The Passeggiata

Wow Factor: The Colosseum notwithstanding, tour guide Francesca Caruso gives her passionate take of the Eternal City. (photo by Rhodora Ayuyang)

It wasn’t a coincidence that the local PBS station was showing a marathon of Rick Steves travelogues in Italy, with the election of a new pontiff in the Vatican.  So I was happy to see in his most recent program of Rome that he invited Francesca Caruso, a popular tour guide that I had the pleasure of meeting, to participate in its filming.  While on his tour in 2008, she made such a fantastic impression on me that I singled her out as one of my “wow” moments:  “She personalized so powerfully Roman history with her depth and knowledge of literature and architecture.  I can only hope I could enjoy la dolce vita the way Francesca clearly has doing a job she obviously loves.”

Via Margutta to Popolo

Getting Back on Track: The road to happiness is through Rome, among other places in the world.

Francesca accompanied Rick on the passeggiata in the Eternal City, which is described as an early evening stroll from Piazza del Popolo to the Spanish Steps.  While sounding rather innocent and leisurely, Rick’s book in 2008 says, “in Rome, it’s a cruder big-city version called the struscio (‘to rub’),” in which young Italians cruise the Via del Corso sometimes obnoxiously in motorscooters and dispense with rather bold remarks (“buono”/”buona” or “tasty”) to passersby.

Whatever the case may be, traveling, like writing, is one of my favorite outlets, not a surprise to those who really know me.  Maintaining a balance in life is such a challenge that to have any opportunity to  get back  into my comfort zone is most welcome and, I would venture to say, mandatory.

Natural Woman

DSC01799I was hoping to squeeze one more entry before February ended, but so many things happened, it’s hard to keep track, and lo and behold March is now upon us.

I’ve talked about retreating to my happy place when life gets topsy-turvy, but another one of my refuges is the ocean–lately Ocean Beach to be exact.

Having grown up rather land-locked, I now live close to water.  But I’ve often taken it for granted all these years living in San Francisco.  Unfairly, sometimes I’ve associated visits to the beach as how troubled I might be at that given moment to necessitate walking the length of its coastline, when in fact, recently, I’ve gone with family and friends there for birthdays and simple getaways from the city.

Leaves and my sneakerAs imbued as I am in urban life, it would behoove me to decompress from obligations and responsibilities in our natural surroundings, which often are more comforting and even more beautiful.  This brings me to a terrific documentary I recently saw about Sister Wendy Beckett (, the globetrotting nun whose insights to art thrust her into the international limelight in the 1990s.  She now leads a hermetic life in Quindenham, England, which brings her close to nature and therefore closer to God and a sense of peace–something I must obviously learn to do.