Thursday, April 4, 2013

Italy 2013: final installment

Reminders of Leslie's birthday everywhere--of course, I forgot to email her that particular day.

Our last full day in the city quickly turned into a whirlwind.  I don't know if this is a good vacation strategy or not, but I do like to bring home ... how do you say? ... souvenirs with me on any trip I take.  The problem is that I have a lot of trouble parting with my money especially when it's still early in the week.  Typically I take note of things that really catch my eye and then if there's something I really, really must bring home, I go and find it on my last full day in town.  This strategy did NOT work in Florence many years ago when our last day also happened to be the random weekday that most stores in town chose not to open.  That was disappointing to say the least.  On this trip, I saw two things: Those suede clutches with the tassels from March 5th and a pair of black leather spectator boots that I have literally been hunting for since winter 2006.  I made up my mind the day before that they were all coming home with me.  

We also needed to go find some major sights that we still hadn't seen on this trip, most especially the Forum and the Colosseum.

Out we went for our coffee to start the day.

This was the only morning that I allowed myself to have a chocolate croissant--to die for.

I saw this sparkling white Vespa parked in front of our hotel.  Later that day, I saw the guy who worked our front desk zip up to the hotel in his gray suit and dress shoes, whip off his helmet, and dash inside to resume his place behind the counter.

I'm assuming this store near our coffee place is out of business since it never opened its doors--this is probably a good thing because I really wanted to buy handfuls of the trinkets they still displayed in their dark windows.

The ubiquitous tabacchi--if you need a 2 Euro stamp per "USA" (pronounced "oo-zaa") or an international phone card (mine never worked--5 Euro down the drain) or lottery tickets, cigarettes, postcards, or tchotchkes then look for a big brown T sign.

I just love that some neighbor saw that hole in the wall and thought, "hmmm, someone go get a plant--we need to dress up this wall."

We headed over to Trastevere first thing to Carlo Cecchini so I could try on my boots once and for all.  The woman working in the store didn't really speak English, so I did my best with my broken Italian.  She recognized me from earlier in the week and I explained to her that "my feet were so tired that night, I could not tell what size I should buy."  She laughed even though I didn't get why that was funny.  The next day while we were shuffling through security in the airport, I replayed the conversation in my head and realized that I had said, "My feet were so thirsty that night ... " blah blah blah. I mixed up the words for tired and thirsty.  Nice.  So that's why she laughed.  I literally groaned out loud at this horrendous mistake and people turned to look at me.  If only they knew: Nine years of study down the drain.  The boots fit though!  It's almost bizarre how well they fit. (NOTHING fits my feet.)

This guy must teach college students too.

We headed south to the Vatican for the last time. I had to mail some postcards and they say that the Vatican post office is more reliable than the Italian post office.  (For the record, Leslie still has not received her post card.)

Skies threatened, but no rain this day.

See the shrines? They're pretty small.

Back to Campo di Fiori and Forno for a snack.  The market was still in full swing when we arrived there.

Every woman who rides a bike around town is dressed this well.  I want a puffy down shawl like hers.

The official vehicle of the Italian post office.

Then we trekked back to the neighborhood around the Spanish Steps to return to Grilli.  (When the owners asked us, "Where are you from?" and we responded, "Filadelfia!" The one guy responded, "Ahhh yes: Penn-seel-VAH-nyah!"  Who know "Pennsylvania" could sound so pretty?)  After all these amazingly friendly people described exactly how to do all the paperwork to get our tax fee back, we headed around the corner to an American Express office, but I nearly died of a heart attack when I saw this:

Are we in Rome ... OR PARIS????  Laduree has a location a Roma??? How did I not know this????

I literally began jumping up and down and shrieking while Ron reasoned, "We could just go inside and buy a macaron, you know."

The salespeople were not AT ALL amused at my glee while picking out flavors.  NOT AT ALL ... which just made the whole thing 1,000 times more fun.

From L to R: Marie Antoinette (citrusy grapefruit and lemon), coconut, pistachio, chocolate, and rose.  One was better than the next.  I think the Marie Antoinette was my favorite.

We stood outside on the quiet sidewalk around the corner, and I tried to devour the macarons as slowly and as quickly as I could.  (There's a happy balance in there somewhere.)  After I finished the last bite, I returned to consciousness and said to Ron, "Weren't we on our way to do something?"

"Yes: to reclaim 20 Euro worth of sales tax."

"Ohhhhhh--yeah, we should really go do that."

Thank you, Laduree, for existing. In Rome. In 2013.

Pearl could fit in this basket, right?  Come on: Somebody say yes.

Every baby store in Rome is this fancy.  And yet the Italian birthrate is nearly non-existent.

The day was half over at this point, so we headed back to the hotel for a break.  Ron answered emails while I just leaned on the windowsill and people-watched from above.  Only one person looked up and saw me the whole time.  It's funny to separate the tourists from the natives.  And then to separate the Americans from the other tourists.  Lots of kids on school trips walked by.  Middle-aged people following tour guides who hold up giant colored umbrellas in the air so that no one gets lost.  Old people who literally look 100 years old who have no trouble maneuvering over the cobblestones.   A few people rushing to and from work.  People who don't look like natives or tourists strolling by with a gelato in hand.  An hour of this real life movie felt like two minutes.

And back out we went, south east this time to the ancient part of the city.

Not the prettiest part of town, but there it is.

I look so much like my dad in this photo that I'm not sure whether I should laugh or cry.  Genes are weird.

We didn't bother going in to the Colosseum--we just admired it from afar this time.

A week too early for the Ides of March--oh well.

With a few waking hours remaining, we made a zig-zag pattern back to our hotel by stopping in every church we passed.  I don't have many pictures of them because it was too dark at this point.  A few had masses going on in some of the chapels, and it felt weird being potentially disruptive with a camera shutter.  It's just incredible how each church is its own gem--one more breath-taking than the next, every single surface decorated and embellished.  Being inside these places always make me wonder why I don't go to masses anymore.  But, then I come home and I remember: I can't live my life here and practice my religion there, and that's the only arrangement that could possibly work for me.

Between all of the churches, we looked at our watches and realized that we should probably discuss dinner.  We weren't starved so we stopped for small things at two places: Sant'Eustachio (coffee for Ron, hot chocolate for me) and Ron's favorite gelateria in a nearby neighborhood.

"Sant'Eustachio il caffe"--one of the most acclaimed coffee shops in the city.

The hot chocolate is like melted candy bar--it was the only one I had all week.  That was stupid--truly regrettable. I should have had at least two or three.  Isn't that the prettiest shade of brown?

So it was fancy cafe drinks and ice cream for dinner.  As we made our way back to the hotel, I saw one last church that was still open: La Maddalena.  Turns out, a high school choir from Massachusetts was giving a free concert and we were twenty minutes early.  Listening to a bunch of high schoolers sing seemed better than packing, so went in and took our seats.

I took twenty shots of this (holding my breath, camera wedged under my chin on top of my chest) and each one was crooked.

Look at this.  The attention to detail in this city is overwhelming.

We just sat there and stared up the whole time.  The kids sang really well--American accents sounded oddly foreign at this point.

It was a great day--we wrapped up by admiring the Pantheon at night for the last time.

We needed to leave the hotel by 8:15am the next morning, but we made sure we still had time for a coffee (of course!).  The square in front of the Pantheon is completely empty at 7:30 in the morning--it's almost eery.

See Ron?  Gives some perspective on those columns.

We ducked into Santa Maria sopra Minerva for the last time, I lit a whole bunch of candles for people at home and for a safe flight, and we were off.

Luckily, we did have an uneventful flight home ... if you don't count a three year old nightmare terror named Brishne who rode in the aisle right next to us. (I have NO IDEA if I'm spelling that right, but if there's a hell then his name will be repeated over and over VERY LOUDLY while you're there).  Long story short, somewhere over Boston, the flight attendants began yelling at Brishne's non-English speaking mother to "get some control over [her] son and get him IN HIS SEAT WITH HIS SEAT BELT ON BECAUSE IT'S THE LAW AND WE CAN'T HAVE HIM RUNNING AROUND WHILE THE PLANE IS TRYING TO LAND. DO YOU UNDERSTAND?"

Yeah. That didn't turn out too well.

When the plane landed, this big guy with a southern accent stood up and announced: "THIS FLIGHT HAS BEEN THE GREATEST ADVERTISEMENT FOR BIRTH CONTROL EVER!!"

Thanks, Brishne, wherever you are.  And thank you for not actually falling into my lap while you were standing on my arm rest.  For your sake, I thank you.

 Shrine time--because it's the final installment, I'm going to overwhelm you with twenty-two:

Again, attention to detail--look at all those stars painted on the panel behind the blue car.

See it? ... this might be a repeat now that I'm looking carefully.

This was above Gamarelli and I didn't notice it until the last day.  Love that little bow detail.

Campo di Fiori

And that's that.  All done.  Any of my friends who asked, "Hey, when do we get to see your pictures?" is really sorry they asked.


Erin S said...

Did I miss a picture of the boots?

Jo Harper said...

HAHA! Of course, the boots! The best picture I have of them is in the "We Make Plans" post a few days back: I'm wearing them with that leopard dress. I'll have to take a better picture of them. The detailing is really pretty.