Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 981: The Old Man and Me - In Italy!
By Podie from Florida, Spring 2006
Page 8 of 10: Castel Sant'Angelo and a Slow Trav GTG
Today we were supposed to have had two tours with 3 Millennia - Angels and Demons in the morning, and then the Catacombs in the afternoon. They had cancelled the first tour already, and I had a bad feeling about the second one.
I called 3 Millennia and this time Ryan answered the phone. Just as I feared, our afternoon tour had been cancelled as well! He invited us on a Vatican tour instead and I said no thanks, just be sure you refund the deposit. How ironic that the other tour company we used didn't require deposits and the tour went off without a hitch, but the tours for which I did pay deposits were cancelled. We were very annoyed.
We decided to go to Castel Sant'Angelo, which we had avoided touring because we thought it would be included in the Angels and Demons tour. It was another brilliant blue sky, wonderful weather day and the castle was of course free due to Culture Week. There was a rope across the entrance to Il Passetto, an important part of "Angels and Demons" and I told Rich to go on up to the top of the steps and see what it looked like.
My husband does not break rules, no matter how badly he wants to see or do something. Until I said, "OK, I thought you could go look and I'd stay here, but if you want to stay here, I'll go check out Il Passetto." He had scrambled up the stairs before I finished the sentence, and had a pretty good look around before he returned.
As of this moment we have not been caught. Don't tell anyone!
The view from both the cafe (Michael's?) and the top were absolutely glorious. We saw snow capped mountains in the distance and St. Peter's seemed close enough to touch. The waiter at the cafe did not speak any English but managed to bring our coffees and cakes without a problem and thanked us at least ten times for giving him a one euro tip. I highly recommend a break at that cafe.
I was determined to find the famous Alfredo e Ada restaurant on Banchi Nuovi, based on internet photos I'd seen. I had no address. Suddenly I knew I had found it! "Alfredo e Ada" was written in four inch letters with magic marker pen on the right side of the glass window, and facing the street, on a shelf, was a framed photo of Alfredo. The same photo I'd seen on the internet.
Then I saw Ada, who was as much a celebrity to me as the Pope had been! We were welcomed warmly and sat down, with bread, bottled water and white wine arriving seconds later. None of the three women spoke English but they communicated perfectly with their tone of voice, smiles and touch. Everyone within reach was patted warmly from time to time!
The pasta with pomodoro sauce and cheese was some of the best we ate while in Rome. This was followed up with veal and peas, and a rolled beef dish I think is called bracciole. Then out came cookies, which we were instructed to dip in our wine - also delicious!
As confused tourists stood in the doorway for a moment, wondering whether or not to come in, we would ask, "Do you speak English?" If they did, we explained what they would get for 18 euro each. Everyone stayed, often sitting with strangers who soon became friends. I was back in New York City as a child, eating at my Italian friends' homes. It was spectacular, simply spectacular, a wonderful Roman dining experience.
After we left Alfredo e Ada, my cell phone rang and the voice on the other end asked where I was. I hesitated, not recognizing the voice, and then he said, "This is Ryan from 3 Millennia. Aren't you coming on the Vatican tour today?" I told him who I was and he said, "Oh, I'm sorry, I called the wrong number, I'm looking for some people who are supposed to be meeting me."
I received a very nice apology from Tony Polzer of 3 Millennia via e-mail concerning our two cancellations, and our deposit will be returned via PayPal, but after Ryan's phone call, I have to wonder how organized everything is. It would NOT keep me from trying them again next time; I just wouldn't pick a tour that requires four people!
We waddled over to the Pantheon and people-watched. I called my son back in Florida and he told me the University of Florida basketball team had won the NCAA championship! GO GATORS! I was jumping up and down and yelling and Rich was highly embarrassed. Heck, I was more embarrassed that I'd forgotten about the game! Now THAT'S saying something about how much we were enjoying Rome!
I had passed by a souvenir store near the Pantheon a few times, stopping to look at their panoramic photos displayed outside, and this time we went in to do our obligatory shopping. My original plan had been to buy all my employees Murano glass crosses, but instead I bought eleven various Murano pieces and planned to buy three silk scarves I'd found earlier in the Campo. The woman at the shop was very nice and since we'd spent more than 155 euro, we were able to get the forms to receive a tax refund at the airport.
Of course Rich was ready for gelato again, so we did the tourist thing at Tre Scalini and enjoyed the gelato, the view and our funny waiter.
That evening we were having a GTG at Pepys American Bar in Piazza Barberini. We took a taxi there (6.50 euro) and met up with Mary and Tom, and then Jeanne and Ziggy. Coincidentally, three of us work at the Post Office, and Rich was retired from there, so we had a lot in common.
Finally the famous Sandro from Roma Limo showed up! I had been looking forward to meeting him and wasn't disappointed. He told us people in New York thought he looked like Jon Lovitz, and we could see that resemblance, but I kept seeing Raul Julia, who was both a Broadway star and Gomez Adams in The Addams Family movies. (Raul is much better than Jon, Sandro!)
We piled into his van and got a little tour of the city at dusk, then went to Pierluigi, a lovely restaurant on Via Monserrato where he was clearly very well-known. All the waiters looked like celebrities, too. One could have been Antonio Banderas, another Joe Pesci. They were all very good natured about our teasing, obviously used to it. Everyone was completely fluent in English.
We all agreed to antipasti and seafood, and wine, of course. Sandro ordered red wine for the table and I asked for white wine to avoid the morning headache. He tried to tell me Italian red wine would not give me a headache, and I looked at Rich, who told Sandro, "You don't want her drinking red wine."
It was lots of fun and the food was good, and after the dessert, Joe Pesci asked if we wanted to try a drink made of melted lemon sorbet. I remembered Mai-Tai Tom's trip report and said, "Sgroppino? Singing gondoliers?"
Joe was a little confused by the singing gondoliers part, but he nodded at the sgroppino. I took mine without the vodka and prosecco. I didn't want to be chanting a new mantra in the morning!
Afterwards, Sandro drove us up on a hill to see the lights of Rome and it was beautiful. Then he drove us all home. A fine GTG was had by all!
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