Roaming the Streets of Rome

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (72)

By Judy Berman

Narrow crooked cobblestone alleyways in Rome beckon you to venture around the next corner, where there could be a street festival, musicians or shops.

The enticing smells of basil, tomato sauce, cheese and freshly baked bread float out onto the streets from the restaurants. Or a gelati shop pops up right in your path, and is calling you to pause for a refreshing Italian sherbet.

The slow pace along this corridor contrasts sharply with the Vespas zipping in and out of the traffic. It’s best to walk with one eye over your shoulder to avoid a too-close-for-comfort encounter.

In early June, we stayed in Trastevere, a Rome neighborhood that’s frozen in time, or so it seems. During the day, it’s peaceful and has the right touches of the Old World. At night, it comes alive. Party-goers and others flock to its many excellent restaurants.

Ristoranti I Vascellari, for example, near our hotel is warm, welcoming and serves a wide variety of excellent food: spaghetti alla carbonara, Tagliolini al tartufo, mussels, pasta, lasagna, breaded lamb cutlets and much more.

Thankfully, we didn’t hear any of that clamor in our hotel. Casa di Santa Francesca Romana is a former monastery, a perfect retreat.

After a complimentary breakfast at the hotel, we head out to visit the open-air museum near us. That would be Circus Maximus, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.

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From a distance, the Colosseum might be mistaken for a multi-story garage. Completed in 80 A.D., this is the largest amphitheater ever built.  It can hold about 50,000 spectators in its giant arena. Here, gladiators fought for the right to live another day. (Some believe, however, that Christians met their fate in nearby Circus Maximus.)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (20) - Palatine Hill

Palatine Hill was the birthplace of Rome, established about 753 B.C. by Romulus after he killed his twin, Remus, in a fit of rage. Later, it became the lavish residence for several emperors, including Augustus. It is near the Roman Forum.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (26) - St. Cecilia's

The church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere is down the road from our hotel. It was built above the Roman house of this martyr.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (27) - St. Cecilia - statue

Santa Cecilia is the patron saint of music. When her sarcophagus was found in 1599, her body was intact. Sculptor Stefano Maderno sketched her body, and made a haunting sculpture of her out of white marble.

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When in Rome, do as the Romans do. For us, the search is on for food.  (But this photo makes those of us in front look H-U-G-E.)

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (161) - Casa di Santa Francesca Romana - our hotel's patio

Back at the hotel, we relax in the hotel’s ochre-colored courtyard lined with orange trees. The staff at Casa di Santa Francesca Romana speaks several languages. Thankfully, their English is far superior to my meager Italian.

Rome - family vacation - June 2015 (284) - Dave standing in shower in our hotel room

In our rooms, Dave steps into the shower fully clothed to demonstrate what a slim compartment it is. On the plus side, the hot and cold running shower is very refreshing after a long day of hiking around the Eternal City.

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Hollywood has captured several icons in Rome. One is the Mouth of Truth, or Bocca della Verita, found in one of Rome’s oldest churches, Santa Maria in Cosmodin, Trestevere. It is in the movie “Roman Holiday,” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn. Legend has it that people suspected of telling lies are forced to put their hand in the mouth of this massive stone – once a common ancient street drain cover. It’s said that, if you’re lying, the teeth will clamp down on the hand and you risk losing your hand.

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Trevi Fountain was built in 1732. This fountain was immortalized in the movies “Three Coins in a Fountain” and in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” Sad to say, it’s under repair. So there will be no splashing about in the fountain. When it was open, it was under guard for such foolishness. While you can still toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain, it’s just not the same with Plexiglas between you and the fountain. Legend has it that by throwing the coin in, you are assured of a return trip to Rome.

Buon viaggio! (Happy travels!) What place would you like to travel to or to revisit? 

Part 2 of our Rome trip will be posted July 4, 2015.

Roman Holiday – Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck’s characters test the Mouth of Truth

All photos – except the one in the restaurant and at Boca della Verita (the Mouth of Truth) – were taken by me: Photographer – Judy Berman

If you wish to use any part of this post or any of the photos, please ask. Copyright.

I’m Still Standing

Audrey Hepburn - Breakfast at Tiffany's

By Judy Berman

It was September. The leaves were turning. It’s a time when the elements begin to make me feel hemmed in.

That feeling only intensified when I learned that I was being transferred to the newspaper’s Rome bureau – not the exotic city in Italy, but a small city in Upstate New York.

There were two women in the Rome bureau, a district circulation manager and a receptionist. Within two weeks, they were gone.

I dreaded working in an office all alone.

It hit me – much later – that I was looking at this situation all wrong.

This is where, if this was a music video, the phonograph needle would be scratched across the full surface of the album until your ears bled.

Elton John in 1980s

At times, I felt like the Maytag repairman at the Rome bureau. Few of the calls were for me. Most were from irate customers wondering where their papers were.

The good news? I didn’t have an editor hovering over my desk, pacing back and forth, waiting for me to “send my copy to rewrite, sweetheart.”

The transfer cut my 55-mile, one-way commute to the main office in Utica to 40 miles. Winning!

In winter, however, I might eat up that savings when I shadowed a snowplow at 10-miles-per-hour.

That beautiful white blanket is a deceptive and seductive enchantress. Amnesia sets in each winter, and you forget the misstep that can alter your skip across the highway into a careening, nerve-racking, steering-wheel-clutching, off-road tumble.

Still, I met fascinating people stranded by snowstorms just off the thruway on my way to work. For a reporter, hoping to score a weather quote, perfect!

Mask - Germany

With Christmas fast approaching, I didn’t bother to decorate the office, as I was the only one who would see them. So, time saved twice. I wouldn’t have to put away any decorations, either.

Unlike the residents of Cicely, Alaska, in the TV show, “Northern Exposure,” I wasn’t isolated or trapped in a remote location.

Any time I wanted, I could head down to the police station or city court. While I was gathering info for the police blotter or a story, we’d share a few laughs. There, I learned some things that proved valuable later.

Sometimes, it led to a bigger story. Others, to excellent contacts.

Six months after my transfer, a fellow reporter, Pat Corbett, joined me in the Rome office. We would bounce ideas off each other and joke about some happening that day.

At first, there was only one computer. So we took turns using it to file our stories from the bureau to the main office. Then, we commandeered a second computer from the main office – with permission, of course.

Elton John in 1980s - I'm Still Standing - video

A year after my transfer, I was back in the main office assigned to a job that I really wanted: night cops reporter. I’m grateful that what I learned in Rome paved the way for this beat.

It took a friend of mine at a competing paper in Syracuse to put my transfer into the proper perspective for me. A few years after my move, his paper opened more bureaus.

I asked how he felt about that. With a twinkle in his eye, the reporter joked that the main office was in a shambles. The move for them “is like when the royalty shipped their children to a safe haven during the war so they wouldn’t be hurt.”

Love that warped sense of humor.

Did looking at a situation thru a new lens ever alter your view?

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


Music Video: “I’m Still Standing,” by Elton John (1983)

1. Main Photo – Audrey Hepburn as Holly Golightly in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) – movie trailer screenshot.

2. Photo: Mask – Germany – Author: Gexon from Darmstadt, Germany. Photo taken June 12, 2011.

3. Photo: Elton John in 1980s – author –

4. Photo: Elton John by piano, video screen shot from “I’m Still Standing.”


You’re Wearing What?

Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) in Breakfast at Tiffany's

Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) in Breakfast at Tiffany’s

By Judy Berman

How did I fall so far from the graceful style of my idol – Audrey Hepburn?

No matter what she wore – Givenchy or a sweater, slacks and flat ballet shoes – she embodied elegance and confidence. Years ago, that was the self-assured image I aimed for.

Nowadays, it’s all about comfort. I’d ditched the suit and heels that are de rigueur in most workplaces. For me, every day should be Casual Friday. As I rummage thru my closet each morning, I fantasize about what I’d wear if I could.

My passion for fashion is kaput. Now, my go-to choices would be my Life is Good T-shirts and jeans.

Family and friends have hinted – not too subtly – that I need a style intervention. So I was surprised when a few friends invited me to lunch at an upscale eatery and told me: “Come as you are. Don’t bother to change.”

I was clueless as I walked in, even though I saw quite a few family members and friends sitting at tables throughout the restaurant. How odd, I thought, that they should all pick the same place to eat at the same time.

No sooner had I sat down and began looking at the menu choices than I heard the swelling of excited voices. I looked out the window. Nope, no ambulances or police cars. What could it be?

Then I heard the thundering of feet heading our way. It was Stacy and Clinton of  TLC’s fashion makeover TV show, “What Not to Wear.” Still, I didn’t have any foreboding. I should have.

TCS's "What Not to Wear" - Clinton Kelly and Stacy London

TCS’s “What Not to Wear” – Clinton Kelly and Stacy London

This is a show I’ve often dreamed of being on. I’m star-struck. That quickly fades.

They stopped at our table and shoved a microphone in my face. Stacy introduced herself and Clinton to me as a cameraman began recording.

I’m mortified as they show film clips about my obvious fashion faux pas as I schlepped to the mall or grocery store. The indignities pile up as friends laugh while Stacy and Clinton make snide commentaries about each outfit.

Then, they soften the blow by offering me a credit card and a shopping trip in New York City. I’d get to stay with them for a week for a makeover.

Finding clothes that camouflage my flaws is appealing. But, there was just one catch … I’d have to turn over my Life is Good T-shirts.

No doubt my anguished cries could be heard in the next county.

Then, I awoke, in a cold sweat. Had it all just been a dream? I ran to my closet to check.

Whew! My beloved T-shirts were still there.

My go-to apparel - a comfy choice.

My go-to apparel – a comfy choice. (Clothes from my closet. Photo by Dave Berman)

Thanks to Lisa Tognola of Main Street Musings for egging me on to write this. Check out her story about a trunk party at:


Movie trailer: “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006). I almost feel sorry for the working girl (Anne Hathaway) who is at the beck and call of one of New York City’s biggest magazine editors, the ruthless and cynical Miranda Priestly (played by Meryl Streep).

COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Photo: Audrey Hepburn (as Holly Golightly) in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”

Photo: TLC’s “What Not to Wear” with Clinton Kelly and Stacy London

Charade in Paris

By Judy Berman

A train races down the tracks in a desolate country scene. Before the opening credits roll, one of its passengers tumbles out in his pajamas. Dead.

The widow – although she doesn’t it know it yet – also appears to be about to meet a violent end at a ski resort. As Reggie Lampert (played by Audrey Hepburn) sips a cup of coffee, a gun is aimed directly at her. Fortunately, it’s a water gun, and the shooter is her young nephew, Jean-Louis (Thomas Chelimsky).

His next water-soaked victim is Peter Joshua (Cary Grant). This Stanley Donen film, “Charade” (1963), is being re-released this year on DVD. It also can be seen online, and is well worth the view.

Most of the action in this romantic comedy/suspense thriller takes place in The City of Lights.  Several years ago, this movie inspired my husband, Dave, our daughters, and me, (all of us “Charade” aficionados) to check into the Hotel St. Jacques, stroll along the Seine River, dine on a riverboat, tour a market off the Champs-Elysees and take in other sites featured in the movie.

When Hepburn returns to Paris, she discovers her husband, Charles, had emptied out their place. She frantically runs from room to room, and is startled when Inspector Edouard Grandpierre (Jacques Marin) emerges. He asks her to come with him.

At the morgue, she identifies her husband’s body. The Inspector reveals her husband had multiple identities, planned to leave the country, and gives her Charles’ small duffle bag.

It contained an agenda listing his last appointment – Thursday at The Gardens, 4,000 francs, a letter to her – stamped and unsealed, keys to their apartment, a comb, a fountain pen, a toothbrush and tooth powder.

Not much to go on. When she returns to the apartment, the door creaks, and she hears steps across the floor. It’s Peter Joshua (Grant), and he suggests she go to a hotel where she’ll have a safe place to stay.

Hotel St. Jacques actually is a great place to stay. Some of the film’s interior shots were filmed here. But this turns out to be a bad choice for Hepburn. She no sooner opens the door to her room than she is confronted by George Kennedy (as Herman Scobie) – one of three men she wishes to avoid.

Kennedy threatens her. He and two others – James Coburn as “Tex” and Ned Glass as “Gideon” – are convinced Hepburn knows the whereabouts of the $250,000 that her husband stole from them.

Hepburn runs toward a winding antique staircase and screams for Grant. Grant rushes inside. You hear a scuffle and then silence. Hepburn tentatively opens the door and finds Grant on the floor. Kennedy is nowhere in sight. He escaped out the window. Grant follows.

When you step outside the hotel at night, you can almost visualize Grant leaping from one balcony to another in pursuit of Kennedy.

A fourth man, Hamilton Bartholemew (Walter Matthau), tells her that he’s with the CIA, and the money her husband stole really belongs to the U.S.government. Matthau tells her the government wants the money back. He warns Hepburn: “Now that he’s (Charles) dead, you’re their only lead.”

Grant and Hepburn also find time for romance over dinner aboard a riverboat along the Seine River. We took a similar cruise. In the dark, the Eiffel Tower looked golden and the view of the Notre Dame Cathedral from the river also is impressive.

Despite this idyllic setting, the body count and tension mount in the film.

The movie is a classic game of who do you trust. Donen keeps us guessing, even after Hepburn discovers where her husband hid the money.

If you can’t make it to Paris, check out this movie. Viewer discretion is advised. Shortly after you watch it, you’ll want to see the real thing.

** Post a comment below if you’d like to share what film from past decades is most memorable to you?


COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Judy Berman and earthrider, 2011-15. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to (Judy Berman) and (earthrider,, or earthriderdotcom) with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

* Photos of Audrey Hepburn, Jacques Marin, Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, George Kennedy, and Walter Matthau and Audrey Hepburn in the movie, “Charade” (1963)

* “Charade” – movie trailer – about 3 minutes

* “Charade” – movie summary, cast on IMDb (Internet Movie Database)