Saturday, May 10, 2014

Italy at last

 After 5 days of trying to blog, Google has finally let me back in. Talk about high security! It probably does not help that I have so many passwords and have trouble remembering most of them.
Our flight from Dorval was one hour late due to a computer glitch. That made for a frantic dash through Charles de Gaulle airport to get our flight to Rome. Our bags were held back in Paris. Alitalia kindly gave us toothbrushes and sent us on our way to our hotel.
As always, the trip by train and then tram to our B&B was an adventure. The local constablieri are just next door to our B&B. This pretty old building is comprised of many apartments, condo style. We were pleasantly surprised when the old door opened to reveal a lovely apartment with three beautiful  inner doors leading to  three small rooms. Our room is perfect, with a great view over the busy street, comfortable furnishings and a good coffee machine for our European style breakfast. The building reminds me of my aunt's place in London, England where I stayed in 1969... dark hallways, many closed doors, an old elevator and an open courtyard in the middle. Very European, with chic older women getting off the lift accompanied by fancy little dogs!
Our bags finally arrived but because of Visa insurance, we were able to shop for new shirts, pants and sleeping apparel. Our Montreal clothes were just too warm to where as we waited for our bags to arrive. Other than me leaving my passport at the store where we bought our SIM card, and Pierre being violently ill with poison mussels, we have settled into a routine of walking everywhere, visiting museums, churches and historical sites. Our walking guide tapes copied onto our IPod and phone have made everything easy to understand.
We are in the Trastevere sector, across the Tiber from ancient Rome. This was originally a working class area, where trades people lived and worked. It is now a mass of tiny, winding streets, full of lovely old buildings that house apartments, shops and many restaurants. The original Jewish population that settled here centuries ago and were bankers, lawyers, doctors, etc, were moved by the Pope across the river in the 1500s as a means of segregating them in a ghetto. They were forbidden from becoming tradesmen or developing a craft. The ghetto is still there, a vibrant part of Rome, boasting a beautiful synagogue, a school, and many restaurants.
                                                       Walking in a Trastevere ally

Pierre is a great map reader. I have developed faith in his sense of direction, but must admit there have been a few difficult moments, such as finding the Trevi Fountain, as well as the Pantheon. After five days and many detours, we are pretty sure of where we are going. The streets feel safe at any time of day, provided you keep your head up and your bags secure.

                                                                 St Peter's Basilica

One of the highlights was a concert given at Chiesa Sant' Agnese in Agone (Saint Agnes was a martyr who was killed at age 12 because she refused to marry an important official's son, having taken a vow of chastity with a desire to keep herself for Jesus). Life was tough! The choir was from a university in California and the music was ethereal.  Surprisingly the church was packed with locals and tourists.
                                     Concordia University Choir at Chiesa Sant'Agnese in Agone

You cannot really go anywhere in Rome without seeing a church or some part of an ancient building. The opulence of some buildings is incredible, and so is the ever-present history of this ancient civilisation. Pierre's Jesuit education of the classics has stood him in good stead, as he remembers a lot of the history of the Roman empire. Four years of latin helps me a little. Lots of fun, reading, exploring and fitting together the pieces.

                                                           Shopping for our lunch

                                             Picnic in Villa Borghese Park (with sore feet)

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