Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa but you won’t find him in Rome. Christmas here is a quiet affair and it doesn’t seem to include the jolly St. Nicholas. The official season begins on December 8th with the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Only then do a few Christmas lights and modest decorations appear on some streets. (You might say it’s all very tasteful.) It’s possible to walk for blocks in Rome and see no evidence of the holiday season with the exception of an increased number of shoppers. Some churches display kitschy nativity scenes lightly dusted and possibly reused for centuries. I have yet to sight a Santa but Italians do suspend their disbelief for the Befana witch who fills children’s stockings with candy on Epiphany. Apologies to my Italian friends but I think she’s a creepy-looking ambassador of generosity and more a character for Grimm than goodwill.
Speaking of characters, look who joined us on Christmas morning:
Mom visited as well and we had a lovely week with her. We toured the Roman port city at Ostia and the countryside villa of Emperor Hadrian. We also went to the aqueduct park near the old Roman road, Via Appia.
There’s little snow in the Alps so far this year and limited skiing in Northern Italy. We canceled our plans to head north after Christmas and instead, chased snow to the south, in the Apennine mountains of Abruzzo. They are part of the range that runs north-south along the spine of central Italy. All of Napoli was seemingly there as well. The city is only 90-minutes from several local ski resorts in the region. Skiing with Neapolitans and living to tell the tale is a blessing! Our resort was not equipped to manage the assertive holiday crowd and many skiers seemed oblivious to customary safety regulations, such as slowing down when you reach lower runs trafficked with children and novice skiers. Lift lines looked like a rugby scrum:
Happy New Year to our family and friends!