ROME – Italy
July 11, 1973
On her first trip abroad, my mother checked into room 454 at Le Grand Hotel – Roma (now the St. Regis Rome). Donna unpacked her bags, combed her long blond bob and headed straight for Le Grand Bar. She wanted to try something Italian, so she ordered a Campari with a splash of fresh orange juice. She sipped her drink and and took in the sumptuous surroundings. They were to her liking. She stayed for eight nights, making this historic landmark hotel her home base for exploring the city.
At least I assume she saw the city… she was awfully busy exploring the finer things at the grand bar, the grill, and the ristorante at Le Grand Hotel. If there is someone who appreciates la dolce vita, well….that’s Donna.
How do I know this? I wasn’t born yet. And she never mentioned the trip. But, a few years ago, I inherited her vintage Fendi, which she purchased on this Roman holiday. Hidden away in a zippered compartment, I found a relic, more telling than a diary entry.
It was a bill – a reflection of her comings and goings. A small piece of paper that has provided me with more questions than answers.
I’ve spent hours pondering this bill, imagining my mother living it up in Rome in her late 20s. I looked up the exchange rate in 1973. A US dollar = somewhere between 580 – 624 lire, depending on the source.
Donna’s room cost 35,000 LIR or about 56 USD a night. A visit to the bar cost, on average, 2,000 LIR. But on one particularly busy night she spent 8,000 LIR – about 12 U.S. dollars. Perhaps she was welcoming the beginning of a new evening with a special bottle of Perrier-Jouët?
Were they dramatically sabering the champagne bottles then, like they do today?
And how did she afford such luxuries on a teacher’s salary?
The total bill for eight nights was about 655 USD (I think). Or did I forget a decimal?!
Next week I will finally visit this historic hotel, so often on my mind. Maybe I too will have a drink at the bar. And although I would love to peek into apartamento 454, that might be out of my budget for this trip.