Chapter Nineten – Rome Is Where The Heart Is

We Didn’t Drink All The Vino: 2005 Italia Uncensored!

DSC00432Chapter Nineteen – Rome Is Where The Heart Is

Day Twenty – Strangers On A Train, My Lovely Sherpa, May I Butt In, “Sorry, But The Taxi Is Broken,” The Glorious Galleria, Fake Terrorist Attack and Not The Nina Or The Pinta But The…

When the phone rang a little after 4:30 a.m., I turned on the light and gazed at my wife, who even though she had her eyes closed, was giving me the look. “Why did you book such an early train?” she asked. There are no good answers at 4:30 a.m.

Vinice 5 AMThe four of us showered (not all together, this is a family report after all), and we were all ready for the water taxi at 5:45 a.m. Kim took the final Venice picture (above) before we stepped (carefully) onto the taxi, and off we traveled to the train station and then to our final Italian destination; Roma.

The water taxi from La Calcina to the train station takes about 15 minutes, and, with tip, was about 70 euros. The skies were clearing, and we saw a few people taking early morning strolls. We guessed they had just arrived and their body clocks were off, but maybe they were just enjoying the incredible Venetian serenity of early morning.

Once again, I had purchased first class e-tickets for our train ride to Rome (via Florence). We left at 6:30 and were scheduled to arrive in Rome a little after 11. Tracy and I sat across from each other, and seated next to us were a couple of very good looking young women with bare midriffs (not that I noticed).  Of course, Tracy gave me the look, which set a new European record of two “looks” before 7 a.m.  Across the aisle, Kim and Mary just laughed.

Although I love driving in Europe, I do enjoy train travel, also. The ride provided me time to catch up on my notes, get in some reading and occasionally ogle the women next to me.  The best part was that my three traveling companions were not in the mood for coffee, so they all ordered espressos for me. By the time we hit the Rome Termini station (4 1/2 hours and seven espressos later), I don’t believe I was able to blink. However, that doesn’t mean I couldn’t screw up.

As the train slowed to a crawl, I made a husbandly faux pas of planetary proportion. Plucking our luggage down from the rack, I saw my new girlfriends were in need of help. I started loading Tracy up with our luggage, and then gallantly took the girls’ luggage off the rack and handed each of them their suitcase.  I then turned to Tracy who had two suitcases hanging around her neck and shoulders, and one in each hand, and she did not look too pleased with me. She said, “What am I, your Sherpa?”

Tenzing_NorgayI thought about doing a little Tenzing Norgay humor, but immediately thought better of it.

 

We headed to the taxi stand and waited for a cab to drive us to the Hotel Santa Maria in Trastevere and were first in line when the taxi pulled up. A couple proceeded to butt in front of us giving us a tale of woe in Italian (he looked like a student, albeit a very old one, saying the dog ate his homework).  I was about to get into a “discussion” with the gentleman when the taxi driver jumped out of his car and started yelling at the guy, who departed immediately.

Trastevere StreetThe wild ride wound through the streets of Rome and when we hit Trastevere, we were a little concerned. As I was to find out, Trastevere is similar to Campari, as it is also an acquired taste. There were tons of graffiti and it is not the cleanest place in the world. “Where have I booked us?” I thought.

Hotel Santa Maria SignWe wound through alleys that didn’t seem able to accommodate two bicycles, much less one taxicab.

Trastevere AlleyYet, in a few moments, we were at the gate of our new oasis, the Hotel Santa Maria.  This is another wonderful hotel, and there is no doubt that it caters to an American clientele.

DSC00422As we would soon find out, the afternoon spread, put out about 5:30 p.m. is fantastic, the breakfast includes eggs, and the people at the desk are more than helpful. The rooms are set up around a courtyard, and there was a bar for those who partake in wine, Campari and Prosecco drinking.

blog_augosto_lineThe hotel recommended a little place in the tiny square around the corner, Augusto (photo above from website), and we had a nice lunch (it had been our first day without breakfast, except for my seven espressos). The place had paper place settings and featured some great garlic bread.

We walked back to the hotel, and the man at the desk called a taxi for us, because I had booked online 3 p.m. reservations for the Galleria Borghese.

The Borghese is one of those places they tell you to get to early to show your reservation so you can pick up your tickets. As usual, I gave us extra time, since I hate being late. “No problema,” I thought.

As we drove down a Rome street, the taxi abruptly stopped. “Sorry, the taxi is broken,” our cabby said. ”You must get out and find another cab.” This is why I try to always leave early.

Luckily for us, a taxi deposited someone only ten feet behind us, so we started to climb in. He wasn’t going to let us in, because he thought we were bypassing the taxi in front of us. When I told him the taxi was broken, he smiled and let us in.

We still arrived there in plenty of time, received our tickets and went to the entrance. We were first in line, and although many reports say to go upstairs to the paintings first, we did not. Tracy said she could have spent the entire time in the first room, with its incredible ceilings and walls.

Apollo_And_Daphne_BerniniThere are some incredible sculptures on the first floor, my favorite being Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne (picture above from internet). In it Apollo chases Daphne after being struck by Cupid’s arrow. Just as he (Apollo) is about to catch her, she calls to her father to save her. Her fingers begin to sprout leaves, her toes become roots, her skin turns to bark and she becomes a tree. Anyway, poor old Apollo ends up with a handful of leaves and splinters in his thighs. Women!

I was completely blown away by many of the beautiful statues. The paintings upstairs were nice, but it’s the statues I remember the most. As usual, the audio guide, to me, was a must. Although you have two hours to go through the museum, it took us a little less than 90 minutes to see both floors.

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We then walked through the park, down a street to the Spanish Steps to the Trevi Fountain.

16340034Somehow we were able to take a couple of photos in the most crowded area of Rome.

16340035Then it was on to the Pantheon (nothing but net).  As Tray and Kim were thinking, “Everything’s looking up at the Pantheon.”

16340032 That tired us out, so we stopped at the Campo de’ Fiore for cocktails (sometimes this seemed like a trip perfect for The Thin Man).

thinmanWhen we arrived back at the Hotel Santa Maria, Dan and Linda greeted us at the hotel.  After visiting our courtyard room,  tt was Happy Hour, Roman-style. Per Tracy’s notes: “It is a lovely presentation.

16340002The spread included, bruschetta with pomodoro, mushroom pastries, a bowl of olives, Pecorino with chili peppers, pizza bread with dried tomatoes and anchovies, caprese salad and much more.”  During Happy Hour, Dan and Linda told us about their journey to the hotel the previous day. When they told the taxi driver at Termini Station they needed to get to the Hotel Santa Maria, the guy said he could not take them there.

 

“Terrorist drill,” he said. Timing is everything.

It seemed the day Dan and Linda arrived, Rome was preparing for a terrorist attack at various venues in the city, so it was difficult for taxis to navigate the streets of Rome (like other days are a piece of cake). They were told to take a bus that dropped them off in Trastevere, which they did.

Unfortunately they did not have a map to the hotel, so it was sort of hit and miss on where to go. Then, it started pouring, and they ducked into an enoteca (any port or sherry in a storm), and started cursing Tuscan Tom’s Tours. “Where has he put us?” they asked. “What kind of area is this?”

A little digression (yeah, I know, again): Kim, Mary, Tracy and I had been to Rome before, so we had thought about Dan and Linda arriving in Trastevere the day before (although we did not know the entire story, of course). We even said, “Boy, this might be a little different for someone who had never seen the city before. They are probably wondering why we booked a hotel in this area.” As it turned out, we were right.

Fortunately for Dan and Linda, someone knew where the hotel was, lead them to it, and they loved the hotel. Dan and Linda walked all over Rome later that day and said they had a great time. They also liked the Trastevere area, but their biggest rave was for the enoteca where they sat out the storm, and said we had to go there later. It turned out that this little enoteca had the best dessert I tasted on the trip (more later).

Kim and I went to the desk at the hotel to get a restaurant recommendation, and the girl behind the desk was stunningly beautiful. I had already accumulated enough wives (and trouble) on the trip, so Kim said she could be his new wife.

16340026When I told Tracy (still not quite over the Sherpa episode), she said, “Great maybe Kim can have a double wedding with you and the Piccolo Oliveta girl, but remember, Mary and I get all the property.”

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There is nothing like a wife to spoil a perfectly good middle-aged man’s fantasy.

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We had a good, fun, but not spectacular dinner that evening.  Obviously Kim and I were still under the magical spell of the girl behind the desk, because we don’t remember the name of the place we ate that evening.  Tracy and Mary then called it a night.  I hadn’t seen Mary this tired since “Ambien Night.”

16340023The rest of us went to Dan and Linda’s wine place, the Enoteca Trastevere and sat outside enjoying vino and the most spectacular dessert on earth.

The enoteca had a chocolate, cinnamon dessert that is hard to describe except to say I nearly licked the plate clean to get every last morsel. The dessert’s name is Il Saraceno and besides chocolate, it has cinnamon and cayenne pepper. I knew I had crossed the lines of proper etiquette when Dan said, “Tom, you have chocolate on your nose.”

We headed back to the hotel, bid farewell to Linda, and the three boys went off on our own. We had one cocktail (I made the mistake of ordering a brave bull that nearly killed me), and we started back toward the hotel.

It was after midnight when we hit the happening Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. There were fire dancers and other street people doing their thing around the fountain. After nearly a day here (more for Dan and Linda), we decided we really liked Trastevere, warts and all.

Kim and I had rooms next to each, and Tracy answered my knock immediately. Mary, on the other hand, did not answer Kim’s knock on the door. The window was open, and we tried to awaken her, but not wanting to be loud for those nestled in their beds, we could not roust Mary from her deep sleep. Could it be another Ambien and wine episode?

Fortunately, it was not. She just happened to be out colder than Robert Downey Jr. on a drug binge. Finally, Tracy called Mary’s room, and after numerous rings, a very tired voice answered, and Kim had a place to sleep for the night. No matter what happens during the day or how many wives we dream we have, Kim and I always end up with the correct wives.

Next: Day Twenty One – Tom’s Tours Hits A Snag, Is Nero Near, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way Through The Forum, Short Cut, The First Dead Pope (and Nearly A Dead Husband), The Mystery Instrument and A Mime Is A Terrible Thing To Waste

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