rome again rome again jiggity jig

18/9/09
we made it back to rome today, but not without a train mishap – jo left her backpack with copies of her passport and credit cards, gifts for the girls, books and her blackberry! we tried to get it back but it seems like a lost cause…
there was a little miscommunication between mario and his wife so no one was at the apartment b&b to meet us. once we got checked in, it was too late to see inside maria della vittoria church from angels and demons so we booked it on the #71 bus to the pantheon. i couldn’t have imagined how marvelous it was inside. the experience made it worth the stress of re-planning our flight home.
the pantheon
the oculus – i wish it had been raining
inside the pantheon
we ate dinner at piazza navona again, but at a different restaurant with just as, if not more, handsome of a server as the other! we had champagne and wine and i had one last serving of gnocchi.
piazza navona one last time
on the way home we stopped at an internet café to double check our flight plans and check in on grandpa. he was not answering his cell phone – in fact, it was just going to his voicemail! as we passed in front of a restaurant, i picked up two more proposals, and it was then that i decided maybe i should just stay in italy!

the dirtiest day

10/9/09

we got a late start today… judy was the last one up! so i figured that if something got cut out it would be shopping.

after attempting to figure out the bus situation (we went a few stops too far and had to backtrack) we made it to the vatican, stopping to grab a sandwich before entering st. peter’s square. it was surreal! joann and i immediately located the bas-relief from angels&demons which served as the “air” alter of science.

we filled our water bottles from one of the many fountains then trekked along the wall of vatican city to the musei vaticani entrance. following rick steves’ italy, we made our way to the sistene chapel through the egyptian rooms, where mom found a sarcophagus that “would make a really good planter,” past the greek and roman statues and the cortile della pigna, through the octagonal courtyard, the hall of tapestries and the gallery of maps, which was my favorite.

the chapel was crowded, making it difficult to truly appreciate. not going to lie, i was a little underwhelmed, and maybe i’d feel different if it wasn’t shoulder-to-shoulder. we slipped out a “secret door” which led to st. peter’s basilica, saving us a lot of walking. being inside the basilica was as unbelievable as being in notre dame. we saw the holy door, which won’t be open again until the next jubilee year, the purple circle which is the site of charlemagne’s coronation, michelangelo’s pieta which he completed at 25, and much more… it was extremely crowded and a huge tour group separated us from mom and grandma. we didn’t worry because we figured they would just be waiting for us at the exit, but were nowhere to be found. i convinced one of the guards to let me go back in the exit to look for them. got nothing. we checked the gift store and some benches that we sat on before we walked through. no sign of them. so finally after about 30 minutes of searching we called mom and luckily she had on her phone. all she said was “i can see you” before she hung up. great. that helps. eventually we found them but by that point we needed a break.

we stopped for a rest and revived ourselves with gelato, the first of the trip. from the vatican we walked down via conciliazone to castel sant’angelo where mom and gma sat while jo, gay, and i climbed to the top for a spectacular view of rome and upclose view of the angelic statue. once we got back down the exit, i realized that all my pictures were somehow erased. considering all the time and effort i put into getting quality pictures, i was devastated. i tried everything i could to figure out if they were somehow hidden, but eventually i had to face the reality of the situation. so as soon as i could i did some retail therapy – buying postcards for every place we had been and every place we would go.

by this time it was getting dark… perfect timing for our rick steve’s guided night stroll. we started at piazza navona where we had a delicious dinner complete with an adorable waiter. he was even able to find wines for all of us, including my mom! since he was young and handsome, the others insisted that he and i take a photo together, and we exchanged facebook/email info so i could send it to him.

the piazza retains the shape of the original racetrack built by the emperor domitian. in the center is the fountain where robert langdon fought the hassassin in angels & demons. the four rivers fountain was one of bernini’s designs with four gods representing the four known continents of the time. the nile has his head covered, the ganges holds an oar, the danube turns to admire the obelisk, and rio de la plata tumbles backward in shock of making the top four. (all of this is information i found in rick’s book. i also read afterwards about the armadillo behind the plata river statue and wish i had seen it… guess i’ll just have to go back!)

i’m so glad i got to finish the book before coming because being here and seeing everything in person gives the story more life – and it also helped me to orient myself in the city, of which i had no geographical understanding prior to this trip. navona was filled with artists, musicians, cafes, and plenty of people. it was magical at night with various lights casting a golden glow on everything and everyone. i didn’t want to leave, but there was still plenty more to experience.

next we made our way to the pantheon, which was unfortunately closed by this time, so we took a picture of the outside and headed toward trevi fountain. i learned from rick that no one street approaches the fountain directly so as you come closer, the roar grows louder, until all of the sudden…. you’re there! the fountain is actually breathtaking despite being completely surrounded by people. we tossed our coins while making wishes and admired the beauty before moving on. i know that had i been alone i could have sat there on the steps, if i could even find a spot, watching the people all night long.

on the way to the spanish steps we stopped to notice various buildings and obelisks, which isn’t hard considering there seems to be one in every square. piazza di spagna was not as enthralling for me, but i did walk the steps while everyone else sat at the base around the fountain of the old boat. we then had to window shop of course the surrounding stores include YSL, gucci, prada, and more.

after a back roads cab-ride home, we stopped at our café next door for pastries, sad our old-man-friend wasn’t there to say bye. back at home it was tea for them, wine for me, and then we all passed out, exhausted and not excited about leaving roma in the am…

(this night started a tradition in which we would get home from a day of sightseeing, shopping, strolling, and stuffing our bellies to look at the bottoms of our feet. we would determine the cleanliness of a city, or lack thereof, by how dirty our feet were. this day in rome definitely won, hence the title of the post!)

roma: the eternal city

9/9/09

we arrived around 7:30am wednesday morning, “bright-eyed and bushy tailed…” or not. i was the only one who got any sleep on the flight over (thanks to the xanax and red wine.)

after passport regulation and customs, mom had to smoke, of course. luckily we ran into a private shuttle driver who offered to take us to our apartment for 2-3€ more than what the train would cost. this was very convenient because he had a cell phone with which he could call massimo, our apartment owner, and let him know our arrival time. he also provided us with a little bit of commentary and tips on rome along the way.

the apartment owners barely spoke english, but massimo spoke french so that was helpful. he stressed the importance of the “hydrollic problem” many times in broken english and then again in french. i guess he saw 5 women – three of which had large suitcases – and was immediately concerned about the amount of water that might be used. as it turned out we had no issues with the water pressure, but instead with the temperature, which was cold enough to freeze the balls on a brass monkey. i somehow got lucky and took showers at times when there actually was hot water, but only long enough to take a 2 minute shower with the following routine: wet hair, turn water off, apply shampoo, turn water on to wash out then turn back off, apply conditioner and wash body, turn water on to rinse off, end of shower.

by the time we got situated mom was already passed out on one of the beds, snoring louder than ever! joann, gaylyn, and i walked to the church across the street from our place, which was only the first of many. santa maria maggiore retains some of rome’s best-surviving mosaics along the nave. after our self-guided tour we checked out the TI and surrounding cafes/ristorantes for future reference.

returning home we found judy still passed out, but decided we needed to wake her so that we could start our day. it was almost noon and we were starving so we stopped for lunch of real italian pizza. our server, a little old roman man, barely spoke english, but he loved us and asked me to “come back tomorrow.” we went back that evening for coffee! (and then again thursday night for pastries, but he wasn’t there.)

after lunch we hopped on the metro to the colosseum. bam! it was right there as we exited the station. it really looked fake. i honestly can’t imagine having that as part of my daily life. we entered and walked around the inside for a bit, stopping to rest on some fallen pillars and lean against the railing. barely passing the arch of constantine, the group was already exhausted, which resulted in the loss of touring the forum and capitol hill. it was disappointing, but i tried to hold the mindset that i can always return.

back at home i napped for a couple hours before a light dinner – eggplant pannini. we made a stop at the grocery store where i bought a bottle of wine, two yogurts and two apples for just under 5€!

i was too tired to write so i just went to bed after my “hot-and-then-cold” shower. gotta love these old european amenities!