We were finally ready to catch the sunrise at 7:15, but we were just heading off to downtown in our Uber. I asked our driver if he spoke English. He said a little. “Spanish?” I said, hopeful. Affirmative.
Turned out Alfonso was from Venezuela so he and I could at least somewhat converse in Spanish. He not only pulled into an overlook so I could get my photo, he drove a few more yards uphill and escorted us through an empty, cliff-facing restaurant. He took our photos, then had us pose by a “lover’s lane” and a replica of the “boca della verita,” or “mouth of truth” which was made famous by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday.
So after such a great, fun start to our Monday (when it stopped raining, too), we took Rick Steve’s Heart of Rome walking tour. As is my favorite thing to do when traveling, we arrived at a miniscule crowd at Pianna Navonna, a pretty collection of old buildings which glowed a soft shell pink, and which faced two playful fountains. We then took a brisk walk past the Pantheon (closed for renovations), Trevi Fountain, and, once again as a nod to Roman Holiday, the Spanish Steps, a graceful staircase comprising 138 of them.
At mid-morn, we took the Metro two stops and a transfer to the Colosseum. As we asserted ourselves out of our crowded Metro car, we discovered that on the first Sunday’s of every month, admission is free at the Colosseum. We joined a fantastic group tour led by an amusing and acerbic Italian native tour guide.
She led us past Palatine Hill, one of the most ancient parts of Rome. It was 50 or so feet above sea level, which explained why I didn’t feel terribly winded when we were done hiking up the moderately easy trail. I would make the kids proud. Afterwards, we went down to the Forum, which is a gigantic rectangular field dotted by ruins and surrounded by ancient buildings.
And then finally, we got into the Colosseum. Its grandeur and its violent history (lions kept in dark and starved for weeks before being released to tear apart criminals turned gladiators) fascinated and repelled me.
We had time for a quick gelato and a peach treat before we had to meet our “Crypts and Catacombs” tour group at the Barberini Metro stop. The tour sounds as creepy as it does. We kicked it off with visit at a Capuchin monastery who preserved skeletons of their deceased into piles and patterns on the ceilings and walls. We walked the catacombs at a convent and ended under the St. Nicholas Church.
For dinner, Drew and I capped our day with dinner at the Jewish Ghetto, a street lined with shops and restaurants. At Bellacarne, I savored a fall-off-the bone veal rib, while Drew had meatball couscous. Then we came home early so we could watch some General Conference. It felt good to put up my feet at the Air BnB, but it was a good tired. We’ve managed to pack a lot in our three days in Rome.
We were starting to settle into a fun rhythm, of taking the Metro, finding our way around, standing under our umbrellas in the intermittent downpour. Even saying “buon giorno” and “arriverdeci.” As we walked at twilight to catch a taxi–to a musician playing the accordion and crowds of people dining al fresco and exchanging friendly conversation at the Jewish ghetto, Drew and I snug in our light rain coats that have traveled with us through Europe– I knew that Italy was starting to get into my blood.
Tonight, one more sleep until our adventures in Tuscany!