This evening was one of those perfect sabbatical evenings that I have been dreaming about for years. After a few weeks of fantastic travel, we returned to Rome, which now has the comfort of feeling like home. (Eli insists that Madison is still “home” but agrees that our apartment here now feels very comfortable and familiar, so he calls this our “step home”).

Jenny and I spent the afternoon working while Eli and Nell read and wrote letters home to their friends. Then, at around 7pm, we ventured out to dinner. Our destination was a lovely restaurant in the ghetto with outdoor seating, where Nell had fond memories of a chocolate cake she enjoyed two years ago. We hopped on the mini bus that runs from our street to the Largo Argentina and had time to browse soccer jerseys at the AS Roma store (they still only have last season’s. . .we’ll have to wait until September) and then stroll the narrow streets of the ghetto. The city feels empty now because Romans are away on holiday and only tourists (who wouldn’t likely venture these side streets) still remain here.

We all had a fun dinner: Eli challenged us to speak only Italian for 5 minutes (we failed with only 30 seconds to go), Eli discovered he liked fried zucchini blossom filled with cod, we planned future trips to Paris and London, and we all laughed a lot. The cake Nell remembered wasn’t on the menu tonight, but she was very satisfied with an alternate chocolate dessert. Then we decided to walk home because the evening air felt perfect- a light breeze that was autumnal. And it was still so light out that it didn’t feel like it was already 9:30 in the evening.

We walked and talked—explaining to the children the history of Rome’s Jewish ghetto. Nell had a positive re-frame (“Oh, well, I guess it was nice that only Jewish people got to live here”), which gave the rest of us a good chuckle. Then we emerged from an alley and found ourselves facing the Campidoglio. Eli felt an urge to run up the stairs, so we crossed the Piazza Venezia as the children ran up the 123 steps between the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II and Campidoglio. Every time we pass this area it is literally packed with people. But tonight it was empty and stunning. We all climbed the stairs to the Campidoglio —I had never actually gone up before and took in Michelangelo’s venture into architecture. . .and did a lot of climbing, running, and jumping on the adjoining walls. We had a full moon, too, rising over the back of the Musei Nationale. Then we walked home together straight up the Corso. Nell was laughing so much we worried that passers by might be concerned. . . Truly a great night together.