November 11-14, 2008
Most Italians, after having heard that I have been to Italy twenty-five times are shocked to hear that, while I know my way up and down Italy, I had never spent any time in Rome. This is a first for me.
On Wednesday morning I left on the early EuroStar for Rome an almost four hour, lickity-split ride stopping only in Bologna and Florence. I pre-occupied myself with drawing portraits of those around me and making friends with a few. When they ask what I am doing in Italy and why I speak Italian, I use the opportunity to tell them that I am a Christian, working with Christian groups and share Jesus when opportunity presents itself.
By 11 in the morning (about 30 minutes late) we pulled into the Roma central station and I began looking for Venzia Street and the hotel that had been recommended by friends. Never ask Italians for directions! I was told that it was miles away (I later found it two blocks from the main station and my hotel). With this bit of erroneous information I landed on the Paris Hotel (Via Firenze, 57). The lobby was tacky and Chinese reception with no sense of customer service but the price, room and morning breakfast GREAT!!! (remember this one) and a single for only 50 Euro.
Once unpacked and settled, I hit the streets going down the hill (lots of hills in Rome) and finally ending up at the Piazza Navona where I sat in the rain eating gelato at 7 Euro for two (small, and I mean small) scoops. When I complained, saying that that, I didn’t want to buy the restaurant, I just wanted a bowl of ice cream the owner (we had become friends) laughed and said, “This is Piazza Navona.” As I wandered the back streets I came up on a building that seemed to somhow be important as it was crowded with thousands of tourists. When I asked where I was, I was duly informed, “It’s only the Pantheon” (stupid). I also, in my wandering wound up at the Fontana di Trevi. Since everyone was busy taking pictures I thought that I should perhaps make a few shots. Well, I could wear you out with tourist-ty stuff but really the best thing I saw was a show of paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Dyck, Frans Hals and Rubens… and all for a measly nine Euro. Beats going to Amsterdam and Brussels to see them.
For dinner, and let me recommend it (I went there twice, two nights running), Che Amore on a small street (there are two of them-one by The Trevi Fountain) on Via Agostino di Prentis. Try their steak, roasted potatoes and lettuce salad for about 16 Euro.
Okay, tomorrow the Coliseum.