Sunday, May 20, 2012

Pizza, protests, and the Pope - One Day in Rome

I arrived in Fiumincino Airport this morning with no set itinerary, no lodging, and only a vague idea of what I wanted to see. However, I pride myself on being a nimble traveler and knew there was so much to see and do in the Eternal City that I couldn't go wrong.
I immediately ran into a fellow wine blogger, Robbin, and plans quickly were hatched. She had a bed booked at The Beehive, a happily located hostel a mere three blocks from Termini Station. For 40 Euros I had a cheerful private room with fresh modern styling punched up by neon orange accent pieces.
Seeing Rome with little time and less energy due to jet lag is a challenge that was easily solved by the 110 bus, a red double decker with an open air top that followed the route of the major historic sites.
Before boarding, we were treated to a spectacle of a loud parade of protestors waving red flags that was led by a tractor trailer blasting, as Robin said, Italy's most famous rapper. They were calling on Italy's new prime minister to fix the mess left by Berlusconi. After ten minutes, the parade passed and we mounted the 110.
As a bright January sun warmed me in the fresh air, I was entranced by thousands of years of history passing by: the Coliseum, with the audio guide reminding us of the captives being eaten by "wild animals;" Circus Maximus, where the Romans held their beloved horse races; and palaces, fountains, and piazzas too numerous to mention.
But it was St. Peter's Square where we disembarked. I reasoned that it was a place unique in all the world and most deserved my time. The line to enter the basilica was depressingly long, so we took a detour to lunch at a stand up Pizzeria a few blocks away. Robin told me that after the dough is made it rests for three days, giving the thick crust large pockets of air that make it light. We ordered slivers of three types of pizza: a tomato sauce pie with small slices of tomato on top - I had never tasted such sweet tomato sauce, a pie with a mashed broccoli and soft cheese, and a pie of soft roast potato slices and cheese. All were wonderful, but the tomato pie won my heart.
Returning to St. Peter's Square, the line had miraculously shrunk and after our bags and coats went through X-ray scans, we were in. I had visited Rome many years ago and was eager to see La Pieta, Michaelangelo's moving sculpture of Mary seated mourning her deceased son, who lies across her lap. The gentle humanity of the scene of a mother in mourning always moved me. Of course the grandeur of St. Peter's is so great that only the most jaded could fail to be impressed. I paid the 7 euros to enter the small museum inside the church where assorted Popes' gold embroidered vestments and an enormous jewel encrusted miter caught my eye.
The day ended at a small enoteca, drinking Langhe wine and chatting with new friends. In the end, I was incredibly grateful to return to this magnificent city, if only for a day.

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