Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Roma and on to Tirennia (Pisa)

For the record: we are about 15-20 kilometers outside Rome in a suburb called La Storta, part of greater Rome. It is a fast taxi ride (with a crazed driver) of about 15 minutes from Piazza Navona which is on the western edge of downtown to the parking lot (containing skid marks from last night) in front of our hotel.

Today is laundry day!

This morning Edward and I went to the Lavandaria Blu (makes sense), and getting there, as it turns out, was a piece of cake. It is at the top of the hill on the road to the train station and overlooks Via Cassia and what looked like an elementary or preschool.

The guys who ran the laundry were great, (they obviously thought that we had never done laundry before). With the sun streaming in the windows Edward fell asleep on a chair (he still denies this, I should have taken that picture), while I sat outside on a bench overlooking life on Via Cassia. In the other direction I could see the train station with it's nice, big, beautiful parking lot. (One of the downsides of renting a car in Europe is that you always have to find a place to berth it.)

It was pleasing to watch the students arrive, the younger children escorted hand in hand by his or her parent(s). Sometimes on vacation it is nice to see a typical family ritual unfold.

Back to the laundry. A bit expensive at €4 each for washing and drying, but well worth it, as this marks the end of our ongoing discussion and vindicates our plan.

Today is Roma via train, then on to a small town outside Pisa called Tirennia where we have booked a hotel for the evening. We took some pictures of the damage done to the car, and it’s really not too bad, just the front fender and a scrape on the lower side plastic and wheel. Missed the front door by a couple of inches. I know they are expensive to replace.

Finding a relaxed set of wives when we returned with clean laundry, all that was required was a quick pack-up and we were on our way to the La Storta train station. When we approached the parking lot, the mechanical entry arm was up, and clearly hadn’t been used in some time, so we wondered about the fee arrangement as we hadn’t received an automated ticket. To our surprise a couple of nice gentlemen approached us, and one even walked us to where we could park. We paid them directly and thought about man over technological advancement for a moment as we passed some disused ticket/payment machines. Nice people here in the suburbs. Of course they could now be having a nice pasta dinner with our Padua policemen.

We bought 8 tickets at the tabacci (we are getting good at this) and off we went. Our train ride in was pleasant, however we got off the train one stop late, St. Pietro, (missed the metro connection station) but at a good location. Looking at the map Ed and Alicia decided to walk to St. Peters, and since we had been there before decided to just wander by ourselves, agreeing to meet at the Pantheon at 2:00 to catch the train back to the car park.

The day was clear and beautiful, just right for walking around Roma. We decided to take one of the buses right outside the station, and ended getting off at St. Peters a few minutes later, certainly more quickly than if we had walked and no doubt before the kids.
The square is breathtaking, huge and the lines were long. It was interesting watching the people and the religious making their way through the square. As we walked away from the church, the road has an extraordinary number of shops selling religious reliquary, and associated articles. Quite a business.

We decided to walk across the river to Campo del Fiore having read about it being the actual site where Julius Caesar was assassinated (the Senate was having a “This Old House” renovation going on that Ides of March.) The kids wanted to tour Castel St. Angelo, and the views it offered of the vatican and the river.

Every view is picturesque, and the Tiber slow and muddy. We were alone in this fascinating city away from the crowds and noise as we walked along the river. Quite peaceful.

The Campo de Fiore, a short walk from Piazza Navona, is an interesting market square, surrounded by ancient buildings some dating back to Julius’ time. Kat enjoyed an apple while I was too timid to ask for a piece of one of the strangest melons I have ever seen. I feared I would have to buy the whole fruit and lug this pumpkin sized monster through the streets of Rome. I was fascinated by a staid woman vendor sitting in her stall, in front of aprons on which were printed the loins of some famous art work. We all have to make a living somehow, or did in some cases.

Making our way to the Pantheon, we stopped at the Church of Minerva (Santa Maria sopra Minerva), where the body of St. Catherine is located in a golden sarcophagus. I think we’ve seen the location of most of her body parts, the body in Rome, the head in Siena, and I think we came across her finger somewhere as well. Tough being a saint in those days.

Also in this church is the magnificent statue of Christ with the crucifix (Christ the Redeemer) by Michelangelo (with the gold loin cloth added later). Also added was footwear to the right foot to protect it from the pilgrims that came to this church just to kiss the foot. It is amazing that you can, and I did, put your hands on this masterpiece. How many people over the years have done this I wonder.

The kids met us exactly on time at the Pantheon. Not a minute late (or early). Turns out they were sitting and sipping at one of the local cafes watching us walk through the square looking for them. They had no intention of inviting us to join them, clearly understandable (newlyweds). The Pantheon continues to amaze me. We did get a good look at the square hole Brunelleschi cut into the ceiling when he was imagining how he was going to build the Duomo in Florence. As with most other sites in Rome it was crowded.

We stopped at a little Irish pub for a beer and some onion rings (toilets are hard to find in Rome and the McDonalds by the Pantheon was packed) and noted a handicapped fellow on a scooter type board with wheels, who made his way around the city pretty well. We last saw him in Tres Scalini in Piazza Navona (a pretty good distance).

We took the bus back to the train station, the train back to the car park, and the car to Tirennia, not bad maneuverings if I say so myself. Getting the train at St. Pietro instead of Aurelia ensured us seats since there is no metro connection at that stop, a good thing to remember for future trips. The drive was fine and the hotel, Riviera Blu was good in what is clearly a beach town during the summer. It reminded me of Jesolo (outside Venice), kinda quiet in the early fall, but it has a certain Italian beach town feel to it. We ate a restaurant (Il Cavaliere Nero – The Black Duke) that was just down the main street where the food and wine were quite good, and the discussion was quite lively (read heated) at times.

Tomorrow, an early morning drive to Pisa, hopefully just before the crowds.

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