I finally arrived in Rome Monday afternoon after a longish but fairly uneventful (for Air Canada) trip. Amazingly, I didn't miss any connections; my luggage arrived in one piece and my laptop still seems to be working. I was a bit worried about that, because I dropped my computer bag at one point; but my leather boot cushioned the fall. (I left home wearing my winter boots to lighten my suitcase, but that became pretty tired -- and hot -- pretty fast. So one boot was shoved in my computer bag, along with Sunday's New York Times, and the other boot lodged in my carry-on. Better weight distribution, I thought.)
The Toronto-Zurich leg wasn't too painful; for once, Air Canada came through with its in-seat video programming and I watched three-and-half movies. The best was a French film, My Best Friend, with Daniel Auteuil, which I'd recommend. Around midnight, I broke down and re-watched Hairspray, which I shouldn't have done because it meant that I only had time to see half of the Canadian film about the Rwandan genocide, Shake Hands with the Devil.
Four hours in Zurich airport wasn't so bad either. This is the cleanest airport I have ever seen; l mean, spotless. Incredible washrooms. And the airport has these lovely little push carts for conveying all your crap (i.e. winter boots, winter coat, computer bag, carry-on, newspapers.....) I was happy as my elderly mother, who adores shopping carts because they help her to keep her balance so she can trot around shopping malls for hours.
Once in Rome, my pre-arranged driver was waiting (albeit impatiently), the luggage came out after a wait of only one hour (perhaps a record at Fiumicino airport!) and I was at the apartment by 3:30 p.m. My landlady Natalia was waiting, and I have to say her apartment is wonderful. Two good-sized bedrooms, two bathrooms, extremely clean, and an enormous amount of towels provided. And a lot of coffee for the little stovetop espresso maker. (I had booked two bedrooms because my brother had planned to travel with me, but alas, had to cancel)
The weather in Rome was unbelievable. It must have been over 15 degrees C, sunny and so warm that I rolled down the car window and shunned my coat on the drive in. Green grass was everywhere, it seemed -- quite a wonderful change from the snow and cold I left behind in Ottawa. Why did I pack sweaters?
Alas, exhaustion began to hit me about this time. I can't sleep on airplanes and normally, I cope fairly well. But by the time I arrived at Dolce Roma's Campo dei Fiori apartment, I felt as if I had been hit by a tranquilizer dart. I think Natalia could tell, because she spoke in short sentences and small words, wrote down several things, watched me practice turning the gas stove off and on a few times, and finally, promised to call me the next day to check in.
After she left, I headed out to the nearby supermercato to pick up a few breakfast things (Natalia provided great coffee, milk and cookies for my breakfast, but I was craving some fruit and yogurt. I love Italian yogurt.)
The sunshine gave me a bit of new life, so once back in the apartment I unpacked, ironed some things (so, I'm anal retentive; ironing soothes me.) After washing my face and changing clothes, it was after 7 p.m. and time for dinner out.
Ah, Rome on a warm January evening. I strolled over to La Sagrestia, near the Pantheon. A Slow Travel favourite, for good reason. It was still a bit early for dinner, so I wandered into the 2,000-year-old Pantheon, which to me has always been a wonder. Incredibly, it was almost empty -- as was the Piazza della Rotonda. I was gob-smacked; I have never seen this piazza and the Pantheon actually quiet. When they turned the lights out and darkened the Pantheon at 7:30 p.m., I looked up and could see through the oculus the clouds moving above in the night sky. Amazing.
Dinner, less so. The tortellini in brodo was great, so was the cacio e pepe. But after just one glass of wine, I could hardly find my mouth with the spoon. The kind little waiter looked faintly alarmed; at least, I think he did. That's what I recall. By 10 p.m., I crashed hard (fortunately, I was back in the apartment by this point.)
Tuesday, I was up at 9 a.m., feeling as foggy as the weather. But after turning two pots of stovetop espresso and a half-litre of milk into life-giving cappuccinos, I was reanimated. It still took me three hours to get out the door and curiously, I felt very shakey and my stomach kind of churned (mental note: next time less coffee, more milk) But the fog had burned off, the sun was hot and I was ready to do some errands. No more jet lag. I loaded the cellphone with 30 euros of calling time (which didn't seem excessive at the time) and accidently called an angry taxi driver three times while trying to figure out how to retrieve phone messages. I still don't know how to do that.
I bought more coffee and milk, ate a bowl of cereal for lunch (against the wishes of my angry stomach) and then it was time for a stroll. I headed up to the Ara Pacis, ordered constructed in 13 B.C. in honour of Augustus's triumphant return from the provinces of Spain and Gaul. The Altar of Peace, or at least the altar of the Augustan peace, itself is remarkable to see, especially with so much sunlight flooding in through the glass walls of the museo, which was designed by Richard Meier. But even more distinctive, I thought, is its enclosure, covered with reliefs, many still intact after 2,000 years.
It's only a short stroll from there to the Piazza del Popolo, which I had never before seen. Loved it. Several beautiful fountains, the amazing Egyptian obelisk -- the second oldest in Rome, at 3,300 years old -- and the churches! Santa Maria del Popolo may be my new favourite church in Rome, for its Caravaggios, the Chigi Chapel with its statue of Jonah prying himself from the mouth of the whale and the amazing ceiling mosaics of God creating the Heavens.
Mind you, I think I may now need Divine help. I decided three hours ago to test the apartment's dishwasher (I realize that I only had some drinking glasses, coffee mugs, a cereal bowl and some cutlery to wash, but I figured if I blew the thing up, better to know now before it was crammed full of dishes) The damn thing is still running, and I'm beginning to worry. Do Italian dishwashers really need three hours for a full cycle? And what would happen if I threw in a few T-shirts? Then I wouldn't have to go to the lavanderia too soon.....