Thursday, December 1, 2011

House of the Vestals: Danget!

I don't know whether to be thrilled, or furious.

When my husband and I went to Rome to do research for Sacred Fire, my novel about the Vestal Virgins, the first thing we went to see was the Palatine hill. Half-way through, I saw the forum down below us out of the corner of my eye. I saw Vesta's temple.

My husband wanted to sneak our way into a tour group passing nearby, but I couldn't be still. I grabbed his arm and dragged him down the hill to see it.

Tuccia once stood right where I was standing. All my characters did; Aemilia, Pinaria, Postumia...all of them. 

I'd spent so long piecing together clues from ancient history, trying to figure out how the vestals lived, and all the secrets used to be right in front of me. I was only six feet away from where the sacred fire burned for almost a thousand years.

The house the vestals lived in was roped off. I knew it would be, but it was still hard to see it and know I couldn't go inside. I was a heartbeat away from jumping over the railing anyway, but Andrew said he didn't want me to get stuck in an Italian prison. I think that would have been awesome, but we couldn't afford another plane ticket if the imprisonment made us miss our flight home.

I leaned over the railing and tried to see the remaining statues lining the courtyard. I wondered if Tuccia had her own statue; she was the most famous vestal who ever lived, so surely she was in the atrium at some point. Two of the vestals still had their heads; the odds were astronomical, but what if I could see Tuccia's face?

I knew not going into the vestal house would always be a regret.

The other day I was googling Vestal Virgins to see if anything new has been posted, and I made quite the discovery; the house of the vestals is open again. I missed it! But maybe someday I'll go to Rome again, and then I'll see it.


  1. Tough luck. What I liked about Rome was how past and present co-exists. You could walk down a street, glance to the left and see the Colosseum casually slumped at the end of an adjacent street.

  2. I know! And then they'd build modern structures within Roman ruins, or revamp ruins into something else, like the Pantheon into a Catholic church. It was like they couldn't remember what century we were in. The Romans are so proud of their history, they've done an excellent job of preserving it.

  3. Our son, knowing how keen I am on all things Roman, recently asked me what I thought was Rome's greatest invention. So many things to choose from but the answer was easy--roads. The reason all roads lead to Rome, as the saying goes, is because Rome invented the "road" so goods and troops could link together vast distances. A thousand years after the fall of Rome, Europe's best roads remained those the Romans had built.

  4. You most definitely will go back and see it! Maybe we should go together. And it's true, the Italian police mean business. You don't want to mess with them. p.s. Just had to share - the word verification below for me to post this comment is "grant". Haha.

  5. Ardis, that would be so awesome! Then you can record videos of me touring the city talking about the history and I can post them on my website. Christ English did that, and I thought it was the coolest thing ever.


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