It was a good day for a walk while listening to Anya Shetterly’s excellent RomeWalks on my iPod. I took a taxi to Campo di Fiori, walked in a few circles until I was oriented with GoogleMaps, then followed Anya as confidently as a child holding her mother’s hand. It’s a mix of history enlivened with anecdotes and illustrated by visible architectural details of the surrounding palazzos, piazzas, churches, shops and streets.
These are some highlights of the three hours I spent following this walk off the touristic route.
On a street that was a hive of restoration activity and construction workers, I passed an open door and glimpsed paint cans, rollers, drop clothes. Home Depot in a garage. Then I spotted the rack of bespoke artists’ brushes. I now own three.
Passing the Spanish National Church of Santiago and Montserrat I opened the door to the sound of the organ. Not interrupting a mass, it was someone practicing. The Borgia popes were buried here after their successor kicked their unwelcome bones to the curb. Lesson: a life of sin, debauchery, licentiousness, and corruption gets you this lovely eternal resting place. Well played, Borgias, well played.
The walk led me to a small church designed by Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino for the Guild of Goldsmiths. The design was Raphael’s delicate riff on the Vatican’s St Peters basilica, on a much smaller scale of course. I was charmed by the cupola. This was the commission that added architect to Raphael’s resumé. How wealthy was Rome that a guild of artisans could afford to hire Raphael to build them a church? As a member of the Georgia Goldsmith’s Guild, I approve of my brother artisans choice.
Next door, a church festooned with skulls and bones, which makes me think of Terry Pratchett’s character, DEATH.The tour pointed out bars still remaining from the renaissance era, when that building was a notorious prison.And this marvelous iron gate that seemed impossibly graceful and delicate. Many more fascinating streets later, I paused for lunch at Roscioli’s. I wanted another serving of that delicious bean, scallop and bacon soup I’d had my first week in Rome, and still remembered with pleasure. Just to say, 26 euros for a bowl of soup, a small bottle of water, and an espresso seemed a little stiff.
As a solo diner, I was seated at the bar and by chance next to a young man from Venezuela. Over the course of our meals he told me he’d moved to Miami with family, become a citizen last year, and worked in an upscale Nantucket restaurant. He’s been on a food pilgrimage in Italy, eating and working his way around the country. He did a few months in Puglia with a Michelin Star chef and offered to work for a baker for free to learn how to make their sourdough. A week after he started, they gave him a job. He was leaving for home the next day and his next job, in Nantucket at Ventuno. While we talked, I ate my bowl of soup and could barely waddle away. He polished off an amuse-bouche of warm goat cheese and pickled eggplant, three stuffed fried zucchini flowers, a heaping bowl of Amatriciana pasta, a small hill of bread, and a bottle of wine. All of it. No clue where he put it. He shared that he was a marathon runner, which I guess balances out being a professional eater. Lovely guy. I wished him well.
When I left, checking my Googlemaps for my next route, the cold, brutal truth dawned. My internet was kaput. Google translate was DOA, Safari was blank, Uber inaccessible. I could use my downloaded map, but no directions for walking.I knew this day would come back when I signed on for a month of access, but dang.
By guess and by golly I made my way to via Cestari, the street of shops that provides clothes and accessories to the professional religious, priests to popes. I looked in about five shop windows and realized there was nothing I wanted or needed. Priest stuff was shockingly expensive, except for the shirts that are rigged for the collars. I passed a post office box and mailed a big batch of my little sketches on postcards. Time to chuck in the tea towel. No calling Uber, so I found my way to the foot of the Capitoline where I knew there was a legit Taxi stand. collapsed into a cab and headed back to my hotel for help adding another week’s worth of internet access. Here’s a tip – if your bladder is full with soup and a bottle of sparkling water, a taxi ride over cobblestone streets is like to kill you. Pee first.
The infinitely kind and patient ladies at the desk in 15 Keys translated the Vodaphone text messages. I need to give them 15 Euros to ‘top up the card’. It must be done either at a tobacconist or a Vodaphone store. I opted for the store at the Termini train station – probably a good idea since I’ll be meeting my Context Tour there on Thursday. It was not pleasant. Heaving with people, too many people with hard eyes, and tourists pulled wheeled bags. It looked weirdly like an American mall with shops lining the arcade. Vodaphone clerks cackled at the note I asked the hotel girls to write up for me. They took my 15 euros and to my question of when would it be back online, said ‘five minutes, madam, five minutes.’ I fled back to the hotel. Figured I’d lie down and when I woke up, the world would be spinning gently on its connected internet axis again. Foolish me.