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A week has gone and so have my traveling companions.

On Saturday, I said goodbye to my brother, my nephew, his wife and their two sons, her brother and her older daughter. I stood in front of Hotel Campo de Fiori in the early morning hours and watched two cars pull out of the narrow street, Via Bascione, carrying them away toward Corso Vittorio Emanuele and Fiumicino Airport. Sunday, I bid farewell to cousins Debbie and Gigi, who were leaving for a few days in Florence. Debbie had seen off her son, Mike Morello, a few hours before.

I am in Rome, alone.

It’s a strange feeling. After a week of being in one another’s company and on the road with them to Rionero in Vulture and on to Sorrento and back to Rome, it’s a little lonely in my very Italian hotel room. And, yet, this is the part of the trip I most anticipated. I’m taking the bus back to Rionero to spend four days with my Italian family. Just me. No big brother to take charge and lead the way; no more outgoing cousins who were the life of almost every party or gathering.

I had a little practice at being on my own recently. When everyone else took off to pursue interests of their own in places I have already been, I explored a little. Only a few doors down from the hotel, I paused to watch two men in a fish store filet fresh pesce for customers; a gull swooped down from a roof ledge, hoping to find morsels of its favorite food.

Just around the corner, I stopped in the Basilica Sant’Andrea della Valle. I can see the dome of the church from my balcony in the hotel, and I had wondered what was inside. Work on the church started in 1590; the interior was completed in 1650. Its Baroque façade was added between 1655 and 1663. The church is full of impressive paintings and sculptures, as are most churches in Rome. My favorite sculptor, Gian Lorenzo Bernini, had a hand – literally -- in one of the works. In the Barberini chapel, one of 13, there’s a statue of St. John the Baptist, sculpted by Pietro Bernini, father of Gian Lorenzo. The younger Bernini helped his father complete the work.

I crossed the Corso and walked a few minutes to the Pantheon. One of the best preserved buildings of Ancient Rome, it contains the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome, which I also can see from my hotel room. The building was commissioned by Roman statesman and general Marcus Agrippa in 27 B.C. as a temple to all the gods of Ancient Rome. The round opening at the top of the dome provides the only light, and it’s amazing how well it works. Yet another reminder of the genius of Roman designers and builders.

My last solitary activity in Rome wasn’t nearly as astounding or romantic. I found my way to a self-service laundry and actually figured out how to get my clothes washed and dried. Not nearly as impressive as Marcus Agrippa, but it did require accurate map reading and use of my ever-improving Italian. Walking back to the hotel, clothes clean and neatly folded, I felt my confidence growing. I can do this alone. Now I just have to figure out how to catch the Metro to the last stop on the line, where I will take the bus from the Anagnina Stazione to Rionero in Vulture.

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