After a month of confinement and limited ability to do anything, the doctor cleared me to go to Rome! I had to wear a specially fitted elastic bandage and take crutches and even take my heavy duty boot but I could go. Now let me tell you–there are advantages to wearing a boot and carrying crutches. You get special treatment all over the place. However, traveling with suitcase, carry on bag, and crutches makes it difficult to handle passport and travel documents and stay upright. Fortunately the crutches were not a necessity to be mobile. They were only to offer additional support to an already weak ankle on a terrain that was not nice and even. I can walk perfectly well without them. However, what in Hades name do you do with them as you are navigating the check in process. One more thing to carry. I need to invent something that straps them across your back–a crutch quiver?
I arrived in Rome on Saturday night at our little B & B that was very close to the Spanish Steps. It was immediately time for dinner–I had been looking forward to good al dente pasta all week and this would be my first opportunity to have that and a lovely glass of wine. Fortunately, right outside our front door were three restaurants. Take your pick. Tummy nice and full and back to our room. We slept with the window open and listened to the night sounds of Rome–cars driving past, people talking in loud voices, trucks coming by to pick up empty bottles (lots and lots of bottles every night!) and then that beautiful silence which comes just before the night slips away and dawn breaks and the world wakes up to another day.
Every day there was an adventure with amazing food and wines. Among the sites visited were the Spanish Steps (of course! they were right around the corner from our B & B), the Trevi Fountain, The Vatican Museum, The Sistine chapel (NO pictures permitted–two reasons: 1. It is a sacred place and 2. apparently they have sold the copyright on the images. Since when do you sell the copyright on great art?), St Peter’s Basilica (huge!), St. Peter’s Square, Swiss Guards, Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, Castle SantAngelo, ruins, ruins and more ruins. There seemed to be millions of tourists every where we went. The Vatican indicated they get 25,000 per day. And I think they were all there and accounted for when we went. Waiting in lines was insane so we went on a pre-packaged tour. Seemed to work fairly well. We managed to skip lines but it didn’t help with the crowds once we got in. And of course, it felt like 2/3 of the people had selfie sticks in spite of the fact that they were not to be used inside the buildings!
We decided to go to Florence/Firenze/Tuscany for a day. We got on the high speed train that traveled at 250 kph and were there in a little over an hour. Once again, tons of tourists which made me realize that the Uffizi was not going to fit into our trip easily. However, they have the Ponte Vecchio, a DaVinci Museum, and Santa Maria del Fiore which just happens to be the site of the Brunelleschi Dome. This dome was built in the 1400’s after the church was in place. It is the largest dome of its kind in the world. I’ve read the book Brunelleschi’s Dome and I was absolutely blown away by the size of this thing. And it is so high. Unfortunately, it was a religious holiday so we couldn’t go inside to check it out. Found it very interesting that they had a living Nativity scene outside the church as well. I soon found out why. There was a Three Kings Day Parade gearing up which blocked access to the Uffizi and the Ponte Vecchio. (as a side note, in both Italy and many Spanish speaking countries, gifts are given and received on this day–you leave grass out for the camels to eat and they leave gifts for you) This was also the reason the town was so packed. So we stopped and watched. I’m a nut for parades anyhow but this was just wonderful. I don’t know when I have been so excited about a parade in recent years. It was a very long parade and unfortunately we could not stay for the whole thing as we wanted to get some lunch and knew we had to figure out where we had left the train station. The streets of Florence twist and turn and change names at each corner. Obviously we found the station and managed to return to Rome just delighted with our little adventure. And a little side note, Tuscany is the home of Gepetto, Pinocchio and Collodi.
The Colosseum was a definite highlight of the trip for us. We took the metro to the stop for the Colosseum. As you walked out of the Metro building, there it was in all of its magnificence. Off to the right is the Roman Forum and just past that is the site of the Palatine Hill–the site of the Romulus and Remus legend. And just beyond that is Circus Maximus–think of the chariot races from Ben Hur. Again, we opted for a guided tour which let us skip the lines. The guide was a virtual walking encyclopedia on the Colosseum. It is amazing to realize how old this edifice is and that it is safe for people to walk all around it.
The food. Ah, what can I say? Steven can tell you all about all the gelato he ate while there. The few I tasted were pretty delicious. The pasta sauces were quite tasty and bruschetta was served virtually everywhere. The pasta itself was cooked al dente not al mush. Lots of fish and veal on the menus. Artichokes in abundance and of course wine too. I even sampled the local favorites of Campari and Limoncello. Oh so delightful. Delicious bread with a great crust and lots of herbs and garlic used in the preparation of their meals. I could live in Italy!
But alas, the holiday has ended and now I’m back in Macedonia. Oh, but wait–I leave for Istanbul on Tuesday. Poor me–so many wonderful exotic places to see and not enough time to see them.
Ciao , baby!