In 2011, we visited Rome, in two installments.
We flew into Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport, after a 13 hour flight from the United States. We had a packed schedule of visiting the catacombs, that evening and the Vatican the following morning, before being taken, by Bob’s Limo Service, to the port city of Civitavecchia, that afternoon to board a Holland American cruise ship…for the purposes of cruising the Mediterranean.
We toured the catacombs, Jonathon and I reluctantly, due to our extreme jet lag.
Aaron and I napped in the hotel room, upon our arrival at the Monte Carlo while Mary Jane and Jonathon indulged in lunch, at what became our favorite Roman Ristorante, during our visit.
The following morning, after I showered in a tube that was big enough for half of me, we proceeded to the Vatican, with an extremely friendly driver…who loved the ‘Boss’…and who exclaimed to us…that ‘to him…he was the best!’
Our private tour guide, Sergio, was waiting for us and escorted us into a side door of the the Vatican Museum, while we passed long lines of tourists waiting to enter the facility.
Sergio took time to explain many of the works of art to us…as well as physically guarding Mary Jane from the pressing throng that were in the other tours.
Sergio, simply, made the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica…come alive for us!
As we were touring the Sistine Chapel…the majesty of Michelangelo’s paintings were breathtaking. Vatican staff, who were dressed in black, constantly admonished the large crowd, ‘silencio’, and we were soon to experience, first hand, that the admonishment was extremely serious.
As Sergio, who was speaking in a whisper voice, guided us through the facility, a woman admonished him to be silent. He then explained to the lady that he was a tour guide and that he was only doing his job. She proceeded to regularly berate him for his speaking…and he became, quietly, angry with her persistence.
I neglected to mention that on our first night in Rome we walked to the ristorante that Mary Jane and Aaron had visited for lunch. We passed several embassies on the three block journey. The complexes were guarded by serious looking soldiers with sub-machine guns hanging from their shoulders.
The most delightful waiter asked us what we would like to order and I told him that I would like to have his specialty. He responded that his speciality was not on the menu but that he would make the dish for each of us…if we desired.
The special dish…was to die for.
When we left the ristorante we include a 20% tip for the kind gentleman…and as we were walking away from his business…and already out in the street he hurried after us. He implored us to come back to his eatery…and we assured him that we would…as three of us were returning to Rome and the hotel, Monte Carlo, for several days after the cruise.
Upon our return to Rome, and after our cruise of the Mediterranean, we took a 7 hour tour to Assisi. The tour was by bus and our guide spoke 3 languages, fluently, and proceed to tell us what we were passing on our 2 hour ride to Assisi.
We first stopped at a little Italian village to see a church. We walked up hill for about a half of a mile. When we arrived, exhausted, our guide, announced, that, ‘there is the church and I will be under the tree.’
A woman from South Africa, chastised our guide for the majority of the journey and exclaimed to him, in all of our presence, that he was not doing his job and that she had been in charge of all tourism in South Africa…and that he could be better!
Our guide responded, on the countless occasions of constructive criticism, ‘Madam…Madam.’
Mary Jane, felt sorry for our, reluctant guide, and gave him a very generous gratuity.
We were looking for a red suitcase in Rome. As we gleaned, bits and pieces, from the Romans that we met on the street…as to where the suitcase stores were located, they spoke Italian and we spoke English…and somehow we communicated.
When we finally found the store that had the red ‘gem’ we used a combination of hand gestures and smiles to purchase the clothes carrier and pay the proper amount of Euros.
On our last night in Rome we dined at a ristorante that was just across from our hotel. I was so tired…but I revived when, Jonathon presented me with a book by my favorite author, Ernest Hemingway. He purchased it in an old Roman bookstore that had some English titles.
We admired the Colosseum from the outside…but did not enter.
The traffic in Rome is the worst that I have ever seen or experienced! There are Priests riding red Vespas and cars that are half the size of our economy models. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to the rules of the road…and I could not distinguish if there were even lanes that the crush of vehicles were driving in. It appeared that each driver or motorcycle rider or Vespa rider or bicyclist…was searching for the….crack in the spacing of motorized madness…to place their vehicle in!
Our driver, for Bob’s Limo Service, told us that you must not make eye contact with the other drivers…as it was a signal to them that you were yielding them the right of way.
To dine in Rome…or throughout Europe…is to dine al fresco. Often we sat on the sidewalk that adjoined the ristorante on the left and the, busily traveled road, on the right.
I observed that most of the men that I saw had a bag that hung over their shoulder…called a ‘man bag.’
We visited a leather shop where the owner, handcrafted leather bags and satchels, and the work was well done and intricate and expertly fashioned.
I told a young woman that was working in the store that I wanted to purchase a ‘man bag’ but that my friends in America might think me, different, for doing so. She insisted that I purchase the bag and wear it proudly…and I did as she instructed!
Romans are warm and friendly and inviting of tourists.
The first morning that we awoke at the Monte Carlo Hotel…we were blown away by the luxurious breakfast that we had displayed before us. It included the finest of salamis and cheeses and croissants and chocolate and the hotel was immaculate.
The young waitress asked me if I wanted my water, ‘con-gas’, and I responded that I wanted no gas…but only water. She looked at me in a perplexed manner…and I soon learned that she was inquiring as to whether I desired regular water, still, or carbonated water?
On one of our last evenings in the hotel, we were enjoying a drink from the bar, and made the acquaintance of a man and his sister, who were from England. The man told us that he had been robbed on the train and that if it had not been for his sister…he did not know what he would have done. He was quite friendly and jovial and the next morning when we spoke to him…he did not seem to remember us.