I’ve been strangely reluctant to write the final page in the story of this trip to Rome…..I suppose I hate to admit that it’s over. And that I’m back in a cold, snowy Ottawa.
On my last full day in Rome, Saturday, the weather was unbelievable. Skies were clear and sunny, and the temperatures easily topped 15C. Which was remarkable, I think, for January.
When my friend Marcie arrived, after taking the Eurostar from Florence that morning, she quickly dropped her duffle bag in the spare room of my apartment (mine, for one last day!) and we headed out. I was ready for lunch, preferably somewhere outdoors in the sun!
I steered Marcie across the Corso Vittorio Emanuele towards the popular wine bar Cul de sac. Perfect for a sunny Saturday in Rome. I had had dinner there a few times during this trip, but I hadn’t yet sat on their small patio on the Piazza Pasquino. But I also knew that if we couldn’t get a table there, Insalata Ricca next door could probably squeeze us in.
My happy patronage of Cul de sac helped us jump the queue and we were squeezed onto the patio for a light lunch right away. I love the fact that Italian spots often reward loyalty! Cheese and meat plate for me, with a glass of vernaccia, while Marcie ordered Tuscan bean soup. A very healthy choice, along with a glass of prosecco.
Why is that lunch can so easily stretch out to mid-afternoon? It was after 3 p.m. when we finished. I dragged Marcie across Piazza Navona quickly because I was determined to hit the store Ai Monasteri and get a few monk-made gifts including a bottle of the delightfully named Elixir della Felicita, or elixir of happiness. Amazingly, the bottle made it home in one piece and is now sitting on a shelf above the kitchen sink, along with my purchases from Roscioli. So far, I’m happy just to look at my Elixir, but I know one day I’ll crack that baby open and take a big swig. I’m curious to see what will happen. I suppose I had better keep the number for the poison hotline close at hand, just in case....
Once free of the monastery store and its monk-made goodies, Marcie asked if we could have a look at Via Condotti, just to see what kind of sale items might be found in Max Mara. Or Gucci. And as we strolled up the Via del Corso, we were amazed by the sheer throngs of people, particularly at the point where the street is close to traffic and given over to pedestrians. It seemed that all of Rome must have come out for an early passegiata in the wonderful weather!
We fought our way to the Piazza del Popolo. I took some photos of Marcie atop the stately lions in the central fountain and then dragged her into Santa Maria del Popolo so I could say goodbye to the Chigi Chapel. Actually, it was covered in scaffolding, so I was extremely glad to have had the chance to admire it several days earlier, before restoration work began.
By now, the sun had set and we decided to stroll back to the apartment so I could finish some packing and get ready for dinner. Suddenly budget-minded, we decided La Sagrestia would be a great choice -- not expensive, cheerful, great food and not too far a walk since I twisted my right knee on the cobblestones a few days earlier and it was hurtin'.
The restaurant was quite full when we arrived at 9 p.m. Indeed, by the time we left two hours later, it was packed right to the very entrance doors. I had never, ever seen La Sagrestia so busy!!! Dinner was wonderful. Marcie had been clamoring for spinach-and-ricotta ravioli, and I wanted pizza since I love Rome’s very thin-crust pizza and hadn’t had one to this point. Last night in town, I decided to shoot the works and called for the four-cheese pizza bianca. Delicious blend of sharp cheeses, but heavier than usual. A lesson for me -- I prefer some good tomato sauce and only a bit of topping on my pizza, so next time, no pizza bianca!
Sunday, I was up at 7 a.m. after very little sleep (I can never sleep the night before a flight!) I hate to be rushed in the morning and although I hadn’t ordered the car to pick us up until 9:30, I wanted extra time to make sure I had packed everything and dragged it all down to the street in good time. After I had consumed too much coffee, of course.
Marcie and I were both booked on Air Canada flying direct from Rome to Toronto at 12:30, so even a 9:30 car seemed a bit early. But, Air Canada has messed with me in the past, so I don't like to leave much to chance with them. Last June, for example, when I last flew out of Rome, I arrived at the airport more than two hours before my flight -- then waited in a very slow lineup for almost an hour to check in because Air Canada had only one person checking in a full flight. And in a further, sadistic move, Air Canada began announcing its final call for that Toronto flight while I and about 100 other passengers were still in the check-in line! It wasn't just the June heat making us all sweat (and swear!)
On this sunny Sunday, however, it seemed Marcie and I were just about the first people to check in, as there were no other passengers at the Air Canada counter. Naturally, because we had time to spare, there was no line at security, almost no line at immigration and we were left with at least two hours to kill before the flight was scheduled to board. Better than the opposite situation, of course.
As is tradition with Air Canada, the flight was an hour late leaving Rome so I had plenty of time to drink too much coffee and search for washrooms before boarding. And, as is also traditon with Air Canada, the plane was not at all as it was described on their website. I had deliberately chosen this flight because the Air Canada website promised it was new plane, with in-seat entertainment. But an unfortunate substitution had been made. The plane was extremely old and beat-up; the sound system barely worked which was just as well since the movie shown was Jerry Maguire. How old IS that movie? But on the plus side, there was an empty seat beside me, so I could at least stretch out for the long, sad flight home.
So, now that I'm back, time to begin planning (and hoarding money) for my next trip. And I also think that very soon I'm going to do a kind of debrief for myself -- things I packed and never needed (such as a heavy winter coat) and things I didn't bring enough of (bubble wrap -- I should have brought more) Who knows? Maybe this will be a useful blog topic.....