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Published: November 30th 2010
Sexy Italian Musician
For a shorter trip synopsis (Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre and Venice), please see my article in the Calgary Herald at: http://www.calgaryherald.com/life/Drink+Laugh/3822915/story.html
It’s September and my best friend and I have finally made it to our dream destination: Italy. We’ve been talking about this for years and after a rough 2010, this is a very happy day. We’ve landed in Rome and we’re staying in a quaint hotel near Piazza del Popolo.
Our first stop is the Spanish Steps and off for a little investigation to see if I can find the tiny hotel I stayed in fifteen years ago near the Piazza de Spagna. We locate it and go inside–a little trip down memory lane.
Next, the Fontana di Trevi. This is one of the best people watching spots in Rome. This archaic monument is spectacular to gaze at. I find three coins and throw them into the fountain–all part of La Dolce Vita good luck for a return trip to Rome.
The food in Italy is as good as you’ve heard. Sauces are made in-house daily and salads are fresh. The scrumptious pastas, bread and pizzas are made with low gluten, high-quality flours and
sometimes spelt. You can actually feel the difference in your body.
I am excited for my friend Lynne. I can’t wait for her see the Vatican and Sistine Chapel. Fifteen years earlier, I walked into St. Peter’s Basilica with two new friends I’d met in Rome. Two of the three of us burst into tears when we entered, blown away by the grandeur and beauty.
Lynne and I vowed not to take any dorky city tours, but when we see the enormous queues, we agree to listen to one guide’s pitch. The cost is triple the entrance fee, but with the promise of entering the tour group side door, we both acquiesce.
The crowds in the Vatican Museum are unbelievable. Kathy, our guide, tells us that this is the busiest day she’s seen all year. We’ve come on the day of the first papal audience of the season.
Lynne is as amazed with the Vatican as I was on my first trip to Italy. We spontaneously bless ourselves at the holy water; we have both been through breast cancer recently and this trip is about celebrating our lives and renewing our sense of fun.
our second day of wandering the streets of Rome, we begin to feel a bit frumpy. The Roman women are fashionistas extraordinaire. Everywhere we look, someone is wearing some type of flowing, gorgeous scarf so we go hunting for Italian scarves to give ourselves a little panache. The Via del Corso heading away from Piazza del Popolo is a great place to shop for all budgets.
Day three and we're having a blast in Rome. We plan a busy day to see the Colosseum and revisit our fav spots before leaving for Florence in the morning.
The day begins with a deluxe breakfast at our little hotel. Our room is austere (“priest beds” was the first comment from my friend when we arrived) but the breakfast and cappuccino is outstanding.
Silly looking gladiators surround the Palatine Hill area vying for tourist photos and lots of euros. My friend Lynne has a momentary bout of homesickness gazing at one of the gladiator’s hefty calves; he’s built like her husband.
Lunch is one of those moments I want to save as a snapshot in my mind forever. We are at a sidewalk café on the hill across from
Lynne in Rome
the Colosseum indulging in an afternoon drink, chewy peasant bread and an exquisitely fresh insalata caprese.
Piazza Navona is a colorful and large square filled with artists, musicians and mimes. An old gypsy woman dances to a traditional Italian tune with a tall tourist and beside her, a Gucci bedecked Roman signora grasps a dog leash in one hand and her son in the other as she chats with her nanny. A flock of nuns sit on the fountain’s ledge and minutes later, four monks pass with backpacks. An artist scolds my friend after touching an exceptional painting of the Tiber.
At a side street trattoria our waiter whisks the standard breadbasket off of the table after taking our order and replaces it with a steaming hot herbed focaccia.
Seating is tight in Europe and a group of older, Panama hat wearing Swedes join us. They are on their annual men-only vacation and vie for our attention. The large group is moved to an outside table and "Sven” sneaks back to ask if we would stop at their table before we leave and give him a farewell hug.
Figo, our waiter, entertains us with feigned lovesickness,
St. Peter's in the background
and a parade of limoncellos and fresh strawberries compliments della casa.
We stop at Swedeland to say good-bye and “Sven” hugs us so hard that our glasses tilt off of our faces, all the while, cameras flashing in a small uproar.
“Thank you,” he loudly whispers as he turns from the group. “You’ve made my trip. I will have the best scrapbook of everyone!”
We are supposed to head back to the Pantheon to find the one and only rickshaw that we have seen in Rome, but Lynne veers off in the opposite direction, waving, temporarily dazed by our sudden fame. We get lost down gorgeous streets and find our way back to Piazza Navona.
Exhausted, we sit on a step listening to a woman play amazing tango music on an accordion. In a flash, my friend leaps across the square like a gazelle. She's spotted the rickshaw and waves me over. We hop in and moments later pass our restaurant. “Sven” and the crew wave and shout, and Figo is, I think, yelling, “Amore! Amore!”
We are laughing so hard and having so much fun, that our rickshaw driver stops. He tells us, “You two are the best passengers I’ve ever had. A free tour for you!” He keeps us entertained with tales of his life as a Roman and the history of shops and restaurants we pass as he bicycles the beautiful backstreets.
We pack for Florence and head for a nightcap in our charming courtyard hotel bar, which transforms nightly into a trendy Roman hangout. A handsome Italian businessman spies my friend and toasts her with a smile. The piece de resistance–a 48-hour day in one in the splendor of Rome.
Who to tour the Vatican Museum with … Kathy at Live Italy Tours www.LivItaly.com (Walking tours available as well).
Where to mail your postcards … the official Vatican City post office off of St. Peter’s Basilica.
Where to buy leather … T-Nobile on Via Pettinari 47.
Next … Florence
Visit me at www.wandasthilaire.com
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