Day 2 (Sun., Nov. 11, Roma)

by Jonah

Day 2 (Sun., Nov. 11, Roma)

Hostel Allessandro Downtown

The hostel gave us a double for 50 Euros a night, not bad in a city where the dollar is every day losing value and whose inflation has been checked by Germany’s central bank (as near as we can tell, in any case). The clerk took our passports to fill in the information she needed as required by the Italian police, as I’d read in my guidebook, and we stowed our sacks since our room wasn’t ready yet.

Then we headed off for our first Italian adventure.


I’d been to the Pantheon when I’d been to Rome before, but it was closed for restoration, so I had been able to only put my eyeball to the crack between the doors and see the shapes in the dome above. So as soon as we’d bought day passes for the metro, Berck took me straight there. It was closed, of course, for Sunday mass, but at least I could see more through the open doors than I had before.

Berck got us some gellato, pistachio for me, nearby. You remember that gellato is good, but you don’t remember how good.

Piazza Navona

Next we walked the block or so to the Piaza Navona, but Bernini’s four rivers fountain was dry and boarded off. They’re doing some restoration work to it, but they put in some clear plastic along the boards so you can watch their progress. It was actually kinda neat to be able to see what’s below the waterline. They’d taken out all the coins.

Next Berck wandered down Via del Governa Vecchia and actually found his favorite pizza place, but it was closed. I pointed out to him their hours on the door.

It was time to head to our next destination, the Gallaria Borghese for our 1pm appointment. The gallery is so small that they only let a limited amount of people in at a time. Fortunately, Berck had made reservations for us several days ahead of time. But first we had to get there. We weren’t anywhere near a metro stop, and the nearest metro stop wasn’t very close to the gallery anyhow. So we walked along the Tiber for a while. Every so often Berck would decide we had to take a bus, but there were no buses that came, and we didn’t know which one we should take anyway. So we would start walking again.

Galleria Borghese, Villa Borghese

We made our way to the Spanish Steps, and Berck somehow remembered there were escalators and moving walkways that would take us to Villa Borghese. Berck wasn’t sure which exit to take from the labyrinth of walkways and allowed Joanna to steer him the wrong way, and we exited somewhere just outside the park.

While trying to make it in time to pick up our tickets to the Galleria, a man leaned out of a white Alfa Romeo, and yelled at us to stop. Berck didn’t pay him much attention, but the man yelled some more, and flashed a police badge. He went over to the car while Joanna just continued walking down the street, oblivious to the police. The policeman spoke only slightly more English than Berck spoke Italian. Berck wasn’t convinced the badge was real, and the men in the car were wearing plain clothes and the car was unmarked. The man never got out of his car, and Joanna eventually figured out what was going on. He searched our backpacks, and asked for our passports. In the US, we have a right not to be stopped and asked for our papers. In Europe, this is not the case. Berck presented his passport, but Joanna said the lady at the hostel still had hers. At which point Berck realized that Joanna had been totally oblivious to the fact that the lady at the hostel had returned our passports, and Joanna simply left hers on the counter. Fortunately the policeman didn’t seem to care, and was more interested in examining our money to see if it was counterfeit and smelling everything in our backpacks, presumably to see if it smelled like marijuana. After a good 10 minutes, he let us go, and pointed us in the right direction to Borghese.

This delay was irritating after we’d been walking very fast for a long time to try to get to the museum in time for our appointment. But we were very close by then, and Berck was able to get our tickets quickly inside. He then obliviously cut in front of a huge line of people trying to check their bags. By the time we were ready to go in, we were still ten minutes early. Then at last we got to see Berck’s three favorite Bernini sculptures, Pluto and Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne, and a David that’s way better than famous one in Firenze.

Pluto and Proserpina Apollo and Daphne David

Afterward, we were in the garden out front enjoying the cool damp air after being in the overly heated museum. “I’m worried about your passport,” said Berck, wiping his glasses. “How could you leave it there?” I know for a fact that hotels take your passports and often don’t give them back until you return your key or pay your bill. This happened twice to us later in the trip, and Berck thought nothing of it then, but he sure was mad now. “Why weren’t you paying attention?” In fact, I was just waiting in the lobby while Berck dealt with the clerk. There was no way for me to see what they were doing from behind Berck’s back. “What if someone picked it up? I don’t want to spend a day going to the consulate.” Then Berck’s “unbreakable” titanium glasses split in two. It’s a good thing he brought a spare set.

We walked through the park forming the grounds of the Villa Borghese, watching the Italians enjoying a Sunday afternoon, all the way back to the Spanish Steps metro station, then rode back to our hostel. The clerk indeed had my passport, and our room was finally ready for us. We got our rucksacks out of the luggage room and collapsed on the two single beds pushed together. Berck fell dead asleep while I cross-examined our two Italy guidebooks, looking for a place for supper that we could get to fairly easily and was actually open on a Sunday evening.

Supper in Roma

When Berck awoke, I showed him my choices. He dismissed the Neapolitan restaurant (“That means ‘fish’.”) but decided we could take a bus to my next pick. We walked back over to Termini, realizing that the day’s forced march had rendered our legs, which had not been used that ferociously in a very long time, extremely sore. Somehow Berck remembered that the H bus would take you anywhere you might want to go and confirmed this by looking for its various stops on our Streetwise. We decided we would take it for two stops and then walk back to the proper piazza. Our transportation day passes came in handy. We probably could have just gotten off at the first stop, but then we wouldn’t have been able to take this picture.

When we got to the correct piazza, our restaurant was closed. My third choice up the street was also closed. By now it had started raining. Whenever it starts raining in Rome, all the street vendors stop vending whatever it was they were trying to sell and magically pull out a collection of umbrellas to push in tourists. I had on my waterproof jacket, but Berck was just in his shirtsleeves, it not being a very cold night. We set off to find the third restaurant in the area on a little side street, but just then the power went off. For some reason,someone’s parked motorcycle began a screeching alarm at the same time. I couldn’t read the guidebook map in the dark, and it was getting wet in the rain, so we ducked into a store’s doorway while I fished out the flashlight in my backpack. Yet another street vendor offered Berck an “umbrelli,” for only 5 Euro. “Three,” countered Berck . The guy smiled the expression of someone who doesn’t understand your language. I held up three fingers. He said he would take 4 for it, but Berck only had a five Euro note. But at least they stopped bugging us, and Berck could yell at me for not finding the place yet while dry. We finally did, but when we walked in, the man chopping vegetables looked at us like we were crazy. “Come back at seven thirty,” he said. It was 6:30 pm. Italians don’t eat supper until at least 8, and all the restaurants don’t bother opening until 7 at the earliest.

So without any other ideas, we walked looking for open restaurants. We found a place that looked promising that had bags of pasta for sale along one wall. But they said they were out of pasta and could only serve us pizza. We walked some more until I noticed a restaurant down a side street. Berck studied the menu and decided he didn’t want to eat there but continued down the narrow lane. That’s when we found another restaurant that Berck liked the menu. The staff said we could come in and sit but they couldn’t serve us quite yet. But they brought us a bottle of wine and acqua naturale and said we could hit the antipasto buffet. This was a collection of cold dishes on a three shelves over by the kitchen. There were platters of little squids in red sauce and white sauce, grilled zucchini, breaded and fried eggplant, olives, seafood salad, and other delicacies. A man stood by a table next to it ready to cut me slices of prosciutto, Parmesan, and fresh mozzarella floating in a bowl. I was much more excited about the heaping plate of fish and vegetables than Berck was, but he satisfied himself with the ham. While we ate, the entire restaurant staff sat down at a long table and ate themselves before they needed to work. When it was finally time for us to order, we got gnocchi and pasta with arrabbiata (angry) sauce, hot spicy tomato sauce. It was all very delicious.

To go home, we retraced our steps to the Piazza Venezia and suicidally crossed all of the roads entering the madly traffic filled roundabout to reach the bus stop. Berck figured out which buses would take us back to Termini, but none of them came while several we could have taken passed by since this wasn’t a stop for them. Finally, Berck realized that we were within walking distance of the Colloseum and its Metro station. By the time we got home to the hostel, our legs were very tired, as were we. We slept with the window open and got pretty cold that night.

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