Rome is the most astoundingly beautiful place. I had forgotten how small the ancient city seems, compared to that weighty legacy of Empire bestowed by time and a historical imagination, but there is a jewel-like perfection to its proportions. As for the city of art, I couldn’t stop grinning in front of Bernini’s Trevi Fountain, despite the priest who shooed out the toothless old beggar lady from his church doorstep, back into the pouring rain, and so close to Christmas time. No room at the inn in that church, then! But the view from the top of the Spanish Steps, near where we are staying, soars, and there seems a gentle and genuine warmth to Roman life, despite riots, student demos and Berlesconi. But then Rome really has seen everything, and perhaps little troubles her.

As I was troubled, when, after a lovely morning walk and some Christmas shopping in the Campo dei Fiori, my hostess got a call about the letter bomb sent to the Chilean embassy. It was addressed to her husband, my host, and thank God he didn’t open it. Things were winding down just before the Christmas break. Instead Cesar, a man who everyone liked and has done nobody any harm is now in hospital with two fingers missing, and possible damage to his sight. It is when it happens so close to home that you begin to really feel things about the cowardice of such actions, and their total pointlessness too. ‘Anarchists’ have claimed responsibility, for that and the parcel bomb at the Swiss Embassy. Basically, morons dreaming up world enemies, and turning to soft targets, where they have no thought for the lives of ordinary human beings at the end of their chains of madness. It has made this the most surreal Christmas I have ever had, but Rome’s elegance, life and beauty always returns. Off to walk to the river, and up to St Peters, then to try to write some Dragon in the Post, but so much to see rather pulls you away from the page! DCD

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