts" (basically trattoria, enoteca, and general gastro-hopping), we also spent some time doing as the Romans do: strolling through the city...also known in Italian as the passeggiata.
We were met with some cool temperatures, and we had a sprinkling of rain now & again, but Rome never seems to disappoint the traveler, and this visit was no exception. As we found ourselves winding through the tiny streets that connect the Pantheon to Piazza Navona, it was hard not to stop and marvel at the fountains, obelisks, and churches that make this corner of the city so stunning.
Piazza Navona itself had been converted into a lively Christmas market - full of sweet treats for Italian bambini, and more traditional fare like Christmas baubles, lights, & stalls stacked high with brightly colored toys.
Yet, like most Italian Christmas markets, the star attraction at Piazza Navona was arguably the presepe, or Nativity scene. If you're familiar with Italian Christmas traditions, you're likely to know that Italians aren't big on elaborate decorations, but they do spend considerable thought on the design & construction of their Nativity scenes. Apart from the religious figures themselves, there are an abundance of accessories to turn any presepe into a work of art.
I'm still gathering ideas for the Provençal equivalent, the crèche, but I did have to stop myself from loading my suitcase with tiny sheep, cows, jugs, barrels, and mangers to haul back home.
We were also happy to discover more traditional gifts for everyday Italiophile. It may be a bit colorful, but there's no mistaking your love for Italy if you happen to come home with the bottle shaped like a boot. Well, on second thought, I guess I should have bought two.
The Piazza Navona Christmas market runs from November 26th until January 6th, 2011.