Rome Days 1 and 2

So, we’re three days into our visit and I haven’t posted anything. I plead exhaustion. Our trip was pretty uneventful, other than an hour delay on the runway at Heathrow to resolve computer problems before take-off on our leg to Rome.

Day 1

We got to our hotel at around 3 pm. That was about 18 hours after we left Boylston, with perhaps two or three hours of sleep on the plane. The hotel room was very nice, but the wifi wasn’t working–they hoped to have it fixed later in the day.

After a bit of freshening up, we headed out. The plan was to pick up our Papal Audience tickets for Wednesday, then head to the Spanish Steps to meet our Twilight City Stroll & Gelato-Tasting tour. Things didn’t go quite according to plan. First we need to get money. The ATM across from our hotel didn’t work, and it wasn’t clear whether the problem was with my card or the machine. There seemed to be no other banks in the immediate vicinity and I wasn’t eager to use a stand-alone ATM at a Tabacchi (convenience store). I finally settled on one at the Metro station. We headed off to pick up the tickets, found the place without difficulty and had a short chat with the priest and secretary at Santa Susannah before heading off to do Anne’s first geocache in Rome. It took a while to find, so by now it was after 5 and our plan was to grab a quick snack before meeting our tour at 7. I checked my email confirmation for details and realized I had screwed up. I had convinced myself that the tour was at 7 when it was actually at 5. We had missed it!

Since we hadn’t eaten since “breakfast” on the plane hours before, we decided to console ourselves with food and drink. We found a likely-looking restaurant with outdoor seating and settled into a couple of Mojitos (not very Italian), and what turned out to be a tasty steak dish (I heard “carne” and decided that was good enough). While we ate, I sent an email to the tour folks (Walks of Italy) apologizing for my screw-up and asking if we could reschedule. They were very accomodating–by the end of the meal I was confirmed for the same tour the next night.

After dinner we strolled to the nearest Metro stop to head back to our hotel. The trains were packed with rush hour travellers. We managed to squeeze in, and were followed by three teen-aged girls. I felt something against my leg, reached down and brushed a hand. A minute later I felt it again and brushed it away more emphatically. I checked my pocket and found that the zippered inner pocket that held my passport was partially open! Fortunately everything was still there. The girls got off at the next stop.

We made it back to our hotel by 8. Anne was asleep by 8:30–I managed to stay awake until almost 10.

Day 2

We were up early to head to the Vatican for the Papal Audience, only to find no water in the bathroom. Well, not quite no water, there was a bit dribbling from the faucet, so I was able to do a basic clean-up before heading out. We were too early for breakfast in the hotel, so we stopped at a cafe down the street for a sandwich and Caffe Americano.

The trip to the Vatican via the Metro was uneventful other than packed trains, which necessitated people left on the platforms leaning on the doors to force them closed on the hoardes in the train.

The experience in St. Peter’s Square was interesting. It had a certain resemblance to a sporting event. A marching band started things off, followed by the color guard twirling flags. Then they started announcing the names of the many pilgramage groups from all over the world, each announcement followed by a cheer from the group in question. It reminded me of when they list the school and church groups on the center field scoreboard at Fenway.

The real action started when the Popemobile got rolling–thousands of people trying to catch a glimpse of Il Papa. One option was to watch the four Jumbotrons. But if that wasn’t good enough, the alternative was to stand on your chair. There were elderly nuns standing on the rickety folding chairs. I don’t think I saw any of them holding iPhones on selfie sticks, but everyone else had one. Those elderly nuns and us may be the only people left in Rome without them. They are the prime piece of merchandise for every sidewalk vendor in the city. One can’t walk 20 feet in any area frequented by tourists without someone trying to sell you one.

The pope then gave a short homily in Italian, followed by greetings, also in Italian, which were translated into many languages–I caught English, French, Spanish, Portugese, German, Arabic and Polish, and I think I missed a couple. Some of the major languages also rated a translated synopsis of the homily. Each language group cheered its blessing. The ceremony concluded with the Lord’s Prayer in Latin. (I didn’t hear any Latin-speakers cheering after that.)

We headed back to our hotel and got lunch at Ai Tre Scalini, a nice little restaurant in Monti, the neighborhood across from our hotel. The hotel wifi was finally working, so we caught up a bit on things before heading off again. We headed out a bit early before our rescheduled tour at 5, with the intention of visiting Santa Maria del Popolo. We arrived there in plenty of time but visited the wrong chapels first, then got shooed from the church because Mass was starting and so missed the two Caravaggios we were there to see. Oh well.

The walking tour was fun. It started at the Spanish steps and covered many sites in central Rome, including Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and Piazza Navona. Our guide, Andrea, recommended a restaurant in the Jewish Ghetto for dinner. We particularly enjoyed the fried artichoke appetizer.

Days 3 and 4 are here.

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