Rome is a magical place to visit. Having stayed there for about twenty-four hours prior to our cruise we were excited to return for an additional five days. This was also somewhat unusual and adventurous for us in that we up until that time had returned home directly after a cruise. So we were back at the Hotel Montecarlo and Claude. We decided by majority vote of three, sadly Aaron had to return to the United States due to work commitments, that we would perform much of our tour of Roma by the walking method. Since then I have discovered that every time we are in Europe walking is our primary means of transportation. We set our for the Fontana di Trevi or the Trevi Fountain. The magnificent fountain was designed by Nicola Salvi and built in 1762. It is considered the most famous fountain in the world. The fountain has appeared in several movies due to its popularity. It is a breathtaking feast for the eyes.
As we pushed through the very large crowds of people I noticed a young woman who was setting on a small wooden push cart and who was obviously handicapped. Although many passed her smiling face by as if she was not present…a young priest stopped and spoke with her and gave her some coin. By the smiles on both of their faces I saw the christian principle at work.
We discovered a wonderful trattoria near the fontana and enjoyed a great meal…in fact it was so delicious that we returned again during our stay in Roma. Later that afternoon we returned to the Montecarlo for a short nap only to be awakened by the telephone and Aaron calling from a hotel near the Leonardo da Vinci airport. He told us that his plane back to the United States had not shown up and subsequently was just a few miles away from us until a new flight could arrive the next day. He was exhausted from waiting in long lines at the airport for hours before they secured him a room for the night.
We planned on dining at our favorite trattoria that was a block or so away from our hotel…but decided first to enjoy a drink at the hotel bar. When we arrived at the bar we discovered that Claude was not only the front desk attendant but also the bartender and mixologist. He provided us with some tasty drinks and we sat with some very friendly folks from England. The gentleman told us that he had been robbed the night before and that we must be careful if we boarded any of the trains because that is where his pocket was picked. He went on to exclaim that if it were not for his lady friend he would be in a penniless circumstance as all of his credit card were stolen as well. I thought during our animated conversation that we had found friends for the stay at the hotel…but when I greeted the colorful englishman the next morning he barely replied hello…and did not seem to recall our revelries of the evening before.
In any event we returned to our super nice bald headed slightly crossed eyed waiter at the trattoria just down the street, that we had visited the evening before we embarked on the cruise, and he was ecstatic to see us. He cooked his speciality for us and it was even better than before the cruise…if that is possible. After the meal I inquired if he had any grappa? Now, I must confess at this point that I did not know what grappa was but I had heard it ordered on one of my two all time favorite television shows, The Sopranos, and so I wanted to experience it. The man beamed at the request and responded that he not only had grappa…but for me he would open the best grappa. I replied with equal enthusiasm. Grappa is a grape based brandy made from discarded grape seeds, stems, and stalks. It was very strong, smooth, and good. As the dinner concluded we had been educated during the cruise that the proper tip in most European countries was only a few Euros…if the service was good…and not the twenty percent that we americans were accustomed to. Thus we left the culturally correct gratuity…and our wonderful waiter did not follow us into the street.
We began the next morning with the Montecarlo’s’ extravagant breakfast. Chocolate is the theme with chocolate pastries and Nutella abounding and also some wonderful Genoa salami and diverse antipasto. This is complimented with exquisite cappuccino. Then, we were off to find the perfect suitcase for Mary Jane. She was desiring a small hard case that would fit in the overhead compartments on the airplanes. We walked several miles in this pursuit. Finally we found just the right one…a small fire engine red Samsonite case and we quickly purchased it from the well dressed Italian lady who mostly smiled at us when we asked her questions. Speaking of well dressed. We noticed that almost all men and women we encountered were immaculate in their attire and thin. Women wearing high heels and men in suit and tie…even when driving their Vespers.
The ancient ruins of Rome and the Colosseum were our next stop. These sites are so imagination stirring.
During our five days in Rome we took a twelve hour bus tour to Assisi and Orvieto. This began with some excitement just after Bob’s Limo Service picked us up at our hotel and drove us to the bus tour. A lady immediately came out and instructed us to follow her to a different bus line that would be taking us due to her company not having enough tourists partaking of the twelve hour journey. When we arrived the tour guide said that he did not have our names on his manifest to which I replied that we had purchased our tickets and were planning on joining his tour…he simply waved his hand for us to board. As we began the ride I was impressed that our guide began to tell us what we were going to see when we stopped as well as many of the areas that were passing by the bus windows…and he did this in three languages. However when we stopped at Orvieto the bus parked at the foot of a gigantic hill that we then took a lift up part of the climb and completed it wearily on foot. This process took over twenty minutes. When we finally arrived at the top our guide who had spoken to us in three languages told us that, “There is the church…I will be under the tree…meet me under the tree in one hour”. This was the modus operandi for the remainder of the day. In fact there was a woman from South Africa that constantly berated him throughout the day for his lack of tour guide skills. She told him that she had been a governmental official overseeing tourism in South Africa at one time and that she knew what she was talking about. His response throughout the day was, “Madame…madame”.
A lunch was provided during the day at a local trattoria. We were so happy to be reunited with our new friends from Barcelona, Dan and Michelle, and we sat next to them for lunch. As I was attempting to make my order of the approved foods that the Tour had already paid for, the language gap got the best of both me and the waitress. When Dan attempted to help by telling the young woman what I was requesting and I chimed in…she instructed me that she was talking to Dan. I thought enough said.
St. Francis home of Assisi is fascinating. St. Francis was born into a well to do family in 1181-1182. While Francis was going to war in 1204 he had a vision and returned to Assisi. He then took a pilgrimage to Rome and joined the poor in begging in St. Peter’s Basilica. He was then persuaded to live in poverty. He is one of the most venerated saints of the Catholic Church. I think that his name sake the current Pope is an extraordinary leader. We again had the opportunity to have a drink and snack with Michelle and Dan as well as Mary Jane discovering a wonderful hanging mask that she had been looking for.
As the long tour wound to its’ conclusion and we got off the bus Mary Jane handed our trilingual guide ten euro. Now ten euro is a good tip for a good guide…but our guide was just out of gas, so to speak, yet she handed him the reward smilingly and he responded, “You are to kind madame”.
As we departed Rome I was sure of one thing…we must return someday. There are simply to many sights and sounds and smells to take in even is six days…but God knows we tried.