Instead of the high speed super comfy train we took from Venice to Florence we ticketed for the less expensive option and hopped aboard a regional train in Perugia for our final stop … Roma. We entered the Termini Station as far away from an exit as possible … with bags bumping along the concrete path we headed for the taxi stand … our wait exceeded an hour. Once buckled into the back of an official white taxi we were off … whipping around buses, brakes squealing, tires bouncing over the cobblestone road, red lights were only a suggestion to our driver and more than once Greg grabbed the Oh Sh**! bar waiting for impact! We were deposited with a flourish and a smile in front of our home in Rome, the Relais Vatican View only a few steps away from St Peter’s Square and Basilica. Another perfect location.
After a brief respite from our harrowing taxi experience we tightened up our trekkers and headed out, tourist map in hand to discover something of Roma. Of course, we turned left through the old wall passing into St Peter’s Square and stood in awe at the beauty of another spectacular basilica, awash in light and surrounded by a sea of people.
We wandered nearby streets, listening to street musicians and laughter echoing from wall to wall cafes. We strolled along the Tiber river and down the narrow, winding Via Trastevere; window shopping and indulging our addiction for what else but organic gelato. Later we found ourselves in Campo di Fiori for our first dinner in Roma … we returned after dark to experience St. Peter’s aglow.
Sunday in Rome … we gathered with thousands upon thousands of people in St Peter’s Square watching what Sweetie told me was high mass on the jumbo-tron screens mounted around the square. It was a cloudy day heavy with a portent of rain, but we came prepared with our trusty though flimsy umbrella … instead the sun came out, so hot that the umbrella provided welcome relief while we waited for the Angelus (Pope’s blessing).
Though I speak no Italian, after the days spent with the cousins in Campitello, I could pick out a few words of the short talk the Catholic Pope, Francis, offered … about families, and the importance of parents and children. I was excited I could understand at least the gist of his talk.
We took another short respite after standing so long in the square before striding out toward our afternoon adventure … Imperial Rome. What amazed me as we headed toward the Colosseum was ancient Rome interwoven with modern Rome … cross a street and behind a clear plexiglass window are walls, columns, and paths of an ancient villa or courtyard fifty to a hundred feet below. Sadly too were the scrawls of graffiti spray painted across ancient marble columns and buildings (are people just stupid everywhere?). We found our way to the Colosseum and hooked up with a tour. What I found fascinating was that the Forum and the Colosseum and other Roman buildings were stripped of their marble to build St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican. We hiked up and around the Palatine Hill purported to be the initial Roman settlement which overlooks the Forum. We were too late to actually walk the road and view the Forum as the guards were punctual and sent everyone out the door precisely at 5.
Monday found us again in line waiting with our City Wonders tour to experience the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and St Peter’s Basilica. The tour guide was exceptional and we were awash in information … there was some time, but not enough time, to experience the radiance of Michaelangelo’s Pieta, the works of Raphael, the Sistine Chapel and rooms of tapestries … I could have stayed in the Sistine Chapel all day … it was claustrophobic though; I did find the ceiling easier to view once I supported my neck with my hand. I can’t even imagine the years it took as Michaelangelo lay on his back to paint such magnificence. Words escape me.
As we left the Sistine Chapel we passed through a section of modern art from the Vatican’s collections. This one of Christ comforting or welcoming touched my heart. We left the Vatican museums and entered St Peter’s Basilica … I was overwhelmed with its immensity; the sculpture of popes, niches of sculpture and paintings of Christ … the center carved monument over the area where Peter’s remains are placed … and the quiet walk below through the tombs of Catholic saints and popes. As we paused in front of Peter’s crypt I gave a silent prayer of thanks for his life and service as an Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ.
I could tell we were nearing the end of our Italian Journey … I admit, we were pooped and had to take another respite before our last afternoon and evening in the ‘eternal city’ … I had my list of places I still wanted to see … the Spanish steps, Palladium and of course, Trevi Fountain. After negotiating with Sweetie we settled on Trevi Fountain and headed out, map in hand to toss our coins in that famous fountain. On the way though I didn’t think I was hungry until I realized I was stopping and reading every restaurant’s menu and staring into their windows … at a tiny deli we stopped; drawn in by the smells of pastry and cheese. Sitting on a tall chair in the open window I devoured one of their specialties, a porcetta sandwich while Greg had a 4 meat and cheese antipasto. I gave it a big thumbs up on facebook and Trip Advisor.
On we went toward ‘the fountain’ … passing guarded embassies, designer clothing shops, and tourist traps. After an agonizingly long time we finally rounded the corner to ‘the fountain’… AND it was closed.! Closed! Dry! Fenced off with plexiglass windows! Disappointment … oh! disappointment. But that didn’t last long … we just tossed our coins over the wall, took a selfie and an enterprising street hustler took a couple of pictures of us then charged us 2 euros for a Polaroid (and not a very good one at that).
Back we tracked … stopping at a lovely shop for what would be our last gelato … it was good … but was it as good as Emilia in Parma?
We left Rome well before first light; left Italia with still only 2 carry-on bags, left having reforged family ties and left having learned to slow down … focus on one thing at a time, enjoy time eating, enjoy life, enjoy one another … then we landed in Chicago and Hellooooo America! High Gear and Move, Move, Move …
I think in my heart I am Italian now …
P.S. My Italian Pick for Best Gelato in Italy is Cremeria Emilia Parma No seriously! It’s the BEST!