Friday April 15, 2016
What a nice day we had today! However, it was not without surprise. And the surprise came early, in the form of a couple that we have had dinner with. They are a nice couple but rather kooky I would say. Anyhow, we were waiting outside the ship for our car to arrive (it had gone to a different ship). Not surprisingly, R engaged them in conversation and also not surprisingly they asked us what we were doing. I bet you can see where this is going already. We told them we were waiting for our car to arrive to take us to Rome and then it came -- as if somehow preordained simply through the "happy" accident of our paths converging -- the inevitable "Can we go with you?" question. I knew it was coming. I expected it. I could see it. And yet, I was still shocked. I could see right away that there was going to be no polite way of getting out of this one. Not that R didn't try. Saying things like: "It's likely to be a small car" and "We've planned this awhile ago." They were not going to be put off however. And the questions just kept on coming: "What are you going to see?" and "What church?" and "Whereabouts did you say you were going shopping?". Seeing this whole situation rapidly starting to spin out of control (we were not about to spend the whole day with this couple) we decided to cut our losses, offering them a ride into the city (they quickly offered, thankfully, to pay for half the cost) and a drop-off/pick-up type arrangement to which they also fortunately and rapidly agreed. I am quite certain however that had we been willing they would have gladly spent the whole day intruding on what R and I had planned as a special day for just the two of us. What, I wonder, were these people thinking -- standing on the pier with no plan on how they were going to get to Rome and only nine hours in which to get there, see whatever it was they wanted to see and get back to the ship? And yet, it worked out for them. Thanks to Sap #1 & Sap #2.
I exaggerate of course. We wouldn't have agreed to share a ride with them if we didn't genuinely like them and it all turned out fine. They were good company in the car helping to pass the time even though the backseat was rather tight. After dropping them off at the Colosseum, our driver, Claudio, took us to a small cafe where we bought "due espresso" mostly because we needed the "toilet-o".
In my preparation for today (some people do actually prepare) I had uncovered a church near the Colosseum that was highly regarded and very old. I was worried that we may have visited it already because I hardly could conceive that we hadn't been there -- it being so close to our former apartment but I told Claudio to take us there anyhow. Sure enough we had walked right by this place, on numerous occasions, without ever knowing what it was or that it was worth visiting. Too funny.
The name of the church was the Basilica of St. Clement. The present structure was built in the 11th century, replacing a previous basilica that was built on the same spot in the 4th century which in turn had replaced a pagan temple. Amazing. I would say, "Only in Rome" but based upon previous ports of call I can tell you that Rome is not the only place where layer upon layer of history exist in the same spot (e.g., Israel, India).
The interior of the church contains marvelous frescoes and mosaics. The floor and ceiling are both quite striking. And, in general, it has an older feel and is far less ostentatious than some (most?) Roman churches.
After a quick drive-by of the old apartment, we headed for the Via dei Condotti (sp?) to do a little shopping. R was on a quest to find a pair of shoes that I had seen and wanted but did not buy last summer thinking that I would be able to find them either online or back home. I never was able to find them so they became the shoe equivalent of "the one that got away". Anyhow, to R's disappointment, they were not there. Ah, but there was this other pair ... And some great sunglasses too. Then, we moved on to Zegna where I am embarrassed to admit I scored another pair of great sunglasses plus a terrific wallet from Natalia, a charming and talented (obviously) sales-person. As I've said before, it's nice to be me sometimes. Scratch that. Pretty much all the time.
Back with the driver, R checked his "Happy Cow" vegan/vegetarian-food-finding-app on his phone, showed Claudio the name and address of a place and off we went. The restaurant, called "Ops", was further away than we had thought it would be so it was good thing we had the car. But it certainly was worth the effort to find. An upscale cafeteria-type establishment with Italian-style vegan dishes. The food was delicious. Really not a bad dish among them and believe me I tried quite a few different items. R was quite taken with the concept and thinks, rightly so I believe, that a similar type establishment in Philadelphia (and probably elsewhere) would do incredibly well. He's ready to be an investor but thinks it would take more money and energy than we have to do it by ourselves.
After lunch it was back in the car for a quick jaunt to our favorite neighborhood in Rome -- Trastevere. I had mentioned that I wouldn't mind visiting this bookstore that we had visited last year and R very graciously (and without hesitation I might add) agreed to go. He shopped for food while I bought more heavy books that I have to transport home where I have no room for them and no time to read them. Don't ask. I am damaged that's all I can say.
Our intrusive and clueless but also fun-loving and garrulous friends were at the appointed spot at the appointed time so we were able to launch right into the Friday afternoon rush hour traffic. Claudio found special lanes just for himself and got us back to the ship by five thirty which was the cut off time for the vehicle thus concluding what could have been a disastrous but turned out to be memorable day in Rome.