Published: March 30th 2010March 29th 2010
Last year Ann Marie said to Kimberly, "You get to go to Europe when you turn 8." As if it's a rite of passage. I took Ann Marie to visit Aunt Shellie in Paris when she was almost 8. Initially I scoffed at Ann Marie's idea that Kimberly needed her own Eurpoean voyage, but the idea grew on me. I asked Kimberly where she wanted to go ... her first choice was Greece, but we settled on Italy. I began to research how to do this on a shoestring budget, convinced that if college students can do it, then a mother and daughter duo could. And here we are! The plane trip was free (frequent flyer miles) and we are staying in hostels, taking public transportation (no sissy taxi from the airport!) and we are eating picnics. So far so good!
"Free" flight does not translate to "direct" flight, that's for sure. We left Cheverly at 10:30 am on Sunday and arrived at our hostel at 4:30pm on Monday (exactly 24 hours door-to-door). We had three flights - DCA to JFK to Heathrow (London) to Leonardo DaVinci airport. At Heathrow we landed in terminal 2 and had a long bus ride to terminal 5. British Airways (our London-to-Rome) flight was on strike but happily our flight got off OK. Once in Rome we took a train to Ostiense, then the 280 bus to Ponte Mazzini. I am notoriously bad with buses in Italy. It is very hard to know what stop to get off at, and you have to request the stop ahead of time. Noone on our bus spoke English, so I was on my own. This bus route is along the Tiber, and I counted bridges while following our progress on the map. We got off one stop early, but for me that is amazingly good :-)
After exiting the bus we walked across the bridge, then down a flight of stairs and then two blocks to our hostel. Kimberly had to pull her own suitcase (did I mention all the stiars at Ostiense?) and she was amazing. All this on about 5 hours sleep (3 hours on the trans-atlantic flight and then she slept every minute of the london-to-rome flight).
We are staying at the Casa Internazionale delle Donne, a women's only hostel in an old convent, complete with inner courtyard, climbing vines, and resident cat. We are staying in a dorm room that has four beds. Presently we have one roommate, Jennifer, who is from San Francisco. There are very high ceilings and giant windows. One wall does not go all the way up, and on the other side of this is another dorm room. The eight beds share a bathroom (2 toilets) and shower room (6 showers). There is a lounge area with couches and a computer (on which I am currently typing). There is free wifi as well. There is a breakfast room - just finished the complimentary breakfast. (I'm writing about Sunday but it's actually Monday morning.) The room is available through midnight, with two full fridges, so you can keep food. There is no stove but there is a microwave. We will hit a supermarket today.
The decorations and bookshelves are all very delle Donne. From here I can see a Suzanne Vega poster and someone I should probably recognize, a portrait of an 19th century woman with a typewriter. In the courtyard is a large poster of Aung San Suu Kyi that says °Siamo Con Te° -- We are with you. The grafitti on the wall outside says "Vive" with the universal sign for women. What perfect accommodations for a mother-daughter journey!
We settled in (Kimberly is 100 % unpacked into our locked closet and the nightstand drawers) and Kimmy tried to take a nap. She came out saying "I am too tired to sleep!" so I got her to rally for an expedition. It was gorgeous, sunny 60 degrees with an amazingly blue sky. We headed out towards the Tiber, then walked down the stairs (always these stairs are stinky) to the Piazza Tavare . . . the walk along the Tiber. Kimberly enjoyed the colorful grafitti. She took lots of photos, said, it is pretty but still bad, right? I do not know what it said . . . for all I know she was taking pictures of profanity . . .
We walked back up the stairs, then across the bridge to Isola Tiburina. She was not in the mood to go inside anything so we explored outside, climbed up the steep cobblestone sides and attempted to play cribbage in the sun. It was a bit too windy for cards, however. We walked all the way around the island, played with our shadows, admired the stunning sky and the rough river. After this we walked back over the bridge and into the neighborhood of Trastevere. The streets are very windy, lined with tiny restaurants and shops. We stopped in a pastry shop and bought some chocolate hazelnut balls (which she did not like) and then a gelatario for some chocolate gelato (which she loved). Then I bought some pizza and a birra to go, and put them in my backpack and we headed towards "home". We walked through the Piazza Santa Maria in Testevere . . . our first piazza, first fountain, first church. There will be many more of all three! Then we walked down a cool alley with a wall and an archway and . . . promptly got lost. Not bad lost where you cannot find you way home. Good lost, where you come across a mysterious looking set of steps through flowering bushes and cannot resist. And next thing you know, you are standing in another piazza by another church . . . with Rome spread out below you. Amazing vista. I had no idea where we were, had to consult the map. Ends up we were at San Pietro in Monterino.
By this time Kimberly was completely exhausted, so I promised we would find home. We retraced our steps to Piazza de Santa Maria and then took the correct road (Via Della Scala instead of Via Della Paglia). When we were close to home, a couple walked towards us, seeming a bit frazzled. "Do you speak English?" they asked? "We are looking for Trastavera, lots of restaurants?" I laughed and said I could direct them there, but that once they were there they would surely get lost.
We got back to the hostel and had dinner in our little breakfast room (I reheated the pizza . . . kimmy had peanut butter and wheat thins that we brought from home). We then played a game of Yahtzee, I uploaded our photos to Facebook, and we turned in for the night at about 10:30pm.