Living just three months in Bella Roma, one would expect I'd be darting out the door at any free moment to visit the city center. Thus far, however, this has not been the case...a surprising reality to myself included. I'm quickly finding that even a slower week here is chock-full of mini adventures, both planned and unplanned, leaving me craving just a little bit more "down time" that seems to slip through my fingers like sand on the beach.
Wednesday afternoon, I got just that. Having completed English lessons with the children and a series of household chores by 2:30, Giovanna granted me the rest of the day to do as I pleased. The choice was easy really. I grabbed a towel and my book (I'm currently re-reading The Great Gatsby--my high school English teachers would be so proud) and hopped on the 06 bus. In just ten minutes time, I was already stepping onto a beautiful (and free!) beach in Ostia. Despite the INTENSE PDA, g-strings, and excess of bikinis and speedos (this seems to be the only available bathing suit cuts here), I had no trouble unwinding in my very favorite kind of landscape. One of these days I'd like to run along the coast; as for today, I was going to clock in some solid horizontal time. Reading and falling asleep to music in the afternoon sun, I was in my element--on a beach in Rome.
The only caveat to choosing a "free beach" in Italy is that you will be continuously bombarded by vendors begging you to purchase cheap and unappealing merchandise. At this point, I am used to having to either say "no grazie" upwards of 6 times or just pretend I am asleep. This time, however, was different. My ears perked. Women were offering MASSAGES. Long massages for just 5 euros. I beckoned over one masseuse and made sure forwards and backwards, in both English and Italian, that this was really true. I raised a finger. "Why yes, I will be taking one of those after all." Quicker than you can say "Ciao, Bella" my top was ripped open and I felt an unmistakable draft in my upper buttocks region. Then again, I was really just another practically naked body on the beach. So there I was lying on the Roman coast, getting shamelessly greased up and massaged for what seemed like far too long to only be charging 5 euros. Benito would later tell me that this kind of business is actually illegal, yet somehow I was still proud of my investment.
Thursday, i bambini started school. This is sweet little "Virgi" (veer-gee) showcasing her Tinklebell backpack, busting at the seams with hundreds of carefully labeled art supplies. Please also notice the crowd of people behind her. This is in front of the school on the first day, where families and students alike discovered important information...oh, like what class they're in. I'm told that afternoon pick up (everyday) is MUCH crazier and to consider wearing a helmet. "Your mission, should you choose to accept it..."
While the kids were at school, I headed downtown. First stop was the flea market at EUR Fermi. Usually at this stop, I am stuck out in the middle of the road alertly waiting for the bus back to Infernetto (bus drivers are not required to stop for you unless you wave your arm and are already standing at the stop), so I've never been fortunate enough to enjoy a leisurely jaunt through the market. Looks like I hadn't really been missing much.
Once downtown, I headed back to the Mamertine museum, which had been closed on my last visit. This is where the apostles Paul and Peter were imprisoned under Roman rule. If ever you visit the site yourself, skip the audio tour. Contrary to common belief, it did not enhance the tour. In fact, the cheesy and pointless comments indefinitely distracted me and actually detracted from the serenity of the experience.
Wall within the Mamertine Prison
Although we were able to access the famous cell by way of stairs, a hole in ceiling, which is still visible, offered sole access during their imprisonment. Standing even ten seconds in a cold, wet, pitch dark cave was enough to realize my infinite weakness. I wouldn't have lasted two hours in that pit.
Piazza di Campidoglio (camp-ee-dough-yo)
Zig-zagging in and out of shops on Via del Corso, I found my way to the Pantheon. Ya know, just your average city stroll. My breath was literally taken away by the level of detail and sophistication of the architecture. Not bad for an ancient civilization--especially considering we continue to use these building methods in the modern world.
My final stop was on the opposite side of Via del Corso at Il Palazzo del Quirinale, home to the president of the Italian Republic. Finding it closed, I took advantage instead of the many surrounding parks and gardens. Finally, I wandered back to Piazza Barberini to grab the metro, but accidentally got distracted by the potent aroma of Italian leather coming from a nearby shop. The rest is history.
And a fun fact to end this post: Rome is home to more fountains than any other city in the world. This example happens to be one of four on a corner of a small intersection. No bigs.