For reasonsthat would be of little interest to anyone except our creditors, Elizabeth andI began our French-Italian vacation on a baggage-class British Airways nightflight that required a stopover in London on the way to Rome. Early the nextmorning we found ourselves at Gatwick, one of the world's less prepossessingairports, wanting breakfast and not liking the looks of the terminal coffeeshop. When you have a few hours between flights, as we did, the redeeming featureof Gatwick is that the city is very nearby via light rail. We got to VictoriaStation on the Gatwick Express in well under 20 minutes.
Rome isa fantastic place, and I'm already looking forward to my next visit, but itwon't be in July. The perambulating that's essential to enjoying any classiccity is obstructed by the insane auto, bus and scooter traffic in all seasons,and in summer the swarms of visitors, humid heat and air pollution can be exhausting.Determination helps, and was supplied copiously by both Elizabeth and her AuntJoan, a favorite relative whose annual visit to Italy had influenced the timingof our own trip. After checking into the Eliseo, an economical but pleasantthree-star hotel near the Via Veneto and the Palazzo Borghese, and eating dinneron the patio of George's, a pretty but undistinguished old restaurant, we threeembarked on a long evening walk. If you do go to Rome at the height of tourist season, nighttime is when to see a lot of the architectural sights. The CapitolineHill, the Forum and the Colosseum are well lit but virtually deserted, the airis cooler and the cars pose fewer obstacles. One place to start would be thebar atop the Forum Hotel, with a great view and a flute of Prosecco (or a fashionableshot of super-chilled Limoncello).