My plan for today was to cover the Basilica of St. Peter’s and Castel Sant’ Angelo. But the Castel Sant’ Angelo didn’t work out. I wanted to go up to the dome and cupola of St. Peter’s to see Rome, once again, from the top of the world. From my hotel, I leisurely walked towards the Vatican, arrived at the courtyard around 9:30 am and discovered that the line to enter was a mile long. First inclination was to turn away but then I thought of The Pieta. I was leaving Rome in a couple of days, I had to say my last goodbye to her. I have been inside the Basilica innumerable times. Our hotel during our last visit to Rome many moons ago, was a mere 10 minutes walk from the Basilica. I came whenever I felt overwhelmed or tired to escape into the cool interiors of this beautiful church. But it never grew old for me. I always seemed to find one sculpture or one mosaic that I had missed before. I am not knowledgeable enough to do full justice to this sacred monument of the Catholics, but I do love the architecture, the sculptures and the mosaics. I also love the feeling of stepping into an old world as I cross the threshold of the church. I simply have to will the crowd away and they fade away for me till a hard shove of a push bring me back to reality.
I waited in line for an hour and a half to gain entry. My love for people watching makes these long waits bearable and sometimes even enjoyable. Moreover, the wait was just means to an astounding, beautiful, simply fascinating end. That thought sustained me.
Once the security check was done and I was deemed safe enough to enter St. Peter’s, I made my way to the ticket counter to buy a ticket to go up to the dome. It was 7 euros to take the elevator and 5 euros to take the stairs. I am ashamed to admit that I opted for the elevator to go up to the cupola.
We had to climb 342 extremely narrow stairs up to the dome. I was very happy to discover that I could get up those stairs without breaking much of a sweat. All those harrowing hours at the gym had paid off.
The view from up top was worth the effort.
After paying homage to The Pieta and whispering my farewell, I swung my bags on my shoulders and started the long hike back home. It was getting late in the afternoon, so postponed the trip to Castel Sant’ Angel till the next day. As I walked back contemplating which kind of pizza to eat for lunch I heard a woman’s voice calling my name. I turned around surprised. Who could know me in the city of Rome! Took my shades off and saw the smiling face of a school friend from Kolkata, India, whom I hadn’t seen for the last twenty years! She was touring Europe with her husband and two girls. Meeting a friend from my girlhood days in the city of Roma!!! We squealed, we hugged, we talked at the same time, we squealed again, asked about each other, hugged again and said “Can you believe it? I can’t believe it!” fifty-nine times! My friend’s good-natured husband stood there with an indulgent smile, and occasionally looked around to give apologetic smiles to the pedestrians who stared at our display of emotions. The girls took pictures.
In the evening, Sean and I strolled down Via Del Cerechi and ended up at the Colosseum. The sun was setting, the last rays fell on the anicient amphitheater and illuminated the ruin to its full glory. Although part of the history of the Colosseum is full of blood and human suffering yet the magnificence of it does evoke respect and awe for the strength and power of the ancient Romans.
We decided to explore the night life of Trastevere. Like a typical man, Sean claimed he knew a short cut from the Colosseum to Trastevere, but that involved climbing the thousand (exaggerating) steps of The Capitoline hill. Once we were up there, he realized there was no short cut, we needed to go back down and go the usual way. I had already climbed 342 steps in the morning to reach the cupola, I threw that fact in his face and demanded a double gelato right away as a reward for huffing and puffing up more steps to satisfy male vanity of not asking for directions.
Trastevere didn’t disappoint. After a delicious meal of spaghetti with tomato sauce, olives, capers, tuna and anchovies, we headed towards the Piazza of Santa Maria. Musicians and artists were getting ready to entertain tourists and diners at the open air pizzerias, restaurants and cafes. Sean’s colleague had shown him the best little dessert place, Churi Churi, to get cannolis (Sean’s favorite) and my gelato. Sean got a canoli with plain sweet ricotta cheese, I got a gelato called canolini with fresh cream on top. It was frozen sweet ricotta cheese with crushed canoli mixed in. It was one of the most delicious flavors I have ever tasted! I immediately planned to get the same the next evening, my last in Rome.
After roaming endlessly in the narrow alleyways and neighborhoods of Trastevere, enjoying the funky, artsy shops, innumerable open air restaurants, dessert and gelato places, artists, entertainers, dancers, musicians, we headed back to our dear old Hotel Arenula. While crossing Tiber, I caught this in my camera.
Back at the hotel, while I was looking through the pictures in my camera, Sean asked if I wanted to skype with the children.
Children??? What children???
Day six will be one of losing myself with Sean in the city of Rome, and maybe Castel Sant’ Angelo, if I can convince my husband!