We Didn’t Drink All The Vino:
2005 Italia Uncensored!
Day Twenty-Two – Under And Above St. Peter’s, Shortcut To A Dead Pope, Linda Buys A Ristorante, The Incredible Garlic Bread And The Last Supper (Roman Style)
In an effort to not recreate the trials and tribulations of the day before, the crew was ready to roll by 8 a.m., and we all walked to St. Peters (no taxis today, thank you). Before leaving the room, Tracy said, “Do you have the printout for our tour under St. Peters?”
“Of course,” I replied (that statement has a familiar ring, huh?). As we departed the room, Tracy asked again. I reached in my pocket and, unbelievably, it was not there.
Then, in a Siegfried and Roy moment (without the carnivorous tiger), she whipped out the paper from behind her back. Tracy held the reservations over her head. “You left it on the bed again,” she said incredulously, all the while giving me the look at the same time. I was beginning to worry that she had given me so many looks recently her eyebrows might freeze in that Spock-like position. Fascinating.
At 9 a.m., we walked into the Excavations office, and in 15 minutes a group of 13 were on the Necropolis Tour underneath the Vatican. All of us were a little surprised that we were allowed to keep our daypacks on and were not searched.
For anyone who has any doubts about this tour … take it! We were very lucky to have an excellent English-speaking guide who also had a sly and wry sense of humor. Walking through the streets of the necropolis was also memorable. The tour more than lived up to its advanced billing (photos from culturaltracveler). As we entered the chapel near the end of the tour, the sounds of chants and hymns filtered down from above. We found out later they were inducting priests on this day, and the sound of music we heard in the bowels of St. Peter’s made the experience quite surreal and spectacular.
We viewed the tomb of St. Peter and what they believe are his bones. Earlier. Tracy and I had told Dan and Linda about being able to stand in line for Pope John Paul II’s tomb. Their flight the next day was in the afternoon, so they thought they would wake up early and get over to St. Peters at 7 a.m., when it opened, to beat the tourist hordes.
When the tour concluded, the guide said, “You can exit to the right, but just to let you know, if you walk about 25 feet to your left you can see the tomb of Pope John-Paul II. I ’m not supposed to let you go that way, but I might look the other way if you decide to go left,” which, of course, we all did. Dan and Linda could now sleep in tomorrow and, truthfully, I would have been disappointed had I waited in line for it.
I felt like it was Leaning Tower II. Up top we caught a view of the Vatican Gardens.
The climb up to the top was invigorating, so much that I know I heard the words, “Let’s go to lunch!”
We finally found the restaurant on a narrow street and looked at the menu. As a tour director, you have to be cognizant of what the group wants, and they definitely did not want this restaurant. How do I know that? I turned around and Mary and Linda were already looking at a little pizzeria nearby, where we eventually wound up eating.
Digression: The restaurant that Mary and Linda shunned (Enoteca Cul de Sac) turned out to be our favorite spot to eat when Tracy and I returned in 2009. Who knew?
The name of the ristorante they chose was Pasquino, which happens to be located on the Piazza Pasquino. First of all, we had a wise-guy waiter who was really funny. Linda tried her best Italian to order a pizza, and the guy shoots back with, “What? You want to buy our pizzeria. Do you have the money?”
The rest of us quickly ordered in English. The food was really good including the Caesar salad, a Greek salad, spaghetti with bacon, tomato and hot pepper sauce, the four cheese gnocchi and a vegetable lasagna with eggplant, zucchini and capers. But the best item on the menu was the garlic bread.
We all agreed it was tremendous, but obviously Mary had taken a look at how much she and Kim had spent on the trip, because when Kim was about ready to order another piece, she said, “I don’t think it was worth the money, honey.” In a surprise turnaround, which shocked wives and husbands in the general vicinity, Kim gave Mary “the look.” He then said, “Whatever,” and ordered another one. Husbands throughout the land rejoiced.
After lunch, we all went our separate ways for the final afternoon in Rome. Before we split up, Dan and I saw a bicycle with room for a bottle of wine. Dan said, “Next time, that’s how I’m traveling around Rome.”
All three couples were back at the hotel in a short time thanks to a heavy downpour, and it was getting close to Happy Hour.
That evening, we had a fine dinner at the Enoteca Trastevere, and I had TWO helpingsof the great chocolate dessert. By the time the evening ended, I was once again wiping chocolate off my nose after cleaning the plate. I have to get that recipe! To no one’s surprise, we had consumed a good amount of vino at dinner, so there were hugs galore because Tracy and I would be up before the crack of dawn to catch to our flight, and Kim and Mary would not be far behind.
Linda smiled, knowing she could sleep in AND have the good breakfast. We were recounting all our adventures, when Kim reminded us of going to the Monte Oliveto Maggiore while wearing his short pants. “I guess I made a mockery of the monkery,” he stated. Believe me, after a few bottles of wine, that sounded pretty funny.
Tom’s Tuscan Umbrian Venetian Roman Tour was now done, and I, as usual, was very saddened to leave bella Italia.
Day Twenty-Three – Arrivederci Roma, Homeward Bound and Is The Pilot Baking Cookies?
Tracy and I had an early flight, so the hotel rang us before 5 a.m. I quietly lugged the luggage to the Happy Hour Room. The Santa Maria was another terrific hotel, which I would definitely recommend.
I liked Trastevere more than Tracy (although she loved the hotel). It’s hard to describe, but I just liked the vibe of the entire area. For some reason, it felt real, and the walking distances to most major venues are not bad. I can see that Trastevere is not for everybody, but I would stay here again (and we did stay in Trastevere again…see Rome 2009).
It was thundering and lightning when our very nice (and tired) hotel guy called a taxi, and we chatted while I waited. He thoughtfully made Tracy and me one final, delectable cappuccino. “I hate leaving Italy,” I said. It was fun sharing some time with Dan and Linda (now sound asleep).
We first flew to London where I checked my e-mail one last time. It was first class again, baby, and we took full advantage of the perks. Non-stop vino, steak, pizza and caramel Sundays were digested with gusto, but all the while we looked back on the fun we had all had on the journey.
We hadn’t even downloaded photos yet, but most of the pictures in our mind were of the fabulous three weeks we had just spent in Italia. A few hours from landing, the smell of fresh, baked cookies wafted I(overused travel word, but in this case it works) through the first class cabin of American Airlines. I was afraid that if the passengers in steerage also smelled these cookies, we could have a riot on our hands. Then out came fresh, baked, sensational, warm chocolate cookies. These chocolate delights were more than delicious. I told Tracy I wanted to stand up and yell to the folks in the back, “Let them eat peanuts!”
She gently reminded me that we would be those peons again for the next ten years until we accumulated enough frequent flyer miles, so I stood down. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
Tracy’s friend met us at the airport, and in the car were eight, great smelling tacos. I somehow found the appetite to eat my fair share. We picked up the cats, paid the bill (I’m glad we love them) and drove home.
It was another incredible trip to Italia with Kim and Mary.
Everyone got along, the sights were amazing, the food was delicious, the wine divine (and cheap), the memories indelibly etched in our memories and the people of Italy could not have been nicer. From Pecorino Ravioli to Pumpkin Risotto to Singing Gondoliers to Mystery Chocolate dessert on my nose, we could not have asked for any more (well, maybe a few napkins). All the places we visited were wonderful in their own special way.
Yes, there were a couple of stumbling blocks (and gas tanks) along the way, but they were only minor inconveniences in the scheme of things that we can easily laugh about now (although it was only recently that I could utter the word “Diesel” without breaking into a cold sweat).
Enjoy The Journey! Attitude Is Everything!