ITALIA!! Parte Terza
The plan on this day, once it cleared up, was to get to know our little neighborhood, which included, thankfully because we were near the Barbarini Piazza, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, which we saw later that night under major construction. After we ate a great meal outside serenaded by a man with an accordion at a restaurant called something Arancione. It had something to with an orange in the Trevi neighborhood. That's all I can say, sorry. Of course, I'm sure I had some kind of pasta dish. That was wonderful. I think maybe risotto?
Then we were dashing off again. We wanted to be able to saunter over to the Tiber and cross the bridge to get to the Vatican for our appointment with the pope.
We strolled through the Borghese gardens and park. Got 2 gelatos before it was all over. Borghese was not far from out hotel. Up to the north by way of Via Veneto, where I panicked and bought some pretty red heels becaue I didn't want to leave Rome without something Romanesque and fashionable.
When we got home. We decided to get takeout from the awesome pizza place on the Piazza Barbarini. I over-ordered in there. But we knew there would be no more starting tomorrow. No more truly Italian pizzas.
We got up the next morning and made our way to the airport. The trips to Atlanta and Jackson were calm and then panicky, respectively. Angelo turned back into Angelo once the plane took off from Atlanta.
It was a joyful reunion with Mississippi. And my gracious husband. Who was so happy to see both of us as he last saw us, one unit wholly together and not too badly bruised but riotously beaming with the glories of chaotic travel and unrivaled education in the oldest places I've ever been.
You travel to know the feeling of coming home. Never was a feeling like it.
From beach to country to town.
Suffice it to say, the train situation was much different from Florence to Rome. It was a wonderful ride, filled with pleasantly sleeping babies, nice helpful strangers, attendants and carts with sparkling water, plenty of space and window action, convenient luggage storage, enough time to get baby and mother and all of our gear on there before the doors slide closed on your butt.
And then we were in Rome. After another pleasant cab ride to our hotel from the train station. Our hotel was wonderful with the owner herself as nice as could be, hints and accommodating advice up and down and all over the place. I dismissed myself from the lovely American owner who reminded me of Elisabeth Gilbert and my mother chatting to high heavens and snuck up to our room, blasted with nice cool air conditioning as soon as I walked in. Baby and I both sighed. The room was roomy for European standards, robes and modern bathroom. Two beds with comfy linens, and a little comfy crib there for bambino. I changed his diaper, gave a bottle and then put him down for a nap. And gave Hotel Daphne (Via Veneto location) two thumbs up.
The next step was to get to the Spanish steps. See above. But we didn't make it there until after a rainstorm went through that lasted an hour. We ducked away into a fancy hotel. They only let us in because I had a baby. Mama sat out on the steps with all the other people.
Boo-hoo. Trevi fountain at night looking amazing but under construction. Another reason to go back. I bucked up like a mama bear at some guy trying to pickpocket me. Can't believe people are still doing that?
The next day was fun but crazy-wild-insane-emotional-maddening-scary at the same time. I made the plan at our little street cafe with the orange name the night before. We would walk. Walk from our hotel to see certain sights on a specific trajectory, going down the main boulevard past several ancient sites that we would duck into like the Pantheon and some other crazy tall thing I forgot what it was but will never forget the massiveness or intricacy of it. See below.
The Oculus at the Pantheon is pretty incredible. The whole thing from pagan temple to Catholic cathedral--a place of worship for centuries upon centuries. Still is.
We kept walking past a bunch of cool things, but our main goal was to have lunch in the Piazza Navona. We strolled into this square of cathedral, cafes, shops, and fountains. I loved this part of Rome. There was a lovely band playing. Music everywhere you went really.
Lyle and I found shelter in the shade under a tent with mist spraying in our faces, at the Tres Scalini, which was delicious and yes, we got the fudge ball ice cream thing called the "Tartufo." Between my mother and me, if there is some kind of famous chocolate desert, we are on it.
Above is Lyle and I at Bernini's fountain in Piazza Navona. Unbelievable.
At this point, I'm thinking this city is incredible. For instance, in front of me while I was on the bridge on the way to the Vatican was some tremendously old building that wasn't even on our itinerary, yet was constructed in the second century by Hadrian, Castel Sant' Angelo.
But anyway, we hiked up to the Vatican from here. Which was crazy. It is so so busy. Must be on the bucket list of many a people. People everywhere. I mean, everywhere. We were never not in a big crowd. And I was flashing my camera so much, and then Lyle would get fussy.
We were just not prepared for this part of the trip. Never take a baby to the Vatican. It is steps galore, and if you are a stroller mommy like me, it will hit you hard and then knock you down and kill you. Staircases all over the place. Don't take a stroller. What should have happened was a babysitter or a check of the stroller, and a strapping on of a baby bjorn. It was our fault completely. Not enough research. I thought we would just walk through the Vatican and take a look at the Sistine Chapel. No. Loads of art, sculptures and floors and paintings and tapestries, on the ceilings, on the walls. In your face, everywhere. SO much to see! I was fully overwhelmed and all-too aware of the ticking time bomb in my stroller who happened to hate crowds. And my mother, who happened to hate stairs. Not to mention a stroller with stairs. It was difficult, except for the part when we got to cut in a bathroom line to change his diaper. A bossy Italiana beckoned us forcefully and brought us to the front of the line to change his very very dirty diaper in front of about 100 other women. It was a tiny little poop factory by the time we were done in there.
I took too many pics, so here are a few.
I was not exactly Mother Mary during this little excursion, changing diapers with hushed, peaceful serenity.
I can't describe the beauty in every nook and cranny. It's like everything glistens with renaissance splendor. It's like the chocolate factory for beauty lovers. It's like a real-life holy Oz of art and mastery and bright color. I couldn't believe such a thing existed. And I would like to go back some day without stress.
I snuck into St. Peter's Basilica once the Sistine Chapel had been reached. Sistine Chapel is amazing. It is. I stood right underneath the fingers with my screaming baby who I immediately had to take outside because God came over the PA and said to KEEP QUIET IN THE CHAPEL PLEASE. While I was out there, some lady said I had brought the youngest visitor to the Chapel ever. Well, that's something for Guinness. And a little proud fact for my stupid, assuming mind.
Mama kept Lyle outside while I snapped shots of St. Peter's, which was, you guessed it, unlike anything ever.
Just when I get out of my awe-filled fast walk around St. Peter's, I hear my baby crying. And then running around the corner, I see my mom freaking out with the stroller. Then we lug the stroller down one last set of Vatican steps, when the screaming starts, and sprint across the plaza there. Find a cool restaurant where I can change him and nurse him and hold him until he feels better. At this point, he has gone without a nap and is ready for his afternoon feeding. I have never moved so fast in public in my life.
After he calmed down, we put him in his little stroller and walked to the closest metro. Guess what! More steps! Lots. No elevators. Of course. Once again, should have researched that. This led to another freak-out inside the subway itself, overcrowded as can be. With enough dirty looks, you would have thought I had brought the boy to a strip club.
So we got out of the subway early. It was too much for him. We got out at the Piazza del Popolo. Which was fortuitous. Because I liked this square. It had some good stuff going on. It was to the north of town, right off from the Borghese gardens and park.
We went back to the hotel via the shopping district that runs from Piazza del Popolo to the Spanish Steps. Lots of shops that were gorgeous and wonderful, but I wasn't kidding anybody. My baby needed to get back. But it was a nice walk back, and he got a nap in his stroller and then in his little crib when we got back to the sacred Daphne.
That night we looked at each other, wild-eyed and wearied like, "What a day. What the hell." But we knew we must venture out once again to taste more calzones, pizza and pasta. So we found a good restaurant on one of the streets off the Via Veneto (the scene of 60s glamorous American expats...Dulce Vita). Close to the hotel, should any freak-outs happen. But alas, there were none. Just a sleeping baby in a flattened out stroller with a blanket over him while we enjoyed the gentle breezes and tomato sauce scents of an out-door Italian cafe.
The next day was decidedly calmer. The shopping district, my mother said, was her destination for the morning, maybe the day. She was going to find a purse. I wanted to find something. I didn't know what. The area in and out of the Spanish Steps is that district, and we stayed in our little neighborhood, so to speak. We ate lunch at an overly expensive place. But I had a great coffee. And a couple singing opera on the street corner. They were wonderful. The shops were wonderful too. Good morning.
I went back to get Angelo a good nap at the hotel, while Mama continued her ventures in a aggressive shopping. Once Angelo had awoken from his slumber, we hit the streets. Walking to the National Roman Museum was not that bad. Once I figured out how to get in the place. It was cool and not crowded and the exact opposite of the day before. Art from before Christ everywhere. I loved the sculptures here, and even after everything, this is a must-do.
I got very very very lost on the way back. Like ended up in ruins at the ruins almost. Some other young American girl was lost too, but not as lost as I. Because she figured out how I should get back by looking at her map. I wanted to kiss the ground when I walked back into the Piazza Barbarini, my home sweet home neighborhood in Rome. I knew we had made plans to eat in Travestere. And we needed a cab to get to that part of town on the other side of the river.
We walked around the Santa Maria area in Travestere once we got over there. The Piazza Santa Maria was packed. The basilica was breath-taking though. Extremely gilded I believe. Unless I'm getting my basilicas mixed up. It was probably my fifth favorite holy place I had seen, which is saying a lot because by now, I had sauntered into about 17 holy places.
We got lost trying to find the ristorante the guidebook said was so good in Travestere. But we found it. Close to the river. And it was really good. Angelo slept like an angelo once again. Flattened out stroller with a chupetta was all it takes with him.
We strolled across the bridge to the other side which was seemed dead compared to Travestere, which was a partying, dancing, music-playing part of town. We got a cab home, and we mentally prepared for the next day.
Up we go. Tackling the big daddy. The ruins. The colosseum first. Then the Roman Forum and all the arches and temples that come with. Before it gets too hot. And no stroller this time. Baby Bjorn big-time. First in the morning, the line into the colosseum was huge. But we handled it with grace while Angelo slept in my arms. We got in and looked around. This thing was built before Christ. Thousands of years ago!
I couldn't believe it. You could see where the emperors had sat. Where the virgins sat. You could imagine the gore. Or reimagine the gore from watching Gladiator on the plane over. But we must move on. Arch of Titus. The oldest road in the world. This is where the Vestal Virgins lived. This is where Julius Caesar was crowned and murdered. Look at all this!
The look on our faces says, Okay. This is all amazing. I can't even believe it. I can't even begin to know what everything is. But I have to leave now.
So we did. We cabbed it back to our part of town. Rome is amazing. But it's impossible to know everything like I want to. We had plans for that afternoon. Our last plans.
The Galleria Borghese. Now, I think I can say for sure, this was my favorite spot. Some favored nephew of some rich pope had collected quite the collection at his villa. It was gorgeous. Again the vibrant ceilings and works of art by artists too genius to begin to understand.