Jenny and I have been planning this sabbatical for seven years – and though the idea of this blog began only a few months ago, I can hardly believe that I am composing this post, on the fourth of July, from Rome. I’ve been worrying about a lot of details regarding this venture, but even the most realistic of my concerns has worked out just fine. I was convinced that we would not be able to use our frequent flyer miles to get ourselves here—Delta’s Sky Pesos are ridiculously easy to collect and seemingly impossible to redeem. But that worked out perfectly: four seats on the direct flight that we wanted on the day we wanted them. (That feat will have to be the topic of another posting, though). I fretted about our Italian visas- and that process ended up being a fun and warm introduction to the personable culture of Italy. (We were helped both by the personal connection afforded by my Italian teacher Giovanna, who kindly let her friends at the Chicago Consulate know that we were coming and also by the good fortune of being accompanied by children for our interview).

But one detail that I am a bit embarrassed to admit brooding about is that I couldn’t imagine how we would get our luggage close to our apartment in Rome. I dreaded move-in day given our address.

We are living on a beautiful street in Rome called via del Babuino. The street is named after a heinous statue that was created and placed here in the 1500s. The statue depicts Silenus, a half man-half goat from Roman mythology. The story is that the people of Rome began (pejoratively) calling the statue “the baboon” (“babuino” in Italian). Aesthetic standards in this city are quite refined and the Romani considered the statue ugly. The street was nicknamed the “via del Babuino” (street of the baboon) as a result, and the name eventually became official. The statue, unattractive as it indeed is, is one of the original “talking statues” of Rome. So called because political satire was inscribed on walls surrounding it and other key sculptures in the city beginning in the 16th century. . . . the precursor to modern graffiti! Despite being both narrow and busy, via del Babuino is about the width of the length of our dining room table in Madison. Tiny cars occasionally squeeze through, but when they park along the side of the street, they stay there. A parking spot in this area is highly coveted. The sidewalks are about the width of my shoulders, and are teaming with affluent tourists hurrying along with fancy shopping bags from fashionable boutiques (or guidebooks and maps). The tourists wearing the fanny packs appear to enjoy watching the tourists who can actually afford to shop in these gorgeously adorned stores.

Our street runs between the Piazza del Popolo and the hustling Piazza di Spagna—we are just a few blocks from the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. It was not at all our intent to live smack in the middle of this high-end tourism and shopping area. But the location is fun: very close to the Spagna metro stop, easy access to the Villa Borghese about a block away, and one block from the area’s main drag– the via del Corso– which is closed to cars much of the day. We’ve walked past Bernini’s Barcaccia Fountain every day.  And despite being a tourist mainstay, the Spanish Steps are truly stunning. Eli and I tossed a football in the Piazza del Popolo yesterday, which is wide-open area with a water-spouting obelisque, and also mainly closed to cars. But the neighborhood is surprisingly bleak with regard to good food—too many places with menus in English.  We hope to ferret out the handful of small, authentic trattorias, as well as try the fresh pasta shop one block over.

But still, I worried about where the mini-mini van carrying all of us and our year’s worth of luggage could stop to unload. My worst fears of schlepping oversized bags for blocks never came to be.

Improbable as it seems, we experienced our own version of the parting of the Red Sea. As our taxi arrived from the airport, a parking spot opened directly in front of the door to our building. And so our arrival in Roma began with unexpected ease. Perhaps this is a harbinger of a happy year ahead? So maybe Silenus has something important to remind me about each time I walk past him. For all the bustling craziness of Rome, things seem to get worked out. Maybe this year I will try to worry less and just drink more local wine. After all, Silenus is, honestly, a pitiful looking sculpture– but things turned out pretty okay for him.

Jenny, Eli, and Nell enjoying Il Babuino (Silenus)