27.05.2009 32 °C
This past week there have been times that in the middle of the night we wake up wondering where we are. Our pace has been quite fast these last few weeks with countries visited and Italy’s pace of life is contributing
What can be said about Rome besides …Ahhhh.
Our plane landed late Monday night, it was delayed leaving Vienna. BTW, the Vienna airport is one great shopping mall and while waiting , there is lots to see with enticement to buy. We made reservations in Rome a while back at B&B Cecaro Balbo which included a driver pick up from the airport at an extra price but well worth it when arriving late in a city one does not yet know. The Rome airport is quite a ways out and gave our driver lots of straight stretches to reach speeds of 160Km while steering with his knees, after all when an Italian driver has his cell phone in the left hand he needs the other hand to gesticulate with. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, buckle up and take a very deep breath. We had no idea of Cecaro Balbo’s great location and were pleasantly surprised when driver Antonio suddenly started pointing out famous landmarks including the collosseum where he slammed on the brake, to avoid running a red light. At this so historical ruin the road has three lanes to accommodate the extra traffic but Tom counted 7 cars, side by side, all revving their engines to be the first out of the block and not surprisingly, our Antonio sped off first with a big grin. Had we hired the next Mario Andrettti ?
Our very small Cecaro Balbo hotel is in an historical building steps away from Santa Maria Maggiore church and an absolute treasure to stay in while in Rome. It appeared a little creepy at first, no sign what so ever and the only light came from a distant streetlight reflecting back from the cobble stones. Huge oak doors and a bell and after a ringing, the doors creakingly, slowly opened only to reveal a large marbled hall separated by a black iron gate. It felt like entering Frankenstein’s castle. With a pop the gate opened and from a side door a face showed still fitting the scene with words we did not quite understand except “ Stricklands?”. That’s how we met Glenn, and after three days at his place (we may have been be the only guests) are convinced it is the place to be in while in Rome and have already booked for our only night back in Rome next week. Glenn is originally from the Philippines and besides bringing us cappuccinos at 8.00 am every morning showed us what routes to walk and what buses to take so all the Rome sights could be seen. The weather was great, warm and sunny, almost too hot and after spending 8 hours touring the Colloseum, Arch of Constantine, the Palatino , Trevi fountain, Piazza del Popolo, Pantheon and most all the sites right of the River Tiber, we took a cool refuge at Cesaro Balbo. Within its quiet thick walls and slanted brick ceilings, double windows with louvered shutters, we took a three hour nap and now understand siestas. Later that night another approach was taken to see Rome’s sights and that is to comfortably sit back on a small terrace eating the best ice cream ever and watching it happen. The Italian men remain charming and I wonder how the Italian women put up with them. Parking and the fight for a spot becomes entertaining and our hats off to those who can park in footage designed for cycles, admitting that some of the cars are the exact same size as a motor cycle.
Our second Rome day was devoted to the Vatican City and while Tom was in Rome before and saw this sight upon his arrival in Europe in the early seventies, for me it was a first. If we had checked better we would have known that every Wednesday the Pope gives his address to the audience assembled in the square in front of St. Pietro Basilica . Leave it to us to be totally unaware, only happily surprised to hear the pope speak while entering the square and equally oblivious about needing a ticket do sit down and receive the papal blessing in Italian, German and English before listening to that day’s choir which was the Dutch women’s choir from Volendam all dressed in the authentic Volendam clothing. One can only smile and be thankful to all who hold us up in prayer and let us fly by the seat of our pants to know that our moment in time at the Vatican was right. It being a Wednesday may have added to the crowd with whom we were herded and hushed through the museum and Sistine Chapel. Hours can be lost there, or gained, but seeing the art collected by the Vatican , then or recent, and the crick in our neck awing over Michelangelo’s soaring dome is worth the pain.
St. Pietro Basilica is a church I have wanted to enter for many years. With my given name of Petronella and having been baptized, received first communion and confirmation in St. Petrus Kerk , Uden , the Netherlands, and consciously confirmed at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Conway, Arkansas, spending time at the grounding tomb was good.
Within our original Italy plans was a hooking up in Tuscany with friends Cathy and Charley. Even well made plans sometimes go awry without our control and while we will not share this time now, we look forward to sharing good time with them in the Holler and any place we find together.
Little more tid bit on why we are taking trains in Italy. While still in Santorini, Greece, hiking from Fira to Oia, Tom’s right eye contact lens started bothering him and he attempted a removal. Never, ever do this while still walking and never ever think the lens is out unless you can see it in your hand. During our crossing of the Aegean Sea, by ferry back to Athens, Tom’s eye slowly started swelling , shut down and only oozed.
Our first Athens trip, the second time around, was to the hospital minutes away from the London Glyfada Hotel. While we knew our hotel had pre- warned the clinic it was still astounding that the eye- doctor walked in the hall way, looked for us, saw Tom and his obvious need and took him in without asking for a name , passport or credit card number, and treated him strictly with the skills he had. After Tom‘s eye was seen to and patched the only English spoken was “ You! Back! Tomorrow”., which we did and again we were picked out of a crowded hall way by this doctor and seen to without any information, papers or any money exchanged.
Tom had a need which the doctor by oath fulfilled.
Truly unbelievable but experienced firsthand, in Greece when a tourist needs emergency medical care it is taken care off, even with us having insurance it was never asked for, no money was exchanged, a true phenomena.
Tom asked me to display all my medical discomforts on our travels, which I will even if they did not need medical interventions but were equally painful.
In Thailand I acquired travelers diarrhea, and now know why it is called such, it travels with you from country to country and can only be absolved through taking the prescribed drugs/antibiotics that were all along in my pack.
I broke two toes. The littlest ones on my right foot, on two different occasions, both involving marble steps while wearing flip-flops. Marble is unforgiving.
Broken toes heal on their own while the black and blue color is unnoticeable on a tanned foot.
Our next stop and stay now is the in the Tuscan hills where we have an apartment waiting in Florence.
Tom and Els