The Angel of Grief – my favorite tombstone of all time.
This gorgeous sculpture by William Wetmore Story, weeps atop his wife Emelyn’s grave in Rome, Italy. William was the hottest American sculptor there from 1819 -1895. When Emelyn died, he poured his grief into this beautiful piece. It’s been copied all over the world, but none of the flatterers are as elegantly poignant as the original.
…or non-catholic cemetery, as the Italian name translates literally, is one of my favorites. I mean, you have to go to Rome to see it, so duh. A lot of famous people rest there, but it’s the not so famous and totally unknown, the quirky, the tragic the pathetic, the stunningly narcissistic, (see 30-meter-tall Pyramid of Cestius), that blend to give it its distinctive ambiance. Part English church garden, part first-century Roman ruin, this cemetery’s on the top of my MUST GO BACK TO list.
I always love Let’s Go Guides for European travel info. Unlike Frommer’s and Michelin, Let’s Go caters to students and travelers with small budgets. It’ll point you to the best eateries and coffee bars around the cemetery, the ones the locals hang out in.
English poet, John Keats…
…died of tuberculosis in 1821. He was only 26 years old. Convinced that he and his poetry would be forgotten after his death, he forbid anyone to carve his name on his tombstone. Instead, it reads only “Here lies one who’s name was writ in water.” I wonder if he knows how wrong he was.
…drowned in a sudden storm off the Riviera in 1822. His body was cremated on the beach were it washed up. Legend has it that his friend Edward Trelawny snatched the heart from the burning pier and gave it to Mary Shelley. She kept it, or its ashes, in a desk drawer wrapped in a page of her husband’s manuscript. When she died, Shelley’s ashes were finally reunited in the Protestant Cemetery.
On the opposite end of the modesty spectrum…
…the cemetery also holds the Pyramid of Cestius, built around 16 AD. It stands 27 meters tall, less than ¼ the size of the Great Pyramids of Giza that it copied. Back then, most of the big, Roman generals just sailed over to Egypt and swiped themselves an obelisk. Obviously, Cestius couldn’t fit a pyramid in his trunk. He must have been counting on the fact that most of the Roman peasants would never see the originals.
There must be thousands of feral cats in Rome.
They mostly hang out in the ruins and parks, but really, you see them absolutely everywhere. To this day the smells of cat urine, cypress trees and bus exhaust mingled on the air take me right back to Italy.