Monday, June 21, 2010

Rome, June 2010 Day Five, Sunday

The big plan for today was for me to go to the airport and rent the car that we will use as we tool around Tuscany for the next week or so. As usual, I hopped a ride to the Piazza Mazzini apartment. Beatrice’s printer was capoot and I needed paperwork to rent the car. I sat down in her dad’s office and plugged the USB cable from her dad’s printer into Donnas’ laptop. The printer wasn’t even on and the Windows 7 operating system recognized the printer and went online to locate the necessary driver and installation software. With permission, it loaded everything and offered to print a test sheet as well. Windows 7 is a complete wonder of an operating system. For anyone still using XP or Windows Vista, I strongly recommend an update.

Shortly later I was off on my adventure. I had to buy a couple of bus passes since I had used the last ones getting home the previous evening. As usual, the 628 presented itself and I got on. I rode it to Flaminio (just outside of the gates at Piazza del Popolo) and walked uphill, underground to the subway. All I can figure is that the subway is under the Borgese Gardens which slope uphill from that piazza. From there, a quick run to Termini (the central train station). Up, up, up, more and more and more escalators got me to the ground level where I purchased a ticket to Fiumicino (Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport) and was told that it departed from rail # 28. Well I went out to the rails, I was at # 17, following off to the right I counted all the way up to 25 and then there was a solid building. Very suspicious. As I reached the end a sign pointing down the track indicated that 26-28 were down there. So I started walking, it must have been more than a half mile down but eventually I arrived at the mysteriously missing tracks nicely arranged next to track 25. It was a quiet and leisurely ride out, and I found the rental place without ado. The lady charged me an extra 12 Euro a day for the Tom-Tom GPS unit but I already know that it was worth it. Returning to Rome it worked flawlessly. It knew about every counterintuitive move that was necessary to get me to the center of town. I was tempted to ignore it when it seemed to be wrong but I decided to trust it until I saw the Mouth of Truth. At that point it wanted me to veer right toward Piazza Venetzia and I wanted to continue along Lungo Tevere toward Campo Di Fiori. So, since I ignored it, I was immediately forced to make a left onto a bridge and another left at the end of the bridge and I was heading back toward the airport all over again. Fortunately, Tom-Tom had some ideas for me. First he wanted me to go right down an alley, when I failed to make that right, he led me back across the next bridge and from there I defeated that loop and eventually got all the way to the side of San Andrea della Valle where I did as the Romans do and parked with two wheels on the sidewalk and two on the street with the driver mirror folded in so that no one would break it off.

I rang Shirley’s door bell and no one answered. I called her cell phoe and then mom’s with the same results.They weren’t home and they were out of communication. Mom had said that they were going out to lunch. Wondering where they might be, I wandered over to the Campo. Tried to call again and failed. I looked in at a few restaurants as I crossed the Campo and ended up eating at a ‘Tavola Calda’- a place that sells pizza by the slice and other things like Suppli or roast chicken. The contents can vary. I had a slice of white pizza sliced down the center and filled with prosciutto and mozzarella. They were still not home. I remembered that Mom had pointed out a restaurant the previous day that she said was Shirley’s favorite, I went dowen that way and found them inside finishing up their meal. They were mystified how I had found them, I told them that I was psychic. I visited with Mom and Shirley for a while, they finished lunch, had coffee and paid their bill. As they headed home, I headed off to meet Donna as her day of teaching was coming to an end. What fun, driving in Rome again. It is just like a mini demolition derby thing except even though everyone IS out to get you, they don’t actually want to damage their car in the process. There is a sort of poetic flow to driving in Rome when the traffic is moving and since it was Sunday, I had a blast. Arriving at the apartment in piazza Mazzini, I found a parking space immediately (another perk that is available on Sundays) and climbed up to the apartment. I only had minutes to work on the Rome blog before Beatrice roped me into helping her put the house back in order. The workshop was over and her parents were coming back the next day. We had a massive amount of stuff to carry down to the street and pack into the cars but it all fit and we said goodbye to Bea trusting the Tom Tom would get us home. It seemed like it led us around in circles but eventually I started recognizing the landmarks and I was totally amazed when we ended up on Bea's street and found a parking space right in front of her apartment building.

Rome, June 2010 Day Four

As with the other days, this day began at Beatrice’s parent’s house where Donna was teaching the Advanced Feldenkrais Training. I departed from there and walked over to the bus stop to catch the 628 into town. I had decided to get off at Flaminio which is just outside Piazza del Popolo and walk through a good part of the old City on the way to join my Mom near the Campo dei Fiori. Arriving there I proceeded to photograph the arch before entering through the walls of the City. Just inside on the left is a church called Santa Maria del Popolo. Mom had castigated me on previous visits for failing to go see the Caravaggio paintings that hang there. I decided to earn brownie points and go see them. I have to admit that the guy is pretty good even if he isn’t Michelangelo (actually his name is also Michelangelo but he is not THE Michelangelo). One of the paintings was the Crucifixion of Peter and the other was a soldier being trampled by a horse. I really like the crucifixion one. From there I crossed the square, photographed the Obelisk and proceeded toward via del Babuino. Along the Babuino I glanced in the stores, all the big names here, went into the Anglican church but it was just too English. Further down (almost to the piazza di Spagna) was the place we had discovered full of statues. I went in and looked around and tried to sneak some photos. The Spanish Steps were as magical as ever. I took a photo of the steps but focused more on the fountain this time. I’m doing a job in Cardiff right now and we are discussing fountains. I want to be ready to address that subject when I return with lots of examples. Somewhere along the line over the past few days I became interested in the street names in Rome so I started photographing them whenever I saw a street of note. Mostly, I was not interested in the famous ones (some of those did get photographed) but rather in the ones that grabbed me for some other reason. There was a street named after the craftsmen who re-weave the wicker into an old worn out chair and another named after the guys who made nails. There was also one for Key makers but according to Beatrice Via delle Chiavetorri is also a crude slang expression for what guys do to women; who knew?

Anyway onward, through the piazza with a column that had a saint on it. Another with an old Roman on it. Behind the building (I think the Prime Minister was there) was another piazza with an obelisk with hieroglyphics all over it. A few more turns brought me almost to the Pantheon and so in the foreground was the Tazzo d’Oro with the moniker ’best in the world’ (in Italian). I went in, had a cappuccino and moved on. It actually is very good coffee. There was no way that I could cross the front of the Pantheon without going in so I did. I photographed the inside and the dome, all over again. For Donna and George I also got photos of the fountain. By now I was running late but still, I needed to go through Piazza Navona. The church was open and what a treat that was! Borromini was a genius. And so was Bernini. That fountain is a triumph and there was a zoo around it. The piazza was jammed with tourists, street painters, performers, everything, very cool.

Mom was raring to go when I got there so off we went on our grand walk-a-bout. We set off for the Ghetto. Checking out this and that along the way I showed mom the new Fornaio (bread store) and then we went over to via Catalana to see our old apartment. There was a to do at the Synagogue. People pouring out of the Synagogue. Mom started wandering over and immediately the military police moved towards us to block a possible terrorist threat. I turned mom the other way and said “let’s go see Lemantani” and so we did. At the other end of the block that we used to live in, in the basement of the building is possibly the world’s largest supplier of kitchen stuff. Not appliances, but plates, cups, glasses, silverware, knives, pots, pans and so on. This place wanders on and on under the building. It is Huge! I asked permission to take photographs; they allowed it, sooner or later I will post the photos of the inside of this place.

Finishing there, we wandered down into the grounds of the Teatro Marcello. Those of you who have read my other years of postings may remember that I used to catch the bus to school from here every day when I was a kid. We wondered through and came upon a newly erected pedestal, with a column on top of it. Impaled through the top of the column is a carriage (horse drawn without the horse), the type used to take tourists around Rome. The thing was painted gold and cantered slightly off at an angle. I guess this is also art. I made up an amusing story of the Cart driver trying to explain how his cart had ended up impaled in that column and how he couldn’t figure out how to get it down.

Mom was running out of steam but being the slave driver that I am, I pushed her along and we crossed the street to the side of the Capitoline hill and walked down hill away from the Ghetto. There was a foot path that veered off to the left and would bring us closer to the base of the hill so I steered her that direction and we found a place to sit under some trees. This made mom happy. Rome has been very hot. In the high 80s to 90s every day with high humidity too. In the sun, it can feel oppressive. Naturally, I had been loving it even if I was mostly a sticky, sweaty mess. There was a cool breeze under those trees and it refreshed us both. I wanted to push on. The old Roman mint was somewhere nearby and I wanted to go there. What we saw was another church and I convinced mom that we should head for it since it would have seating and be cool inside. As we approached the base of the stairs I told mom that I would go up and see if the church was open. Just then a priest got out of a car and started conversing with us. He assured us that the church was indeed open and walked with us as we climbed the stairs. He spoke English and I explained that Mom was Italian; I was only half but had grown up in Rome. He left us as we entered the church. Inside, this church was very poor and decrepit. The paintings were deteriorated to the extent that I doubted they could ever be restored. The whole place smelled musty and it was not all that cool inside either. We sat a while, then decided to get out of there, it was depressing. At the same level as the church, there were some outdoor restaurants. I thought it best to lead mom over to one and feed her before she collapsed. We selected one. Right next to our table was one of those vertical Roman drinking fountains made of bronze that are on many street corners. I immediately took our glasses over and filled them up. I just kept filling them over and over as the meal went on. Sort of felt water logged by the end of the meal. We both chose to order Rigatoni with Pesto sauce. It was delectable!

Relaxed ad recharged (at least I was) I led mom the opposite direction that she wanted to go (she wanted to go home). We were only two blocks from the Mouth of Truth and any of you who really know me know that the ‘Bocca’ is special to me. So kicking and complaining, I dragged her down there and she rebelled and declined to stand in line to see the Bocca. She found a seat while I waited in line as couples and families made idiots of themselves posing with body parts inserted in the mouth and the eye of the Face. When it was my turn I took a series of high def pictures. I’m now ready to do my third reproduction of the Bocca if anyone out there wants one. After the pictures I went inside to see the scull of Saint Valentine for a sec and I also extensively photographed the mosaic patterns of the floors of the church.

Mom wanted to take a taxi home but naturally, we could find no taxis. There was a bus stop nearby and I managed to get her down there. We caught an empty bus where she got a seat and this one bus even had air conditioning and took us to a block from where she is staying. I was off the hook. I plopped her down in a chair in the air conditioned house and took my leave to return to pick up Donna. We had agreed to return to have dinner with Mom and Shirley.

So, I walked through piazza Navona again; I don’t think that anyone can ever visit that piazza too many times. Got the 628 at the other end and shortly arrived at the apartment at Piazza Mazzini. Donna was elated to be finished with her work for the day and anxious to get in some exercise so we agreed to basically repeat the voyage I had taken earlier that day. We got off the bus at Flaminio. Immediately it was obvious that something was up. That morning as I passed through Piazza del Popolo I had noticed that they were setting up to do a rally. Well, this rally was in full swing now. The place was absolutely jammed with people wearing red hats and large bandanas proclaiming that the weight of the world was on their shoulders (whatever that was supposed to mean). Donna wanted to see the Caravaggio’s so we went back into that church again. Exiting we soon realized that we would never be able to directly cross the piazza, there were thousands and thousands of people here and Donna doesn’t really like being crushed into a mob situation. It probably hadn’t helped that I kept pointing out all of the paramilitary police aggregated around the perimeter all dressed out in riot gear. To my credit, I did tell her that things must be under control or the church would have been closed up like a vault. The solution was to take the perimeter road up the side of the piazza and back down the other side to the twin churches.

We enjoyed our walk. Donna needed to look into some of the stores. This was the first opportunity that she had had since arriving in Rome to shop and she had already been in Rome for four days. Eventually, she satisfied her immediate need by purchasing a new top. We stopped at the statuary store for an Ice Tea (they sell statues but are also a café). Pretty much, it was a déjà vu of that morning’s walk. At the Pantheon we went back in again, at Piazza Navona we walked around the Bernini fountain twice discussing the power of the sculptures and then went into the Borromini church as well.

Finally, we arrived at Shirley's apartment and I introduced Donna to her. We had cocktails and a nice dinner and eventually departed to return back to Beatrice and Renzo’s apartment. This was accomplished relatively quickly by taking a bus to the metro and then three stops down the line on the metro to the Cornelia exit which is a few blocks away from the apartment.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Rome, June 2010 Day Three

OK, there is a hiccup in the operation. Today is an impromptu transportation strike. Well, I can only get into the Center by taxi, walking from Donna’s training at Piazza Mazzini is definitely out. Don’t know where the day will lead me but I am going to start out there which is near to the Vatican and go see the ‘Pieta’ (Michelangelo) as a starting point.

Siily me, I thought that Saint Peter’s was close to piazza Mazzini. I set off in the right direction and walked and walked and walked. This is one boring neighborhood. The buildings are well under a hundred years old and in Rome that is essentially, brand new. Block after block I kept waiting for the Duomo (dome) to come into site and it just kept eluding me. I did finally end up at Castel San Angelo and from there I knew exactly where the Church was. I arrived through ‘La Porta dei Englesi’ (the English gate) and on the side of the colonnade that surrounds Saint Peter’s square. I always like to enter this way instead of through the grand concourse in front because it has so much more impact this way. Surprisingly, there was security and metal detectors in the crossing through the colonnade. I’d never seen this before. Turns out that my buddy Benedict (the Pope) was doing his Service thing right out in the open on the front steps of Saint Peter’s. Most of the square (its round not square) was filled with people dressed in white with yellow hats. I was unable to figure out what that was about but we could all see old Benedict doing his thing up front on these enormous monitors that were set up around the piazza. Everyone was having a good time and the crowd around me was singing right along with the eunuch priests that were leading the choir. Well, I was having fun but one can really only do that for so long out in the full sun on a day that is exceeding ninety degrees. It was obvious that I would not be allowed through that crowd of thousands, past Benedict and into the church so that I could see the Pieta’. I went off back the way I came and decided to follow the Papal battlements that connect the Vatican with Castel San Angelo. This was fun; I kept stopping to photograph details of the battlements, Also through the arches that framed the alleys leading away from the other side and some of the street names too. At one point an old man who was headed my direction and going about my speed had stopped to wait for me. He told me that I could get a photo of the street sign and the campanile in the background from this angle if I wished, I did and he got ahead of me while I was shooting photos of the combo. I caught up to the old guy and we were mostly neck to neck all the way to the front of the Castle. I turned right and crossed the bridge and lost sight of him there. Crossing the bridge I got a great picture of one of the sentinel angels of the bridge in the foreground with the dome of Saint Peter below and to the left. It should be a winner.

OK, having crossed the bridge, the Campo seemed to be just down the way so I decided to go see Mom after all. I stopped at the Chiesa Nuova (also San Fillippo) saw that there was supposed to be a Caravaggio but that it was missing, took some photos and proceeded to arrive at Shirley’s just after their return around noon. We chatted a while, Sherley made her lunch and was munching on it and Mom was hungry. Eventually we went out and trolled for some food finding an incredible fornaio/ pastry store a few blocks from the Campo and heading toward piazza Navona. I’m not sure that I have ever seen such a large variety of pastries in one place but what got us in was the freshly made pizzas that are sold by weight (by the slice). Mom selected pizza margarita but I got this White pizza that had fresh slices of Mozzarella, tomatoes and Basil and was not melted. This was truly heavenly. We wandered up the street to a bar and I ordered a beer, mom ordered a cold cappuccino. They bollixed that thoroughly and mom proceeded back into the place to try to teach them how to make it properly. She failed on her attempt, I didn’t ask her if she had been charged for their failures. From there I walked mom back to Shirley’s and set off toward Piazza Navona. Having examined the maps I had determined that no matter how I returned to piazza Mazzini on foot it was going to be a very long walk.

Piazza Navona is one of the gems of the world and unlike our previous two visits to Rome, this time all three fountains were operating. The previous two times the center fountain was being restored. They did a great job, it looked brand new. So, I remember a story from my child hood about the central fountain and the cathedral behind it. I seem to remember that it had to do with the rivalry between Borromini and Bernini. Have them mixed up so I don’t know which one did which. Anyway, one guy got the church contact over the other. Shortly later the other got the contact to do the fountain. Well he was so pissed off about missing out on the church job that when he did the four river god statues, they are all (but one) looking away from the church. One even has his head covered with a cloth to hide the hideousness of the church facade from his view. The fourth statue does face the church but he is holding up his hand to block the view of the church. Talk about holding a grudge!

I navigated through all the guys selling their original or perhaps not so original art. Out the back side of the piazza and I watched two buses go by. Some buses were running, a lot fewer and some lines were not running at all. I walked up to the bus stop and studied my options. There was the 30, the 7 and the good old 628 that would all take me to Piazza Mazzini. I liked my odds that a bus going my way would show up so I decided to wait. I probably waited a half hour in that 90+ degree sun and while I waited group after group of tourists led by a guide walked by. Finally, I was rewarded for my patience. Guess which bus showed up. Yep, the 628. Something seems to have me inextricably connected to this bus line as I return to Rome time after time.

Rome June 2010: Day Two

First, for those of you who speak Italian; give me a break on the spelling. I know that I misspelled a bunch of Italian words. Corrections are humbly accepted. I’m not sharing this with Nancy Jones (former elementary school teacher and the newest member of the Alta Vista Gardens Board) or she would feel obliged to correct my English, I am happy to express myself just so, without her help.

We slept ten hours last night and basically, converted ourselves over to Rome time. Beatrice awoke us at ten this morning and we were rushed to get out of here in time and to her mother’s place at Piazza Mazzini for the beginning of Donna’s advanced Feldenkrais class. Renzo drove us in his VW Bug because Beatrice left early to get the living room cleared out and make the other preparations. We got there, proceeded down to the corner café where the Roman movie set gets their coffee and ordered two Cappuccinos’ for 2 Euro ($2.40 for both), a lot cheaper than Starbucks. We downed those in a few seconds and ordered another two along with a ham and mozzarella ‘Medallione’ for 2.5 Euro ($2.70). We shared the sandwich and I rushed her back to her class room for the first day of her teaching.

Leaving, I wandered over to the next road where Renzo had said I could get a bus to the Center of Rome. I was on my way to see my mom who had flown up from the Greek island of Paros where she lives six months of the year to see her sons who (by happenstance) happen to be in Italy at the same time. I went into a Tabacchaio and purchased ten bus/metro passes for ten Euro. Out on the curb, I looked up at the bus schedules to figure out which bus I wanted. Wonders of wonders, the old 628! For those of you that have followed my previous Blogs, this is the exact same bus line that we used the previous years to come from Beatrice’s old apartment in the other side of Rome to get to the center. How weird is that?

So, it took a half hour for the bus to arrive. The 628 has a very sporadic schedule. Sometimes it’s three buses in ten minutes and sometimes one bus in thirty, go figure. While waiting at the stop the distinguished gentleman standing next to me awaiting the same bus reminded me of a very important phrase that I have no doubt I shall continue to use regularly during the time I am here- “per piacere lasciami in pace” or “please leave me alone”. In this instance it was a young man trying to insist that I purchase a pair of sport socks from him. In all fairness I was wearing flops and no socks so he was aware that I had none, but did I need them? I thought not. Needless to say, he did not make the sale as I took advantage of this new phrase and mouthed it for the first time. The bus finally came and I was happy. I sat near the back taking in the sites. The bus took me down to and along the edge of the Tiber, I had never been familiar with this part of the river. It does not have built up embankments but has been left natural with trees and foliage. As we crossed over the bridge I looked down and saw a bunch of house boats moored along the edge of the river and a large parking lot with very few cars. So, for anyone who wants to live in Rome, here is a place that you can live with a wonderful ambiance and you will also never need to look for a parking space near home. I wondered if the rents are high to moor a house on the Tiber.

The Bus route was incredibly convoluted, switching back on itself in strange ways (or so it seemed). This driver had balls. He was hauling down very tight curving streets with little cars parked on both sides, very little clearance on either side like it was nothing. At one point he came upon someone who was double parked and restricting his passage even further, he slowed down to about 15 miles per hour and squeaked through with inches to spare but was unfazed. Just part of a days work driving a bus in Rome. The wonders of Rome; as we drove along I got a view down a narrow street and saw the obelisk in the center of the Piazza del Popolo framed by the road. We passed the tomb of Augustus and the Aria Paces (?) At another point another narrow side street afforded me a view of the Spanish steps with the boat fountain in the foreground at its other end. We passed a column with some old Roman at the top of it. I think that was Piazza Colonna (piazza of the column) I found myself there again at the end of the day and got a picture with the sun backlighting it. What a City!

I disembarked at piazza Venetia. They had finally finished that part of the new Metro route and filled in the eternal hole in the center of the piazza. Now there are two mounded grass areas with signs to stay off of the grass. Much better this way. I hesitated there. Did I want to go through the Ghetto or through Largo Argentina? The Ghetto won out. I just can’t resist getting that close to the turtle fountain and not actually going to see it. So I just picked the thinnest alley in site that went the correct direction and proceeded with my internal compass leading me first left then right (or was it right then left) in the direction of the little boys holding up those turtles. Around a corner into a little piazza and a huge church, another corner, another church. This is Rome…. I found the turtle fountain, good as ever. If (when) any of you ever go to Rome you defiantly need to see this little fountain. I almost forgot to mention, somewhere near the turtle fountain is a church. There is this guy who sits outside the church on the street and paints scenes of cactus (no cactus in site on this street). The steps of the church have one cactus painting after another lined up across the front of it. I’m not sure that anyone actually buys them as they are not very good and he probably never has even seen a cactus, but he has been there the three visits that I have returned through different seasons so he appears to be a fixture. Onward out of the Ghetto, across Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle toward the Campo di Fiori. A little way up on the right I saw that street that has a curve in it and knew that up that way was Largo del Palaro where I used to live. Shirley lives just behind there and this is where my mom is staying. Up to the apartment, I spent an hour or so re-connecting with Mom and Shirley. Shirley and I had actually not been in communication until about a year ago for almost forty years but she seems very lively and full of life.

I was dying to see the Campo so I urged mom out the door and down through the Chapel/tunnel that connects Largo del Palaro to the Campo dei Fiori (field of flowers). Most of the market was still open. Pretty cool, two stalls sold only Pasta; I got some photos, who knew there were so many types. A stall sold balsamic vinegar and different types of Pate’. Mom tried the artichoke pate’, she said it was incredible. Pricy too; 15 Euro for a small cold cream jar full. What a variety of vegetables. In this market you can find anything. Fruit and vegetables that I had never seen, most grown locally. I took pictures, because it was just so colorful and inviting. Mom had gone out that morning to buy an espresso machine at one of the stalls in the ‘Campo’ since she couldn’t find one in Shirley’s kitchen. She discovered that they also had one of those industrial size ‘sciatchia aglio’ (garlic press) that she had given each of us so many years ago. Knowing that, I made her take me there and I bought it so that we would have one at both houses. Too bad, I bought the last one and they had no idea how to get a hold of another.

From there we went to the Fornaio in the Campo and we each of selected a sandwich made from white pizza sliced down the center and stuffed with meat and cheese. Naturally, I chose Prosciutto. We wandered over to piazza Farnese and sat down at a café and ordered some drinks to go with our pizza sandwiches, yummy! From there we looped the Palazzo Farnese. I was particularly interested in seeing the building again with new eyes. I had read ‘the agony and the ecstasy’ about the life of Michelangelo and had learned that he had designed the top story of the building. Around back I showed mom the view into the rear gardens of the palazzo and she remembered that the Borromini Perspective was just around the corner (somewhere?). We wandered through a few wrong turns but did find the palazzo Spada and went in to look through a glass window that has a view of the ‘perspective’. You can’t walk it anymore but I did many times as a kid. It is a series of arches, the first full size, the others increasingly smaller. At the end is a statue. Viewed from a distance it looks like a long hallway of arches. If you walk it, it isn’t very long and it turns out that the statue is not much higher than three feet with its pedestal. Very effective. By then, mom was fagged, I took her back to the apartment and we sat around talking away the afternoon. I left near five to start the process of returning to piazza Mazzini where Donna was teaching.

My plan was to cut across to the Corso down which the bus had traveled on the way there. Silly me, I assumed the 628 route would be the same returning as it was going toward the Center. I went out, wandered right into Largo del Palaro and looked up to our old apartment. Last time I’d seen it, it was all closed up, this time it was open, I took a few photo for keepsake. Walking out along the side of San Andrea della Valle, I decided to see if the church was open. The last two trips it had always been closed when I was in that location. Seeing as how it was open, I went in. The interior is huge and very gilded with gold. I think someone famous did something in that church but I didn’t have a guide book with me so I just walked around and looked. I seem to remember that this is the oldest church dome in Rome. I need to look that up.

Out the front, across the street I veered right instead of left, I missed the piazza Navona but in short order realized that I was heading directly towards the Pantheon. OK, the Pantheon is always good but wow, what a crowd! There was literally an army of 13 year old kids all wearing Red hats. I later discerned that they were probably Germanic when I overtook them on the way to the Trevi fountain. The Pantheon was being worked on out front but they had completed the floor restoration they had been working on the last time I had been there. As usual, it was inspiring to stand inside. It was what I had sold to Keith when we had done the house of God in the Kabala Garden of his Valley Center home. Naturally, his was somewhat smaller but the impact was there all the same.

From there onward around the Tassa D’Oro (I was on a schedule, no time to stop for an espresso). All of a sudden I had hit the Corso where I expected to catch the 628 back to piazza Mazzini. I hesitated a second and decided that I had time to go on and see the Fontana di Tervi (never go to Rome without visiting it). The whole piazza was one giant can of sardines (I mean tourists) but the good news is that the fountains were running! I stayed a few minutes. Muscled through the crowds and got a few photos and then off back to the Corso to catch the 628 Bus. Getting there, I ambled up to the bus stop, no 628 on the first, second or third sign. Clearly I had missed something. I went back and checked the three signs again. No 628. I walked across the street to see the bus stop going the other way, OK, 628. Crossed the street again to confirm I wasn’t tripping; no 628. So I did the only logical thing left for me to do. I got on the 628 bus going the wrong direction and rode it back to the Teatro Marcello where I knew the bus was on both sides of the street. Getting off the bus, I crossed and a few minutes later caught the 628 going the way I wanted it to be going. When we got to piazza Venetia instead of going straight down the Coso, it took a left went thru Largo Argentina and right up to San Andrea della Valle (where I had started out) and took a right onto Corso dell Resorgimento and went around the piazza Navona. Go figure, I had just spent most of an hour to end up right back where I started from. Good lesson, that 628 really does go everywhere.

I arrived without further ado at Piazza Mazzini and then proceeded to get thoroughly lost. There were only eight roads leading into the piazza but I couldn’t figure out which one I needed to be on. Problem was that when I got off the bus I bypassed the first street and started examining them all in more detail starting with the second. After fifteen minutes I ended up calling Beatrice to ask directions and even then had a hard time figuring it all out. The rest is history. We met up, returned to Beas’ apartment and then Donna was ready to get her yayays out and go for a walk, I agreed-guess I hadn’t walked enough that day.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Back to Rome...June 2010 Day One

Well, things are definitely moving ahead in this world! I want to tell you all about it but first…

We flew Delta and had a nightmare time getting an assigned seat on the plane to Rome. Something about an equipment change in New York. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t find anyone in the whole airline that could override their system and get us assigned seats. My almost last try was to call them at exactly 24 hours before departure. It also failed to get me a seat so I went online, checked in electronically and low and behold, the second leg of the trip from Kennedy to Rome had seat assignments. No luck on the cross country leg and I was still locked out. Somehow, miraculously, during the day, the seat assignments appeared. We were separated three rows apart in rotten seats. At check-in, same problem, they knew all about it, equipment change, we were screwed. One possible chance, the gate has around fourteen seats at their discretion to assign, with any luck the can give us new seat assignments.

When we got there we had to wait in line (not a good sign) and when I got to the front of the line, she explained that all the flight was sold out and all seats were taken. I explained my long and convoluted story of all of the attempts I had made to obtain assigned seats starting with when I had booked the flight months earlier. She was very nice and put our names on her list. She said that she was working on upgrading two people that have assigned isle seats across from each other in an emergency exit row to first class and she might be able to get us those. We had become convinced that fate was working to keep us apart on that flight but that kind lady came through and put us in that exit row (lots of leg room). Donna immediately traded one of the aisle seats with a center seat and viola’, we were sitting together. What a relief, traveling with Donna is fun and part of that is the airplane ride. I just wanted the complete package.

So, back to what I was going to tell you about. Delta is rolling in Wi-Fi on their airplanes. This plane had Wi-Fi. As a frequent flyer I had received an email on their rollout. It was supposed to cost around $12 on flights of 4 hours, a bit more for longer flights or something like $32 for a twenty-four hour package (or was that for a whole month of usage?). Good news, once the Gods decided that our luck had needed to change, they went even further than the seats we got. I logged into the ‘gogo inflight network’ and for whatever reason, it was free for us today!

Well, the entertainment of the internet on a flight is priceless. Much better that a movie (yes I also watched a movie). We are using Donnas’ awesome Acer laptop with Windows 7, over eight hours of battery life, HDMI monitor, Wireless ‘N’, a hi-def web cam and 500 GB hard all in less than four pounds of weight. We both checked and responded to email and then I attached an external 500GB hard drive that is the size of a pack of cards and had access to all my Documents, Pictures and Videos. We proceeded to produce the invitation for our Summer Party, edited it and refined it then sent it out to our ‘Party Groups’ from each of our profiles. OK, not so special tech wise except that we were in a plane over the Central States when we did it. The second flight was nowhere near as good, I didn’t sleep much and we didn’t get exit seats. To top off the disappointments, no Wi-Fi either.

Beatrice met us at the airport and drove us into Rome to the new apartment that she and Renzo had just moved into the previous week. The apartment was very nice and it is on the ground floor with a real yard on three sides. It was good to see Renzo again and I met their daughter Micolla for the first time.

After bathing and taking a nap, Donna had left for her first day of teaching. I got up and decided to go out for a stroll. I wanted to be familiar with the neighborhood; find the closest Metro station (Cornelia on the Red Line) and make sure I could find my way back to the apartment. Leaving the apartment I felt like I was really in the middle of nowhere. This area of Rome isn’t even on my map and it is really directly behind the Vatican and close to the Via Aurelia antica which was one of the main roads (started around 241 B.C.) out of ancient Rome that led up the coast to Pisa. Up the street through a few turns I came upon a huge piazza that doubles as a transit center. No isolation here. I can get to anywhere from here. I wandered around the neighborhood for a few hours checking out the stores and the women. Basically the sites. I had a Suppli at a corner fast food place and scored some Euros from an ATM so that I would have more of the local currency. Eventually, I found a market, bought some basic groceries and some wine. This place has me confused. At first I couldn’t find a bottle of red wine more expensive than 1.95 Euros. Eventually I did find a bottle of Chianti Classico for 5.00 Euro but that was absolutely the most expensive bottle in the market. Wow!