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Report 981: The Old Man and Me - In Italy!

By Podie from Florida, Spring 2006

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Page 5 of 10: Scurrying to the Scavi Tour

photo by Celeste Rubanick

The Roman Forum

I'd had no trouble sleeping and it was very hard to drag myself from the oh-so-comfortable bed at 7:15. But our long awaited Scavi Tour was at 9:15 a.m.!

We arrived at 8:45 a.m. and the Swiss Guards told us to wait behind the barrier until 9. At that time, 12 of us were allowed to wait in the courtyard next to St. Peter's. One family of five clearly had a couple of kids under 12 years old, but they were allowed to take the tour.

Our guide was Christiano from Transylvania, and even he pointed out how strange that must seem, a guy whose hometown was associated with vampires giving a necropolis tour!

Now, I know lots of people will disagree with me on this, but my husband and I agree - this tour, which we had looked forward to more than any other, was a great disappointment.

Maybe it was because we had just returned from the ruins of Pompeii, maybe it was because I'd expected it to look like the catacombs I'd seen before. All I know is this tour seemed too slick, too pre-packaged, too PERFECT to be real! The ladders and tools where "we're still working" were positioned perfectly behind glass, each "room" was behind glass, everything reminded me of a Disney set. I was very surprised to find myself bored less than 30 minutes into the tour.

On the plus side, when we were leaving, our guide gave us free rein to join the people at Pope John Paul II's tomb, and visit St. Peter's, without standing in line. So we then wandered through St. Peter's.

My main objective was the Pieta, which I'd seen with my mother at the World's Fair in NYC in 1964. I was eight then, and I remember wondering what all the fuss was about. And my mother explained very simply, "Jesus has just been killed, and his mother is holding his body. Imagine what that would be like." I saw the tears in her eyes as she explained this, and stared at the sculpture. It was not behind glass then and even at that age I could see how perfect it was, how it conveyed the pain of any mother holding her dead son.

It was quite a lesson for me at that age. And now, 42 years later, my mother gone for 25 of them, I was standing in front of it again. It is now behind glass since a man attacked it with a sledgehammer several years ago, but the emotion it evokes is not diminished. I still saw people with tears in their eyes - including my own.

Since we had a Rome Walks tour at the Colosseum scheduled for 1:50 p.m., we had to start back to our apartment. Leaving the Vatican, we noticed three covered stages and hundreds of rows of chairs set up in the front, but didn't know why.

On the way back, I stopped in the forno (bakery) just steps away from our apartment and bought five euros worth of margherita pizza. It was enough for two and absolutely the most delicious I have ever had. My mouth is watering as I write this and remember that pizza!

At 1:50 p.m. we met our Rome Walks guide, Greg, as planned, and were delighted to learn we were the only people on this three hour tour of Palatine Hill, the Roman Forum, and the Colosseum! Greg, a Boston University graduate who'd come to Rome five years ago "to stay for a year", was equally delighted that Rich had lots of questions.

This gifted young man made ancient Rome come alive for us for the next four hours and fifteen minutes. I could not believe the luck we'd had with this tour! Rome Walks had not even required a deposit from us, we were the only people who'd reserved it and they went ahead with it anyway. I was very impressed both with their professionalism and that of their tour guide. Greg was something special.

Afterwards, we took a quick coffee break, returned to the apartment and went to dinner at the little restaurant right out our front door, Arnaldo al Satiri. It was 8 p.m. and we had no trouble getting a table, especially when Arnaldo realized Massimo had introduced us to him.

Arnaldo's is listed as one of the ten most romantic restaurants in Rome, and it was a wonderful place. We met an American couple from Seattle who had been coming here for years, who said they'd never been disappointed. Arnaldo and his waiter spoke very little English but it wasn't a problem.

Rich and I split a large salad and an order of spaghetti al pomodoro, then we each had different veal dishes and desserts. We drank wine and water and were pleased with our bill of E56. It was a very relaxing meal, and Arnaldo's became our favorite place, too.

And it's a good thing our apartment was only about 20 steps away. I don't think I could have walked a foot more.

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