Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rising to Rome if that is even possible

Arriving in Rome is like being Audrey Hepburn or Sophia Loren.  You are at once in awe and in ownership of a busy street, a busy city.  And of course, you feel fabulous!

If you travel to many cities, you learn to pick up the vibe of the city. You know when to walk fast and you learn when to stroll.  You can catch on to the hustle factor that the big roundabouts offer.  You watch to see if people hold their bags clutched to them or if they are just holding them as the walk.  You can see if the mood is moving or if it is one of fiscal desperation.  You can learn to step out in the street, with cars flying and to watch them all stop.  And most importantly, you learn to pick out the non tourist restaurant.  Or you learn to favor a tourist restaurant.  Perhaps it is your level of interest in cuisine that makes one place more alluring over another.

On our arrival, my travel partner says to eat at a certain restaurant.  We do.  It has a tourist menu.  That alone tells you that they cater to the travelers.  It isn't bad, but it will not be authentic.  It will be the best of all and the best of none.  To be fair, my food was al dente and was nicely presented.  My seafood pasta, which was clams and mussels was just fine.  The bottle of pinot grigio acceptable.  However, I cannot help but think the amount of pasta I can make for that amount of euros. If you eat outside in Europe, you will eat with smokers.  Don't have a bad attitude.  If it is important to you to be away from smoke, then eat where you don't have to smell it.

Later, we walk the Tiber River and then buy prosciutto and cheese and bread for the late night snack.  The exhaustion of the trip before sets in and we give into the night and return to Trastevere for the evening.  Thunderstorms break out in the middle of the night and the roof sounds like it is being pounded by rocks.  The heavy tiles take the beating with aplomb and the night beats on.  With only hours till daylight, Rome doesn't disappoint the big city reputation and the street life picks up at three a.m., bottles hitting the streets and loud young people going back to their roosts.

Then, bright as can be is the alarm to awake us to to the tour of Vatican Museo and Gardens.  Six a.m. and yes we are up and staggering around in the dark.  The Vatican, I say.  We must not be late!

And when we are twenty minutes early, we climb down the well tromped tourist stairs to buy our, "you got here early" six euro coffee.  Which by the way, we gladly paid.  Well done whomever owns that spot.  Well done!
The Vatican is like every church and museum and catholic school you ever attended or visited in one.  Many of the tourists are clergy, priests and nuns.  Many are on the Catholic pilgrimage.  The clergy are of every color and age, every tongue.  They are in black, grey and blue, with white collars.  There is the one rotund Jesuit that looks like the monk in the Robin Hood book, Friar Tuck.  Then, there are the multitudes of asian tourists (trusting word to know if that should be capitalized, sorry Sister Mary Judith). I wonder if I was in their country would I visit such a specifically religious place as this.  Oh, but we are in Rome.  It is not Miami or even Madrid.  It is the home of the city/state/country - Vatican.  There are museums and halls and rooms and halls and stairs, more than you can ever anticipate.

The ceilings are as elegant as the walls and statutes, more so in many cases.  And who knew that the Sistine Chapel ( which is the 16th chapel according to the tour guides, not built for a  pope's  sister) was so small compared to the rest of the museo and buildings.  One could spend days here.  But, the opulence makes me ponder the lives of those who built the buildings one stone at a time. The artists who did Michael Angelos' bidding, but were never he.   The paintings seldom depict happiness unless god and heaven are part of the picture.  I am glad that I did not live in those times.  The place is a wonder, but also provokes thoughts of bigger problems of the world.  I am glad for the break of the patio near the end of the tour.

Morgan and I find a bench that we think is far from everyone and she lies on my lap and quickly dozes.  Turns out we are in the best vantage spot to view Saint Peter Basilica.  Tour guide after tour come stand two inches from our bodies to look at the dome.  At one point, a nun - a rather young nun- pushes Morgans feet aside and sits on the end of the bench.  She has worn wool socks under her sandals and the heat is now too much.  She removes the socks and places them in a bag.  She then invites an elderly woman to take her place.  Another bench opens up and so Morgan and I move.  Morgan again reclines, only this time an officer says, "Madam! Madam!" and she sits up and we gather our thoughts to leave.  The cappuccinos have definitely worn off.

I bought postcards of Pope Francis.  Pope Francesco.  And of Michelangelo paintings.  I wanted to make sure my mother received a card from the Vatican.It made me remember my grandmother who had this little pendant that she said was full of sand from the holy land and that Jesus had walked on the sand.  I can't remember how she got the pendant as I am sure that she never traveled outside the country.

My daughter and I visited the cathedral of Saint Francesco of Assisi tonight.  We saw the Bernini of the Lying Woman.

internet photo
Doesn't sound that impressive?  Well think of any church or place of worship you have been in that houses a work of art so emotive, so full of history and expression.  If you are in America, you may be hard pressed.  It is five blocks from our apartment.  Every few blocks is a new piazza with more fountains and more art.  Marble graces the open steps and Roman Warriors adorn every monument. This interesting chap was on top of the Mussolini castle and the main statute in the Borghese Park.

Umberto Primo Wiki Photo
Aside from the fact that Umberto Primo has a killer mustache, he rides a pretty mean looking horse as well!

We walk most places covering around ten miles a day.  Of course this is filled with stops for looking and grabbing a beer or prosecco. And maybe a little cheese and bread.  And maybe a pizza.  You feel like if you walk that far, you should get  to eat or drink what you want!

We stop to get the items at the butcher shop my daughter wants. Dried meats, smoked mozzarella.  I buy Sangiovese wine to go with it.  We stop at a bar for a glass of wine, waiting on our third traveler, who left earlier to see the colosseum.  And we hear, " Even Americans don't like Fleming!"

I am assuming they are talking about a painter, but soon it matters not.  They are Bob and Bob from southern California by way of Cinque Terra and Rome.  We converse on politics and wine and restaurants and Saint Francesco of Assisi.  They were disappointed with Cinque Terra hiking access and delighted with Rome.  Then, they are off and so are we.

Our host for the dinner evening is none other that Gigi. He owns Impiccetta Ristorante in Trastevere.    He trained in South Beach, Miami, Florida.  He is fluent in spanish, italian and english.  He owns a lovely little space on Via dei Fienaroli and I highly recommend it!  #impiccetta

Gigi of Impicetta

Be forewarned, a meal is enough for two love birds.  Order two, and one appetizer if you are three fold.  You will be greatly pleased.  Beer is not so much in Italy, home to Tuscany.  But there are small craft spots that you can find.  If you are not a wine connoisseur, then definitely  pick the house wine or have the wait staff pick for you.  While not all of the ones have been fabulous, none have been so poor as to send back.

The Trastevere neighborhood is safe, but trendy.  It is noisy after midnight and easy in the morning.  Lovely to walk and easy to access transportation.  We feel safe and welcome.  People for the most part are friendly and helpful.  We have not had any trouble with the usual travel warnings of pick pockets and scams.  There are always people selling stuff on the street and they can be persistent.  But a firm no, grazie or No Thanks will do.  Rome is, well what can I say, Rome.  Ciao!