On Seeing John Keats’ Tombstone in Rome

Cemetery in Rome

Cemetery in Rome

Poor guy – he had it rough from the start: his father was killed when he was eight, his mom died of tuberculosis several years later, and he himself lived only to the age of 26 before he gasped his last breath, alone in a foreign country and in despair.

When I was in Rome recently, I visited John Keats’ tombstone in a beautiful cemetary.  I had majored in English Literature many moons ago, and I remembered how my favorite literary era was the Romantic period, particularly Keats’ sombre but heartfelt poems.  Unfortunately, his poetry career didn’t take off until AFTER he passed on, and I believe that all he wanted was for his poetry to be taken seriously.  Keats indeed got what he wanted because he’s one of the best known Romantic poets today.

John Keats' Tombstone in a Cemetery in Rome

John Keats’ Tombstone in a Cemetery in Rome

When I came back from Rome, I dusted my old English lit books and flipped to the section on John Keats, the corners of the pages worn and yellowed over the years.   His words still have an impact on me because he felt so closely to death and was weighed down with the heaviness of his unrecognized art.  Check out the first lines of one of his most famous poems On Seeing the Elgin Marbles, which still blow me away:

“My spirit is too weak – mortality

Weighs heavily on me like unwilling sleep

And each imagine pinnacle and steep

Of godlike hardship tells me I must die

Like a sick eagle looking at the sky.”

Rest in peace, Keats.

Prosciutto Heaven in Rome

Proscuitteria Platter

Meat and Cheese Sample Platter

Despite all the pasta-eating and espresso-drinking last week, my favorite eating spot in Rome was La Prosciutteria.  Yes, you heard it correctly:  an affordable quaint place that specializes in just prosciutto and other fine sliced meat.  I tell you, the Italians have perfected the art of cured meat because no matter where we tried it, prosciutto and salami just melted in our mouth.  The cold cuts also served as a nice light mid-afternoon snack.  And to think that I grew up eating Oscar Meyer crap as a kid and not knowing any different.

After a long day of seeing the ruins and zigzagging our way through the cobble-stoned roads, we turned down the street from the Trevi Fountain and discovered La Prosciutteria.  Prosciuteria

At first, I felt overwhelmed when ordering because every imaginable prosciutto or sliced meat took up the entire counter or hung on the hooks above.  What to order?  We hesitated until the kind lady shooed us away and said “Sit down.  I’ll prepare you a sample platter.”  Wow, bring it on!  Prosciutto, ham, cheese and mushroom pate on bread covered our wooden block.  We devoured it in a matter of minutes.

When we looked up from our delightful snack, my eyes re-focused and took in this unique place: everything was recycled and nothing was wasted.  The tables, counter and shelves were all made out of old wooden crates.  Lamps, formerly as jumbo tomato cans, hung from above.  Even the ceiling was pieced together by recycled wooden doors.

So if you’re ever in Rome, check out this carnivore-delight:  La Prosciutteria and get the cheese & meat sample.  For just 5 Euros a person, you are stuffed.  Great value!

Me & Eduardo at Proscuitteria

www.laprosciutteria.com   Via Della Panetteria 34 | Fontana Di Trevi, 00187 Rome, Italy





Europeans Have It Right: Simple Breaks Throughout the Day

Cappuccino with a small croissant

Cappuccino with a small croissant

I love the Europeans’ take on a “coffee break”. While traveling on business in Rome and Paris recently, I’ve discovered the little ‘pauses” of a work day, a refreshing change from the go-go-go work style I’ve been used to in New York.

“Let’s take a coffee break,” said Valeria, my lovely Italian colleague in Rome.   I assumed she meant going to the local Starbucks, buying a ridiculously big coffee for take-away and drinking it from my desk.  That’s all I’ve known since working in NY for more than a decade.

I soon discovered that was not the case.  As we crossed the bustling Via Condotti street packed with tourists, I felt relief to get out of the confines of the office and to get fresh air and enjoy a few minutes of the Rome scene.  Only a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps, I might add.

We entered a trendy cafe with two baristas working the gigantic  espresso machine that stretched across the counter.  “Now, we take a coffee,” Valeria said, with a slight clip of an Italian accent.

My colleagues from the Rome office:  Luca and Valeria

My colleagues from the Rome office: Luca and Valeria

Luca, my other colleague, bellowed out some orders in Italian, and soon three empty cups plunked in front of us.  We bellied up to the bar.  Espressos were poured into the cups, as small as shot glasses, and we downed them in a matter of seconds.  I loved the buzz.  Then we chatted for several minutes about work, life and weekend plans.  Other customers hovered around munching on biscottis.  Petit sandwiches and palm-sized croissants (and not the monstrously big croissants back in the U.S.) sat in a row on the counter.  I noticed whether in Paris, Brussels and Rome, people ate lightly throughout the day.  And always a piece of dark chocolate here or there to tie you over to the next meal.  Twenty minutes later, we were back in the office, and I felt better, my spirits lifted.

Small palm-sized treats

Small palm-sized treats

“Why are you eating alone?  I will join you now for lunch,” said one co-worker to me earlier that day.  I was so used to eating alone, and I welcomed a break to eat and chat.   My Rome colleagues gathered around in the boardroom with their lunches and we ate together.  They unpacked their salads, proscuitto ham and bread, and the boardroom table transformed into a mini picnic.

“It’s good to take a break,” one colleague said.  He had spent some time in the U.S. and commented on how strange it was that Americans would eat their lunch over the keyboard while working.  Oh I’ve been guilty of that.

“I guess to be efficient?” I said.  He laughed and said, “You have to pause in the day.  You feel more refreshed and then you can go back to work.  Simple.”

Indeed.  I think the Europeans have it right to take short breaks, enjoy an espresso & a small piece of chocolate, before heading back to the grind, a little more rejuvenated to take on the rest of the day.

Hubby joins me in Rome for a long weekend

Hubby joins me in Rome for a long weekend