Monday, May 24, 2010

From Tuscany to Rome

I wrongly assumed I would be finding internet cafes everywhere I went, or at least wifi so I could peck out my entries on my trusty iTouch. Not.

We left Tuscany yesterday morning and drove to Rome, leaving behind the lush rolling hills of vineyards and olive groves for the hustle and bustle of the big city.
Before departing, I should say that we spent our last day seeing Siena which is absolutely gorgeous. At the risk of incurring the wrath of certain family members, I have to admit that I prefer Siena to Florence. There I said it.
It's a more intimate city; it's scale and proportions inviting. Even the churches we visited were more accessible. I loved the main piazza where the Palio takes place in August. A huge group of university students congregated in the middle and spontaneously began running from one end to the other, chanting and dancing in unison. So much fun to watch!
But on we went to Rome and, as I said, the big city.

Turkish drivers are daredevils, but the Italians are speed demons! The cab drivers in particular have no fear for either their own lives or yours, and dare you to cut in front of them - regardless if you're driving or you're a pedestrian.
But my better half got us into the old city and we found our B&B (it's actually a lot more like a penzione) right off the old Pia city gate. It's a tiny place, but clean and comfortable in an old building in a relatively tourist-free zone.

Yesterday we decided to drive around in our little Fiat (a little bigger than the old 500 for those who know about cars) and were able to cover a lot of ground. Sunday is a bit emptier in Rome than other days. The coliseum was terribly impressive, if nothing else because all I could think of was of the horrors endured by so many for the so-called pleasure of others. As I touched the walls, the verse "if these stones could cry out" ran through my head.

This morning we rose and took the bus to the Vatican as we had "reservation tickets" for noon. There were thousands of people of lined up to enter; their waiting time easily about 4 hours. We were able to move to the "quick line" and make it in on time. We walked the entired Vatican Museums for about 3 hours - this included the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Cathedral. Breathtaking and heartbreaking. What incredible beauty in the artistry of the Vatican's collection, and how it could potentially solve so much of the world's needs.
I also haven't been around so many priests and nuns since my St. Augustine elementary school days. And yes, I am still intrigued by the priests and terrified of the nuns. Go figure.

The cathedral had the effect of making me go numb. There's just so many gold-plated crosses and marble Madonna's you can ingest before shutting down. Yes, beautiful. Lovely. Invaluable. And? I'm probably just your run of the mill ex-Catholic turned reformed Protestant...

The other thing that impresses me is the amount of people and how international they all are. Gazillions of Spaniards, Germans, Aussies, Japanese. You name it. And all of us being herded through the Vatican like sheep.
As we left the Vatican, a big old thunderstorm rolled through with some heavy rain - desperately needed in this hot and muggy city.

Anyway, after our Vatican visit, we lunched and then made our way to the Fountain of Trevi, a place I'd been wanting to visit since I first saw Marcello Mastroiani in La Dolce Vita. Romantic place, despite dear Marcello being dead quite a while now. ;) Yes, we tossed the proverbial penny in the fountain to ensure we return to Rome, hopefully with our daughters in tow.

We also climbed up the Spanish Steps and took in the Roman sunset from there. It's been wonderful to be able to accumulate various mental pictures of sunsets in different places; each so lovely, each so distinct.
It's now 9:30 pm and we need to find a place to eat dinner. Alex has been eating enormous amounts of food, plus enjoying desserts like there's no tomorrow. The gelato here is extraordinary!

Tomorrow morning we set off for the Amalfi coast and a little place in Positano. I have been promised there will only lazying on the beach and swimming these next few days before we return home. Hmm... we will see as I am after all travelling with the adventurous Mr. Maxim.

Hopefully more later....