Italy 8: April 25, 2007 -- First full day in Rome. Notes from both Bob and Sally

Bob Corbett's note:


Folks, It's 7:20 PM in Rome and I am justifiably a bit drunk. I've been to Rome six or seven times, can't recall exactly, and this is the FIRST time I've ever found a restaurant I both like and can afford. I was telling Sally on the way to check out the Vatican (we go there tomorrow, but rode a bus over late today to check it out), that once in 1983 I was walking home from the Vatican, a long, long walk of 5 miles to where we are now staying (my constant place of staying since I first came here) and I saw this lovely restaurant with outdoor seating. I ate there and spent the money for two more days of food so I nearly starved the next two days. This time we have more money budgeted and I found an awesome restaurant in a working class area near our hotel. No tourists at all, just locals. the food is STUNNING, beyond that.

We ate there last night, then breakfasted there to day, passing up free breakfast at our hotel. Then a SUMPUTUOUS feast tonight and.... oh my what, first a full liter of wine, then another 1/2 half liter, then some limonecello, and on it went..... Wheeeee. Now we are across the street at a laundry where Sally's laundry was -- I did have a shirt washed, but I'm not much on using Laundromats. They have e-mail at the Laundromat.

The internet sites are called INTERNET POINT in Italy, and that led to tonight's PHENOMENAL CONVERSATION. We first ordered a liter of dry white house wine and a place of mixed olives. We simply couldn't eat all the olives. There were Italians in three sides of us, including a guy who must be Italy's mister muscles, and I offered all three tables our left over 6 olives. No one wanted them. Then along came this black man who sat next to us (outdoor table along a very very busy street) and I offered him the olives in some lousy pseudo Italian and he replied in lovely British English that he declined.

Turns out he is from Tanzania in Africa and is the representative for Internet Point in Italy, the largest e-mail server in the country and is in town for a routine visit to the thousands of centers in the city.

What a great man. He lives in England in ... damn, it's the wine, but a city near my beloved Manchester (I'm a maniac fan of Manchester United's soccer team), and the often is in Manchester on business.

In any case, he pulled his table over to ours and we visited for over an hour while Sally and I utterly demolished two platters. One filled with grilled ribs of pork, green beans (so fresh they were crisp), roasted tomatoes. I had a platter with two huge shish kabobs of .... wow, pork pieces, sausages of two different sorts, hunks of onion, tomato and other things, with side dishes of roast potatoes and tomatoes as well.

Now, retired and with a bit better daily budget, I finally found a REAL working class neighborhood restaurant with real food and no foreigners to speak of. Last night we utterly feasted and REELED home after too much wine, too much food and several limoncellos (after dinner drinks). Sally and I resolved to repeat this.

I must mention this place is nothing fancy. It is a tiny place with mainly only the 7-9 out door tables, a couple places at a counter inside. The food is steam table food, but really reasonably prices and very tasty. But, itís not a fashionable place.

The guy from Africa was such a joy and delight to welcome to our table. He was educated in early school in Tanzania, then at university in England with a strong background in philosophy and English literature. First talk went to Charles Dickens' novels and their relationship to Camus's novels (one of my specialties in Existentialist philosophy). Then, alas and alack one can't avoid it: the inevitable: What's happened to the U.S. under this mann (as he pronounced it) Bush -- the destruction of U.S. values of law and order and democracy.... the whole bit. I got the conversation away that that hopeless topic to philosophy and the novels of Camus and whether he was really a philosopher or a novelist or if the two are in conflict...

Then to his field: the technology of the internet and then, his absolute FETISH -- WORLD DEBT, and China's control of so much world wealth and the desperate situation of the US with China holding so much U.S. credit card debit.

What a great night. Then the rain. First of our trip. 9 days of unmitigated sunshine and hot days. Tonight, as we sat outside under umbrellas, it rained, and though to accent his worry of US debt to China. I had to move my chair to avoid the rain, and tipped over and broke a lovely limoncello glass. Another appeared in seconds.

It was over two hours of dinner and conversation, closer to three, and the BEST conversation we've had on this trip, and that runs competition to some great time with the Brazilian in Naples and the Italians at Terrasini.

Dang, we live utterly charmed lives.

Oh good grief, I simply FORGOT about today's "sightseeing." Not fair. It's Sally's first time to Rome. I could care less about the SIGHTS. For me it's about food and conversation and local color. I've seen all the "SIGHTS" I ever care to see. But we had a ball. We started out at the Coliseum, and spent two hours inside. That's rare for me. For years it's been undergoing renovation and only once before could I get inside. I loved that. Next my very favorite Roman site, the forum. We spent couple hours there.

Finally we moved on to Trevi Fountain, and it is so schmaltzy lovely one can't help but love it and all the folks throwing coins over their shoulder to seek cosmic help in getting back to Rome. I simply couldn't bring myself to throw coins looking for cosmic help -- not my individualist style, but I provided the coins for Sally to do so and even took a picture of her doing it.

But, a few FEET away we drank a few Peroni beers on this hot day and ate a snack of a great sausage, tasty cheese sandwich and the bar not 20 feet from the fountain.

Next was the DELIGHTFUL visit to the Spanish Steps. we walked to the top, stopping often in the shade, and then back down and wandered for an hour in the maze of walking mall streets surrounding the Spanish Steps.

Back at Termini Station bus depot, we hopped a bus to the Vatican to stake out our trip for tomorrow to St. Peter's Square and to the Cathedral. That will be the whole of tomorrow.

Next day, us two non-believers, me a rather radical atheist and Sally a person not-active in any formal religion, will make a visit to Assisi, Italy. I may be a hard- nosed atheist, but Francis of Assisi is one of my great heroes, a man of simplicity and justice for all. I love the guy. and I utterly LOVE Assisi, my most visited Italian city. I've been there many times and love it.

But, tomorrow will be the Vatican and back to our newly chosen restaurant and tomorrow's feast and... likely, a bit too much wine if such a thing is really possible.

What a day.....

Ah me, Sally's take on today may be WILDLY different from mine.

Hmmmm, the best thing now about tonight is that between here and our hotel, 1 1/2 blocks, is another bar. Hmmmm, if only I can interest Sally is just one more bottle of wine..... [Later on back in the state Ė yes, I did, and we watched a wonderful soccer match.



Sally's note

Hi Everybody,

We are in Rome and are having another adventure and everything is wonderful!!

We arrived yesterday, Wednesday.

And though exhausted, we decided to ride some buses and explore the city. We knew we wouldnít do our formal exploration until today.

So... we put our backpacks in the luggage storage at the train station, another adventure for me. And then we took off to get bus tickets and find the hotel that Bob remembered from the other times he was here.

And he found it.... amazing. The same one!! We got a nice room with bath and though exhausted, we went back for our luggage. First we tried the ATM, and though the first two tries didnít work. We didnít give up. Bob encouraged me to follow the directions of the bank employee and we found the main branch at the train station and after trying it again with the teller right there to see the 'problem', we followed her and her instructions and they were successful at getting $$$ from my ATM card.

Then we went to 'rescue' our luggage and took it to the hotel and left it there. Excited but exhausted, we took several buses and explored some of the city. Rome is amazing, and is full of ancient ruins. Bob already knew of the sites we would visit today.

Because I have a bit of trouble not having breakfast, after we dropped off our luggage I told Bob that I was a bit lightheaded. We turned a corner after leaving our B&B and found a nice little outdoor place that had several selections of breakfast sandwiches or paninis, along with some awesome fresh squeezed orange juice. And I felt better... still exhausted, but better.

And we set out to find some bus tickets and buses so that we could explore from the buses.

After some exploration, Bob knew what we would do today, and we went back to find the local restaurant that he found yesterday. An amazing little place, and we had some local Italian food there. Not the pasta or the pizza that you would expect. But Bob will Iím sure explain the foods that we found there.

After having our dinner, wine and dessert Bob decided that we would try the local after dinner drink... lemoncella. And as tired as we were, we found our way back to our B&B. It was wonderful! We recommend it!

Today after sleeping another 12 hours, we got up ready to explore Rome!

First we had breakfast not at our B&B,,, but at that local restaurant, where we had eggs, bacon, juice, brioche, tea for me, and cappuccino for Bob and a nice slice of sponge cake and a bottle of water for only 6 euros each. What a great start to our day!

Then we set out for 1) Coliseum, 2) Forum, 3) Trevi Fountain, and 4) Spanish Steps.

Those of you that have been in Rome... will know what that means... others will want to visit each of them sometime.

Ah.... awesome! The coliseum is spectacular, and where the sporting games happened in early Roman times, even where the Christians were paired with the lions as sport for the Romans.

The Forum I donít know enough about, but will do more research about when I get home.

The Trevi Fountain has been in several movies... Three Coins in the Fountain !! So, when I realized that throwing a coin into the fountain meant you are wishing you will return someday... I turned around at the fountain and threw a coin into the fountain too!

Then the Spanish Steps. A beautiful and popular tourist site. Have no idea how many steps there are but Bob and I walked up and then down them, all bordered by beautiful hot pink azaleas in the spring.

We were happy that we did all four but before we stopped at the same spot for another Italian dinner, we took a bus to see where we want to go tomorrow... the Vatican!

And now after our wonderful dinner, wine and even another after dinner drink of lemoncello as it started to rain here. If I havenít mentioned, we have had perfect weather until this evening. This is the very first rain we have had. And its warm enough that its not a problem.

We are writing our notes from the lavandaria where we dropped off our laundry this morning. Its also an Internet Point as they call it here in Italy.

Bob is also writing his note so he will Iím sure tell about our dinner. Delightful!

And though its been another full and busy day of exploring, we are exhausted but exited about tomorrow.

And after tomorrow .. Thursday, and Vatican city, we will be packing to leave on Friday morning for Assisi.

Travel our way is so wonderful, and we so love it. We see what we want to see, spend whatever time we choose there, and feel a bit sad for those that are on tours. Bob said he heard one tour guide say to his group... ok, you have five minutes to stroll around and we will meet again in 5 minutes!! We canít even imagine what that would be like.

Bob found a chair in the coliseum and I took as long as I wanted to explore the ancient finds there as he rested his knees. I donít know how long that took, but it was lots longer than 5 minutes!!

We cant miss a day in feeling blessed as we think about how lucky we are.

On to St. Peters Square and Vatican City tomorrow!





Bob Corbett