24 hours in Roma–the first 12.
After I got off the train from Assisi, I was back where I started at Bin 1 of the Roma Termini Train Station. I called Dan Waite, a coworker and friend from the Chicago office, from a pay phone and then went to have lunch and wait and see if he called back. He was somewhere in Rome and I was somewhere in Rome and he was the only person I knew in Italy, so I wanted to try and find him. I settled in at The Roadhouse for lunch and within 5 minutes Dan W. called. I got the cross streets of the hotel and got on Bus #64 to go there.
Bus #64 is a haven for pick-pockets and the #1 tourist bus in Rome. It goes from the Termini to St. Peter’s Square (really a circle) and beyond. It passes the Coliseum and other amazing ruins on the way. I managed not to get robbed, but went way too far on the bus. I called Dan from the middle of a residential neighborhood saying, “Where am I? I crossed a body of water and now I’m on this street, but I can see a dome.”
Later I realized that the dome was, oh, the VATICAN. Dan instructed me to go back to the river, cross the river and turn right. We would eventually run into each other as he walked up the river from the hotel. So, once again, I am trekking across an Italian city with my suitcase, trying to find a hotel. I cut through St. Peter’s square and crossed the Tiber river and found Dan about a block away from the bridge.
Let the walking and talking marathon begin. I had spent 3 days in a language-imposed conversation-free weekend and Dan had just finished a week in the server room in the basement of the Freiburg basement. So we both just talked and talked and talked and talked and talked and talked and talked. And we walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked and walked. Get the picture?
I got checked into the luxurious hotel–luxurious by Assisi standards. When I checked in, they gave me my key and a remote control! I had a TV!!! then I got to the room and saw that I had an actual shower, a hand held shower with a sliding glass door. In Assisi I had monastery like room with a shower head over the toilet, just close the lid and turn on the water. I even had a tiny balcony, all for just 68 euros. Pretty fantastic.
I took a couple minutes and freshened up, changed back into the shirt from the day before which was somehow fresher than the one I was wearing and Dan and I hit Rome running. That night I saw the Pantheon, the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, about a million churches and plazas. I am quite sure I saw other important ruins and buildings, but it kind of starts running together. Lots of marble, granite, fountains, columns, and scooters.
The streets of Rome are full of Smart Cars, scooters, scooter delivery trucks, buses, taxis, and more scooters.
Oh, the scooter and road etiquette. When you have the right of way, you just walk. Just go and the cars will stop, really. Dan would start and I would follow and a couple times I closed my eyes, because I couldn’t stand watching the oncoming traffic. You would find an alley with no room for a car, feel safe, and then BOOM, a van would come zipping through. You stand in a doorway or between parked scooters to avoid getting hit or run over. Dan and I managed to avoid any collisions with moving vehicles, actually we avoided collisions altogether.
We stopped at an Irish Pub called Trinity College on our way back from the Coliseum and had some Guinness and got warmed up, as it was amazingly cold in Rome on Monday night. From there we wandered until we found a quaint restaurant and had a fantastic Italian dinner. I made weird choices–Turkey with Pineapple and a side of grilled eggplant, then a flaming ice-cream stuff crepe for dessert. But it was tasty and the restaurant was warm. From there we went to one more Irish Pub–Mad Jacks. At Mad Jacks they make all the cocktails in that flashy Tom Cruise way and blast the oh-so-popular gangsta rap from the U.S. So, we are in an Irish Pub, in Rome, watching juggling bartenders, and listening to Gangsta Rap. Eventually we made it back to the hotel and made plans to crawl out of bed at 8:30 to see the rest of Rome before my plane back the next day.