Monday, January 29, 2007

Visiting Rome with Andrea and Vincent 1.25-28.06

It's a very cloudy, grey day here in Vietri and temperatures are definitely lower than they have been. The weather here has been gorgeous, unseasonably warm everyone said but they also warned that colder weather was about to begin. When we headed north on Thursday it was under very threatening skies and we could see a dusting of white on Mt Vesuvius where big heavy snow clouds swarmed above and around the volcano. The tops of the tallest mountains between here and Rome had snow on them and rain fell on and off as we approached the city.

I haven’t done much painting since the Christmas holidays and of course I’m feeling guilty about it! Here I am in Italy, wasting time when I should be working!!! But then I brought along a little sketch book with me and had fun in the car doing these very quick little “gesture” drawings of the passing scenery and putting in washes of color later. This is one of those little black journals (like the one I had taken from me in Sicily) so it’s very immediate, just for me stuff and I enjoyed it very much. No pressure to “make a painting” – just record what I was seeing. The time is passing very quickly now and I just know that before I know it we will be heading back to the states. I want to feel that I have made the best of it and go home with things I feel proud of.

We had reserved two rooms in a small bed and breakfast/apartment near the train station and instead of driving the 3 hours back to Vietri and the Amalfi Coast with our young friends whose wedding we attended in Köln, Germany in July, we decided instead to spend the short weekend with them in Rome, visiting the sights. Andrea had been there before but Vincent had not. We never tire of this wonderful city and have been there now more times than we can count but always enjoy ourselves.

We arrived late Thursday and planned to spend one night on our own there so that the next day we would be rested and ready to sightsee. Of course, we ended up doing our share of walking anyway, visiting the Musei Capitolini and its wonderful view over the Roman Forum (where I walked right past Leonardo Di Caprio and didn’t realize until he and his entourage left and Bob told me “That was Leonardo Di Caprio!” Much to the chagrin of his bodyguard, Bob took a photo of him but only managed to capture his ear!) on Capodoglio Hill and an exhibit of works by Matisse and Bonnard in the Complesso del Vittoriano that is connected to the Vittore Emmanuele monument, next to the Roman Forum. On Friday morning, with rain pouring down, we took the train and walked uphill and down, near the Villa Borghese, to the Galleria D’Arte Moderna and spent a few hours immersed in modern art from the 19th and 20th centuries. The collection consists of mostly Italian artists but with some works by Monet, Degas, Van Gogh and the impressionists, as well. We enjoyed it so much and think perhaps we might have to go back again. Andrea and Vincent were expected around 3pm and we had just finished having a coffee in the museum cafe when they called to say they had landed at Ciampino airport, giving us about half an hour to get to Termini train station and meet their bus. It was still raining when we walked back to our bed and breakfast but by the time we hit the streets again, it has quit and didn’t bother us again the entire weekend.

It was wonderful to see them again and be able to spend even just these few days together. We saw them last, as I said, in July when they were married and you can imagine how busy they were with all their guests, it was not possible to spend much time alone with them. We brought their things to the room and stopped for a bit of lunch then headed first for the Roman Forum which was by this time closing for the day (one hour before sunset) so we simply did a walking tour around it pointing out the sights we knew and walked by Trajan’s Market, the monument to Victor Emmanuel, the Spanish Steps and Via Condotti with its fancy (expensive!) shops. We had a quiet dinner in a little restaurant called Osteria del Crispi, on Via Francesco Crispi and called it a night.

We made them get up early the next morning so that they could visit the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. We didn’t think the crowds would be as great at this time of year as usual and arrived around 8:30. Andrea had not been to this museum and both of them seemed to enjoy not only the chapel but the other parts of the museum as well. We stopped in the café of the museum for a slice of pizza (mediocre by Italian standards but we were hungry) and a bit of a rest.

Afterwards we joined the queue waiting at St. Peter’s Basilica and after a short while, entered the church. They decided to go up into the Dome while we opted to rest our feet a bit while these youngsters climbed the 500 or so steps and waved down to us from the balcony that surrounds the dome. St. Peter’s never fails to impress with Michelangelo’s Pieta and Bernini’s masterpiece bronze canopy, not to mention its sheer size and the magnificence of its works of art. This really is what I like to call “the Pope Show” because it does seem to venerate the Popes more than God, but that may just be a personal prejudice on my part, born out by all the statues and monuments to them throughout the church.

We never made it to the Roman Forum as by the time we got back there it was once again closing time! (darn these short winter days when the sun sets around 5pm.) We did take them up the Capodoglio Hill for a view of the Forum as the sun was setting, and then another break for a gelato and a well earned rest. We caught a bus to the Pantheon, walking through the lovely Piazza della Rotunda, passing the Spanish Steps again and over to the Trevi Fountain for the obligatory coin toss. Back towards our B&B we walked up more steps to pass the Quirinale, where the president of Italy has a residence and two pretty Italian soldiers (women, not men) stood guard.

We enjoyed our dinner at the Antica Pizzeria Fratelli Ricci on Via Genova, not far from where we were staying. This pizzeria, we were told is the oldest in Rome but after having pizza in Naples, well, that’s a tough act to follow. This restaurant started as a wine store and we did enjoy the crisp, white wine, Est! Est! Est! that they produce. The service was friendly and we thought our waiter was American when he said “there you go!” and delivered our appetizers (really yummy olives stuffed with meat and fried in a tasty batter and deep fried pumpkin flowers). It turned out he is Italian and Dutch but his English was impeccable. Andrea, who speaks not only German and Hungarian, but also French, Italian, English and Spanish, had no trouble communicating with anyone! Vincent, her husband is French and keeps up with her linguistically – it was so fun to listen to them speak to each other in German and then French and English!

They had a noon flight on Sunday and we shared breakfast in our rooms and then walked them to where their bus was waiting. After tearful goodbye hugs and kisses we promised to see each other again as soon as possible and they promised to come visit us in America after we get settled in and we will hold them to it. The sun was shining as their bus pulled away from the curb and we waved at each other until it was out of sight.

We made really good time getting back to Vietri and were home by early afternoon, took a nap and ate a simple dinner. Andrea called to let us know that they had made it home safe and sound and would probably do the same. We miss them already! That is the hardest part of this adventure! The world is too large. It’s too difficult to see everyone when we all live so very far apart. Perhaps someday travel will be faster and easier and we can pop back and forth across the ocean like going across town and have dinner with our friends in Europe as easily as with our friends across the street. But until then we will have to content ourselves with email and the telephone and be grateful we have both.

It meant so much to us and we were delighted that they wanted to come for a visit and look forward to the next time we can be together.

Now the sun is setting on this cloudy day. It has not rained in spite of the clouds and we don’t know what to expect from tomorrow. We stayed at home all day today but who knows what tomorrow will bring!

Buona sera,
Rosemary and Bob

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