Since it was our last day in Italy, we finally allowed ourselves to have a lazy morning before heading off to have a look at the Protestant Cemetery.
On the way to the cemetery, we spotted two ancient Roman temples, so we stopped to take some photos.
The first thing we saw as we approached the Protestant Cemetery was the large white pyramid of Gaius Cestius. The cemetery itself was really beautiful inside the walls and we spent quite a bit of time wandering around looking at the elaborate headstones.
My main reason for wanting to visit the cemetery was to see the graves of the English poets, Keats and Shelley, who both died before they were 30 years old.
John Keats suffered from tuberculosis and traveled from London to Rome for the warmer climate. The house that he lived in is located next to the Spanish Steps. The combination of his disease and bad medical treatment led to Keats’ death in 1821 when he was only 25. His headstone has no name on it because Keats requested it to be that way. The headstone next to Keats is that of Joseph Severn who moved from England to Rome with Keats and helped to look after him until he died.
Shelley died a year later in 1822 at age 29 when he drowned in a storm near the Gulf of La Spezia. Apparently his body was found with a book of Keats’ poetry in his pocket. His ashes were buried in the Protestant Cemetery and his headstone has a quote from Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, which alludes to his death at sea.
Like Keats, Shelley also has a good friend buried beside him, Edward John Trelawny, who helped in identifying Shelley’s body, arranging the cremation and funeral, and also purchasing the grave site where he and Shelley are now buried. It is said that during the cremation, Trelawny removed Shelley’s heart from the pyre and gave it to his widow, Mary Shelley. After Mary died, the heart was supposedly found in her desk drawer wrapped in a page of Shelley’s poetry and later buried in England with their son, Percy Florence Shelley. However, various details of this story have been debated, including whether the specified organ was actually a liver, not a heart.
There is also a cat sanctuary inside the cemetery, so the visit was made all the more interesting because of the many cats relaxing on and between the graves. I really admire the way Rome takes care of its cats.
After that we bought some pizza from a small place we went past where they weigh what you choose. Cost us 5 euro for a box of pizza with three different flavours and it was the best pizza I’ve had. We ate beside the Colosseum while watching the many hawkers selling their wares.
We were in Rome on the day of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception which is a public holiday there, so many roads were closed and there were tourists and locals everywhere. We walked down the Via dei Fori Imperiali near the Colosseum which was lined with buskers and had a really awesome atmosphere. Along the way we stopped to look at the forums of Augustus, Trajan and Caesar.
We headed to the Piazza Mignanelli to see if we could spot the Pope, who was to lay a wreath at the Madonna statue. On the way, we were passed by 6 police vans headed to some protest. It seems there were quite a few protests while we were there. We also bought some gelati on the way which was a lot harder on a public holiday, with the store being so crowded and us not being used to the system of paying first and then picking the flavours you want. It does make sense though, at least you can enjoy your ice cream straight away, rather than having it sit there melting while you’re trying to dig around for the right change!
The streets were so crowded that we had no chance of getting anywhere near the statue where the Pope was to appear. Waves of people were trying to get to a good viewing spot and at one point a car tried to drive through the already packed street and as everyone moved to make room when there was really no room to move, I felt quite crushed and claustrophobic. There was no way we could turn around, so we just had to go along with the wave of the crowd until we could find a place to exit. We ended up lining one of the streets that the Pope was to drive down after the wreath laying, as the crowds were way too big for us to get anywhere near the main event. Eventually we heard a massive cheer and were passed by a black car in which we saw a brief glimpse of the Pope.
That being done, we headed back home to have dinner in the osteria below our apartment. The pasta there was amazing (unfortunately we were too hungry to take photos of it), and we enjoyed watching two ladies rolling out the pasta dough on their work space next to us as we ate.