We were planning to meet Manja in the evening, and she would drive us outside of Rome to Fiumicino, to our final hotel right next to the airport. Our bags were already packed and stowed with the hotel front desk. We had spent our morning at the Colosseum, the Forum, and Palatine Hill, and now we were free to kill time for a few hours.
Rome is a fabulous place to have to kill time in. Everything we saw was amazing. And anytime it started to seem like an ordinary city, we thought to ourselves, “We’re in Rome!” and got all excited again. Climbing the hill on the west side of the Forum, we walked with no idea where we were going. We had no agenda other than finding a place for a cold drink soon, where we could sit down. It was a hot and humid day and we had been on our feet for about 4 1/2 hours.
We crested the hill and were happy to see that we had stumbled accidentally into a very cool place, with beautiful buildings surrounding a plaza. It turned out to be the Piazza del Campidoglio, and was designed by Michelangelo. We sat on some steps in the shade and pulled out a map that showed us the route of the Hop On-Hop Off bus included in our Omnia Pass, thinking that an extended period of sitting down sounded nice. One of the stops was near us, at the bottom of the hill, so we got up and headed that way.
Again, we accidentally stumbled into a scene that was SO BEAUTIFUL. The statues that I had been spotting all day long on the horizon are on top of the Altar of the Fatherland, or The Vittoriano, Rome’s largest monument. It was built from 1885-1935. We didn’t know it was a monument, and thought it was probably a fancy government building of some kind. We saw a long line of tourists waiting to get in, and chose to admire it from the outside.
This is a controversial monument because it’s huge and gaudy, some ancient ruins were destroyed/covered in order to place it here, and Romans were displaced from their homes as well. But it’s important to know that this monument commemorates Italy itself. Italy was declared a united kingdom in 1861 and the monument celebrates unification of the country and it’s first king, Victor Emmanuel II.
I have no say in the matter, so of course my opinion that this monument is excellent should hold no weight at all. But I love it. What I most love about this thing is that it brings to life what I imagine the Roman ruins used to be. All morning we had gazed at crumbling stone and worn and cracked carvings that only suggest magnificence, but here was the magnificence with no imagination needed.
Near the Altar of the Fatherland is a large bus station, with tourist busses from many companies as well as Rome public transit busses. We could make no sense of the jumble, and couldn’t get help. So we decided to walk to the next hop on-hop off stop, which would be smaller and easier to negotiate. On our way to the next stop we found a restaurant with umbrellas that made shade, and we forgot about everything else. We were so hot and sweaty and tired that when the waiter asked if we wanted a small or a large beer, we both answered “LARGE!” And that’s what we got.
We only ordered the two gigantic beers, but the waiter kept bringing us food. All kinds of snacks that were filling, like pizza and supplì, until we were stuffed. We paid up, and perfectly satisfied, we stood to cross the street to the bus stop. Just at that moment, the bus arrived! We sprinted across the street and jumped on. It was perfect.
At one point our bus stopped for a full ten minutes at the train station. It could have been a boring stop, but we had entertainment. This man danced and hollered and seemed happy, though he definitely had a message. Too bad we couldn’t hear him.
We rode the bus for an hour and a half which was long enough to see the entire bus route. We had found on our map the stop that would be closest to our hotel, and calculated the time we would need to walk there and pick up our bags. It was going to work out perfectly if we just stayed on the bus till we got there. By the time we had to climb off, we were completely rested and had seen a good deal more of Rome. We hopped off the bus at the right place and made the quick walk down Via Cavour. As soon as we stepped into the hotel we received a message from Manja saying she was in the city and ready to come get us. Soon we were reunited and on our way to Fiumicino on the coast.
Pedro and I had found a seafood restaurant very close to the hotel that we wanted to try, and we had made online reservations for a seating at 7pm that evening. I knew it was earlier than Italians typically eat dinner, but I was worried about Manja having to drive all the way home in the night. It was not yet 7, so we unloaded our luggage quickly and found Manja and walked the jetty out to the sea.
We returned and Manja was concerned about being too early, but I had selected from the available times online, and 7 pm was an option, so I felt confident at 6:55 pm of walking right through the open doors. Well, we walked right in on the whole family dining and definitely unprepared for random people walking in! There apparently had been a lack of communication and the owner was trying out a new online reservation service, and either didn’t realize 7 pm was an option, or didn’t think someone would actually select it. In any case, no one at the restaurant knew we were coming. Everyone was astonished to see us and they called the owner who checked the online service and sure enough, my name was there! So they scrambled to get us drinks, and apologized and said not to worry. Technology transitions are always challenging, and I think they will probably remove that 7 pm option after this, ha ha!
The drinks and service were lovely. Once we sat, other hungry tourists spotted us and asked if they could sit too, and soon the restaurant was open for business.
After dinner we said our farewells and sent Manja back home to the north, and we packed our luggage one last time before we went to sleep. It is so special to have these memories with a friend who was up until this only a member of my bloggosphere, currently blogging at An Embarrassment of Riches. The alarm went off early and we checked out and climbed onto a plane and that was the end of this particular adventure. We are already dreaming about where to go next. Thank you for coming along everyone!