We are in Rome!
But I’ll begin at the beginning. I RAN TODAY!! Aren’t you proud of me? Thanks to my brother, whom I can always count on to keep me honest…when I begged the Facebook cosmos for permission not to run, he answered simply with “26.2 sticker,” which I said I wanted for my birthday. Therefore…I ran.
Two minutes into it, there was a sudden downpour. I’ve been wondering what I’ll do this fall when training days coincide with rain. Though I’m not sure what I’ll do in a real rainstorm, especially if it’s cold, this was totally manageable, and to be perfectly honest, quite nice. I stood under a canopy for the heaviest of it, which lasted about a minute, and then ran through the light rain, sparkling in the sunshine, for the rest of my half-hour outing. It cooled me down and kept me from getting too dusty-feeling…though it did make the sidewalk paving rather slippery. The only other thing to note about the run (I mean, other than the fact that I was in view of a killer volcano and gorgeous cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean) was that city running is very different from what I get in my neighborhood…lots of obstacles: people, cars, Vespas, men unloading goods from trucks into storefronts. It was a little exasperating, but a neat change at the same time.
After the run, it was time to shower, organize all my belongings back into my backpack (which had vomited all over the room three days prior), eat breakfast, and catch the taxi with the mama back to the train station. All without incident.
Train to Naples, without incident as well. Except for a large British woman with a shrill, UNCEASING, mindless stream of chatter right in our ears as we tried to read our Kindles.
Naples again. Where they’ve convinced us the city is full of nothing but thieves and pickpockets. I have my own reasons to dislike Naples, after today, though I’ve only covered about 100 square yards of it: a) the toilets in the station cost 1 Euro, and b) there was no gelato to be found! And we had like an hour to kill! Without chocolate gelato!! I even left the station and ventured through the herd of taxis and into the street markets run by every African in Italy! And no gelato! Stoopid Napoli.
ANYway…train to Rome…uneventful, totally absorbed in reading The Hunger Games, which is taking valuable time that I should be using studying for Rome and the Vatican. (I can’t wait to discuss it with J & M when I get home!)
We arrived in Rome and decided we could find our hotel ourselves, on foot. After giving my mother a crash course in pull-suitcase driving from back in my flight attendant days, containing advanced lectures such as how to navigate escalators and the properties of hanging one’s extra bag from the front clip of the suitcase rather than adding its weight to the handle, we headed out into the streets, all of which seemed to be under construction and/or really really uneven, thereby complicating her progress in these lessons. But she did okay.
We found the square without incident, and our hotel, and HOORAY!!!!! They were expecting us! AND HAD A ROOM! I’d spent the whole walk absorbed in the fear that we’d get there and there’d be another snafu. This hotel is beautiful, and has carpets and art and couches and lounge areas and a nice bathroom and EVERYTHING. Very happy. (Going to do my best to simply forget the Sorrento hotel entirely.)
Once we settled in, it was time to figure out what to do with the afternoon. I thought we’d do something we didn’t already have scheduled, but when Mom suggested we go to the Vatican for a “sneak peek,” I couldn’t contain myself.
On our way out of the hotel, I decided I needed a little smackerel of something to tide me over till dinner…and suddenly, angels were singing and descending on clouds with trumpets trumpeting and beams of light focusing on a gelato stand directly across the street from our hotel. And the woman who runs the stand doesn’t speak a lick of English, but man does she scoop that ice cream!! It was HUGE! Loved it. (As we sat and ate, and I pretended the ham-and-mayo sub I’d bought was a reasonable late lunch, some guy in the park square behind us was hollering and shouting…we don’t know about what. But soon there were people staring his direction, and the gelato lady was on her phone, upset and gesticulating, and there were sirens blaring toward us and the polizi and the carabinierri [military police, I learned later] arrived to take the dude down and haul him away. Big first hour in Rome.)
So we slunk away into the Metro and found our way to St. Peter….
Let me just say…
…ST. PETER’S IS AWESOME. Every bit as cool as you think it’ll be. We came upon it from Via Ottaviano and entered the square from the East, so as to come upon the Basilica in its full glory, head-on. The sun was setting behind it and it was just dazzling. To be truthful, St. Peter’s Square was smaller than I thought it’d be, but it was still really awesome.
The lines into the Basilica were almost nonexistent, because it was about 5:45 when we finally got there. So we waltzed right in, after gaping at the façade for a while and circling the obelisk, looking for the wind markers that Robert Langdon used in Angels & Demons (why, oh why didn’t I reread that last week?). We pulled out our iPods to listen to our Rick Steves audiotour of the Basilica, but I gotta say, it was kind of a disappointment. Half because he didn’t really say anything I didn’t already know…didn’t give stories behind artwork, skipped all but a handful of pieces, and half because there was a special event this evening and everything from the transept forward was blocked off. The plus side of the special event was that we got to hear truly heavenly choir music as we entered…and the HUGE plus of our timing was seeing the late afternoon sunlight slanting through the windows of the dome and the chancel and the dazzlingly beautiful golden stained-glass dove window above the altar. It was surreal. Mom got some awesome pictures we’ll both share as soon as possible.
One of the guards promised me that in the morning, the rest of the Basilica will be available to us, and I’m really excited for that…a lot of the statues I wanted to see up close are back there.
And by the way, they make a big deal out of how big St. Peter’s is, and how there are markers on the floor that show where other world cathedrals and basilicas would end if they were fitted inside…but I gotta say, it doesn’t look any bigger than Westminster OR St. Paul’s OR my beloved Santiago de Compostela (which I didn’t even see marked on the floor…harrumph). I mean, it’s ENORMOUS…but so were the rest of them. Hard to picture.
So tomorrow, we’ll get a more complete (I hope) tour of the Basilica…as well as go up into the dome, through the Vatican Museum and Raphael’s Rooms and into the Sistine Chapel…all of which I studied just prior to writing this, while Mom was playing with the pictures she’s downloaded so far…so I’m totally ready for all of it! Once we finish with the Vatican, we’ve got tickets already for a Hop-On-Hop-Off tour…on the Tiber River. Very psyched about that, too.
Bits ‘n’ bobs from today:
- European shoulder bags are EVERYWHERE. ALL the men carry them. They’re like man-purses. I suspect it’s where they stash their Speedos, as to have them ready at a moment’s notice should there arise an opportunity to smuggle budgies…I mean, swim.
- I had really bad pizza this evening…spinach and salami on it. It looked great but tasted awful. So I stole some of Mom’s…they gave us each enough to feed four people, as usual, but tonight we were determined not to eat it ALL…and wrapped up mine to give away to the first homeless person I saw. We were all the way back to the hotel before I saw him. He seemed very grateful, as did his friend I indicated he should share with.
- When we paid for the pizza, we didn’t have a 50-cent piece, so the guy gave us one with our change…we’d combined money to buy it, so I gave Mom 2.50 of the 4.50 we got back in change…and the 50-cent piece was a shiny, beautiful VATICAN one!! Which we’d JUST HEARD Rick Steves say you NEVER see in circulation! It has the Pope’s face on it…Benedict…and is a real treasure. =)
There. Ran AND visited the heart of Christendom AND found rare treasure AND did a good deed all in the same day. And now…it’s time for bed.