We Didn’t Drink All The Vino:
2005 Italia Uncensored!
Day Twenty One – Tuscan 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
As stated earlier in this report, I don’t like being late, so it was with trepidation that I asked the hotel for a taxi pick up about 50 minutes before our scheduled Domus Aurea (Nero’s Golden House) tour. I don’t like fiddling around with being late.
“Of course,” I answered confidently. Famous last words. We were supposed to arrive a half hour early, and the hotel said it wouldn’t take more than 15 minutes to get there, so I thought the only thing that could go wrong would be the taxi breaking (as it had the day before).
Kim and Mary were feeling chipper, so they decided to walk (about 45 minutes from the hotel, they were told). Dan, Linda, Tracy and I were waiting for the taxi when the guy at the Hotel Santa Maria desk came outside to tell us that the taxis were very busy that day, and we had better walk down to the taxi stand to get one. Now panic was beginning to creep into my brain. For most of the trip, the leader of Tuscan Tom’s Tours had been in complete control, with no problems. Suddenly, I felt that control going away as we walked the five to ten minutes to the taxi stand. We were going to be late, and I was not happy.
I walked ahead of the other three, talking to myself like an idiot, and I think it was here that Dan and Linda began thinking that I had lost my mind. As Al Jolson would have said (if he were still alive), “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
We got to the taxi stand, and were fourth in line, but there were no taxis. OK, now I’m officially worried. Not only were there no taxis, when I reached in my pocket, I discovered there were no printed reservations, either.
Yes, yours truly had left the paper on the bed after telling Tracy, “Of course.” I didn’t even turn around, because I could feel “the look” coming from Tracy, not to mention Dan and Linda.
“Damn,” I said (although I might have used a more descriptive expletive at that point). “Have the taxi meet me at the hotel,” I said. I then started running back to the Santa Maria.
For those of you who have seen the movie “Damn Yankees,” I must have looked like Shoeless Joe Hardy running for the fly ball after the Devil had turned him back into an old man. The citizens of Trastevere could only look in awe at me running slower than the slow motion scenes in “Chariots of Fire.”
When I eventually reached the room, I was sweating more than I was when I couldn’t get the car in reverse at the rental car exit. I picked up the reservation form, the taxi met us, and we were off. Linda said, “Tom, I’ve never seen you like that!”
Tracy, quicker than a Muhammad Ali jab, answered, “Oh, I have … often.” She doesn’t get a lot of punch lines, but she nails them when she does.
We were 20 minutes from our tour time, when the taxi driver gave me another bit of bad news. “What is the Domus Aurea?” I repeated the mantra, “Enjoy the Journey! Attitude is Everything!”
As he drove the busy streets of Rome, I was showing him where the Domus Aurea (photo above from website) was on the map, and he alternately kept switching his look from the road to the map as he was driving wildly through the streets, pedestrians hurtling their bodies out of harm’s way. I told the rest of the crew, “I guess we’ll get there or die trying.”
Standing nearby was a horde of police giving one guy a traffic ticket. One bored policewoman (who was standing and looking at the officer writing out the ticket) must have noticed my sad countenance and said, “May I help you?” She obviously knew the look of a confused American. She pointed me in the right direction, and I went into full gallop, old man style. Tracy, Dan and Linda followed, but I got so far ahead of them again, that they also had to ask for directions.
As I got to within 50 feet of the ticket office, I saw two familiar faces walking toward me in the sunlight. It was Kim and Mary. Kim said, “How come you’re sweating? We’re the ones that walked.” Oh, the trials and tribulations of a tour leader. I ran to the ticket window, and the very nice woman at the counter, noticing the beads of sweat on my face, smiled and said, “Don’t worry, you still have a few minutes until the tour.”
We enjoyed the tour of Nero’s House ( the audio guide again a must).
Then it was obligatory photo time in front of the Colosseum.
Afterward, we all walked through the Foro Romano, which Dan and Linda visited the first day, and where Kim, Mary, Tracy and I had visited in 2001.
Tracy wanted to show Dan and Linda the Carcero Mamertino underneath the Church of St. Joseph of the Carpenters near the Foro Romano, where Peter and Paul had been imprisoned 2,000 years ago. Photo below from internet.
“One of sixteen vestal virgins who were leaving for the coast” resonated throughout the Forum, and since neither was really a virgin, Kim and I thought about burying them alive like they did to virgins who strayed in the old days, but that plan was quickly nixed (too many witnesses).
At first, the guard said we could not go in this line, but when we showed him the ticket, he waved us through.
We thought we might be blocking their view, but when we asked if they wanted us to move, the guy said, “No, I was just enjoying the comments from the tour guide.” It had taken a few hours, but Tuscan Tom’s Tours was back in business (although it was now called Tom’s Roman Tours).
The next group we ran into was a bunch of Irish students on holiday, who were having a blast in Italy. Kim (being Irish) took this opportunity to flirt with them, thus affording me a welcome relief from “the look.”
“Do you have reservations?”
“Yes, for tomorrow, but I just wanted to make sure where to go.”
“Come back tomorrow.”
“Yes, I know, but is this where I go?”
“Do you have reservations?”
“Yes, for tomorrow.”
“Then come back tomorrow.
I don’t know … Third Base.”
Anyway, I did ascertain (finally) that this was the place to go the following morning. We saw a long line stretching through the Vatican, and I was going to ask the Swiss Guard what the line was for, but realized we had to be back at the hotel to meet the gang for “cocktail hour.”
Instead, I asked someone else. “Oh, that’s the line to see the tomb of John Paul II.” The line stretched forever so it seemed, and we determined it wasn’t worth the wait.
We circumvented the throngs and walked inside St. Peters and spent a good deal of time wandering. We then saw another line that was going past another dead Pope. “Who’s that?” I asked.
The line was short, so we got in. People were taking pictures of the pope (who you could see through the glass encasing) as they moved through, and although it seemed a little sacrilegious, I took one, too, but I was moving too fast and it came out blurry.
We also waded through the mass (well, it is St. Peter’s) of people to see The Pieta.
Being on our feet for more than six hours, we could have taken a taxi back to the hotel, but we had not had a lot of luck with taxis, so we walked the 20 minutes back to the hotel along the Tiber. Arriving at our room, Tracy said, “OK. My feet are now officially broken.” She was too tired to even give me the look at this point.
We met up with our friends at the Santa Maria Happy Hour, and it seemed like “Broken Feet Syndrome” was running (well, walking) rampant in our group. There is nothing like Campari, Prosecco, Vino and a nice spread to rejuvenate the spirit, if not the feet.
The weather was a little iffy at Happy Hour, so we dined inside, although you can take your food and wine to the nice interior patio. We chatted with other guests until it was time for dinner.
At eight that evening, we walked the (thankfully) short distance to the Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere. Dan and I walked over to a restaurant called Sabatini (photo courtesy of TripAdvisor), and he turned toward me and the others, his face pale as a ghost.
We couldn’t figure out what was wrong until we glanced at the menu that said their fish was priced by the gram. Dan was having a Venice flashback, so we hurried over to the Ristorante Galeassi on the piazza and secured an outside table.
As we dined, I kept looking out on the square at a guy dressed like King Tut, or at least that’s what I thought he looked like. He kept staring at our table, not moving, and suddenly I couldn’t get that Steve Martin tune out of my head. Thankfully, he finally had to go back to his condo made of stona or wherever he was from, and we ate without his constant stare.
Soon, the piazza’s musical entertainment was near our restaurant. Two youngsters “playing” accordion regaled the crowd, but something seemed amiss. Linda said, “They’re not really playing. I think the music is recorded.”
We all agreed, except for Kim, who steadfastly said the boys were live, not Memorex. Well, we went back and forth until we all chipped for a handsome tip and had Linda go pose with the boys.
Looking back, she could have requested a song to see if they were really playing, but it was more fun to just argue the point.
For dessert, it was back to the Enoteca Trastevere. Once again, this chocolate masterpiece was terrific. We chatted with one of the owners who said it (the enoteca, not the dessert) has been in the family for 60 years, and she lived upstairs. We had a great glass of a 1998 Brume Rosse Reserva and also a glass of Rosso Moio.
The six of us enjoyed the atmosphere so much, that we made dinner reservations for the following evening. We were feeling sad because tomorrow was going to be the final night for all of us in Italy. For you, it’s good news, because this report is almost finally over.