Saturday, September 24, 2011

Winding Down in Rome

Monday, May 30, 2011:

I slept fitfully last night due to some strange abdominal pain of unknown origin. Just before bedtime, I had eaten some of those shelled peanuts that I brought from Sant Agata, and perhaps they didn't agree with me.

The girls were looking for a boat tour today, and I just didn't think it was a good idea for me since I was experiencing these stomach pains. I suggested that they go ahead and I would try to just relax and feel better and perhaps take a walk later.

They set off on their adventure to locate the boat tour across the river, and I rested for a little while and ate the gigantic orange I had purchased in Sant Agata. That seemed to help. I worked on emails and confirmed my airline reservation for tomorrow. Fred had successfully upgraded me to first class, which I kept telling him was unnecessary, but he was so sweet to think of my comfort.

After my relaxation time, I decided to chat with the owner of Caesar House. Simone tole me that she and her sister, Julie, are the owners. She communicates very well in English, so I enjoyed our visiting time. Previously one large apartment, they purchased the Caesar House in 2002. She said that they performed a tremendous amount of renovating and redecoration, wanting to create a tasteful, yet simple ambience. They were highly successful in doing so.

Simone believes that at some time in the past, it may have been a small hotel, but was then converted to a private apartment. She and her sister shared the vision to once again turn it into a six bedroom hotel. It is quaint and offers very personal service. Rosanna and Summy were quite helpful, and Rosanna's enthusiasm for her job brightly shines through.

With the free Internet usage on their guest computer, the breakfast delivered each morning, and the proximity to major points of interest, we highly recommend this intimate hotel. We met a couple who were staying there, and they indicated that this was their home away from home every time they visit Rome. We could easily see why.

After visiting with Simone, I felt like taking a walk. I started out trekking toward the Coliseum (or Colloseo in Italian) and ate some bruschetta and drank iced tea at the Gran Caffee Rossi Martini, where we had enjoyed lunch a few days ago. This was located next to the gift shop where the gentleman had written his life story and wondered if I could translate it from Italian to English. Sorry!

Under the restaurant's canopy, there were misters in operation. It was a very hot day, and I wanted to linger there under the mist. When I was ready to move on, I walked to San Giovanni Laterano and straight to La Scala Sancta (the Holy Steps) again. This time I managed to ascend three steps before I thought my knees would crack, said a few more prayers, and just knelt in awe of having the opportunity to hover over the steps that Jesus had walked. Saying that it was an amazing experience is truly an understatement.

There was a vendor positioned a short distance from the building that housed the Holy Steps, and he had some cute tote bags for sale. This was my last day to shop, so I bought one for each of my Cape May girlfriends. This vendor was willing to negotiate, and I took full advantage of that.

I worked my way back to our hotel on Via Cavour and stretched out on the bed to catch up on my journal writing. Sharon, Laura and Marianne returned very shortly thereafter, having decided against the boat trip once they were at the river. During their adventurous walk, however, they found themselves crossing a street with almost no traffic. Just as they arrived at the center of the roadway, out of nowhere came multiple lanes of traffic straight at them. They only had a split second to decide whether to run back in the opposite direction, stay put, or try to dodge cars and dart across. They held their position until they could safely dash across the remaining section of road. They momentarily thought that they were going to be killed by tiny cars, taxis, scooters and little trucks on their last full day in Rome, but eventually they managed to make it to the other side. They were safe, but shaken.

Their walk was not unsuccessful, however, because they found more shoe stores! It's probably just as well that I wasn't with them or I would have likely ended up with more shoe purchases. We all ended up taking a little snooze, and Sharon and I decided to go back to the store, Il Tesoros, where we found great prices on some items yesterday (shoes).

We showered, dressed and set out to locate a place for our last dinner in Rome. We didn't want to go too far away because we have just about worn out the bottoms of our feet from walking all over Italy. Luckily, we found a little cafe just around the corner called Ristorante Cleto, which we all agreed was perfect.

I'm a somewhat picky eater--always have been--and before leaving the United States I had wondered what my dining experiences would be. I pretty much stuck with things that I recognized throughout the trip. I sampled lots of bruschetta, mixed salads, veal dishes, and a few margherita pizzas, lasagna once, and spaghetti a couple of times. I had no difficulty finding appealing meals to devour!

After our dinner, we weren't really ready to call it a night. We walked back by our hotel and continued to another cafe where we shared a bottle of wine, and I ordered a lemon sorbet, which once again seemed to make my tummy feel better. The pain had subsided, but it still felt uneasy and slightly uncomfortable. We toasted one last time to our friendship and to our wonderful Italian adventure. We thought about all of the scarves, shoes, handbags and tote bags we have purchased. Quite a collection to behold! I'm looking forward to accenting some of my outfits at home with these lovely scarves, and we now understand why Italy is renowned in the fashion world.

We ventured back to Caesar House to pack and prepare for tomorrow's early morning trip to the airport. We actually settled our bills with Summy tonight so we'd already have that detail behind us. The time has gone so quickly, but we are all ready to plant our new Italian shoes on American soil and throw our arms around those husbands of ours.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Holy Steps

Sunday, May 29, 2011:

We thoroughly enjoyed our usual breakfast supplied by Caesar House this morning, and then we set out on a long, long walk to locate the Holy Steps. I had downloaded a Rome guidebook to my Nook and had been astonished to read about this special place to visit that is nowhere near the Vatican area. Many people have never even heard of it.

The reported history about the Holy Steps is that they are supposed to be the actual steps that Jesus walked to stand before Pontius Pilate. The twenty-eight steps are referred to under a variety of different names such as: the Holy Steps, the Holy Staircase and La Scala Sancta. The story is told that Saint Helena, mother of Constantine, had the steps brought over from Jerusalem in 334, and they are obviously considered to be most sacred.

In order to find the Holy Steps, we walked to the Coliseum, turned onto S. Giovanni Laterano, and continued in that direction until we saw a huge church. This church is the Basilica of Saint John Lateran. Directly across the street from the church was a building that was quite understated on the outside, but contained the revered set of steps on the inside. This building is a part of the old Lateran Palace. There was also a smaller church on the second floor, accessible by an unremarkable second set of stairs. This is a photo of the building that houses the Holy Steps.

Walking on these steps is prohibited. There is only one way to ascend them--on your knees. A sign indicates that silence is requested, as people are praying. There is also another sign that explains the complete history of the steps. Covered with wood to protect the actual white marble surface of the original steps beneath, one can still easily see those steps below the wood. One problem is that the knees protest as soon as you kneel on the first step. Actually, my bony knees were screaming. I suppose you could wear knee pads, but I believe that would defeat the purpose. Considering the sacrifice and agony that Jesus suffered for us, a little bit of knee pain for a short time is certainly tolerable!

What I found most challenging was maneuvering from one step to the next on my knees. These are not narrow steps, but I wisely positioned myself by the handrail so I could use it to awkwardly help pull myself to the next level. This will sound rather wimpy, but I was only able to travel two steps. I offered prayers, said a special one for Liz and spent a few minutes in reflection and in awe of being present on these sacred steps. I thought about the countless numbers of Christians who have made a pilgrimage to these very steps and asked Laura to take a photo with my camera. I wanted to always remember this moment. This was such a moving and spiritual event for me, I wanted to be able to recall every detail.

We ascended the second set of steps to the small sanctuary where Mass was being held in Italian. We sat in the back of the church for a few minutes, but we had no idea what was being said, and there wasn't a hint of air movement, so it became stifling. We decided to move along, but I was still in complete awe as we descended the regular stairs and saw people continuing to gather on their knees in prayer on the Holy Steps. This will be at the top of my list of most memorable experiences of my life!

Setting off to locate the nearest Metro station, we wanted to find our way back to some of the shops we had passed yesterday when we didn't have the time to explore them. We exited the Metro at Ottaviano and found that many of the stores are not open on Sunday--even in the afternoon. Craving pizza, we stopped for lunch at an outdoor cafe, Il Ciociaro Ristorante, and then discovered that they didn't serve pizza until dinner time. Really????? I ordered a salad and thought it would be a good idea to offset it with some roasted potatoes. Laura and Marianne had ordered risotto and seafood, but the "seafood" turned out to be octopus, which they managed to transfer to the sides of their plates and avoid.

To our delight, we did eventually find a few open stores. In one clothing store, Sharon and I were looking at a particularly attractive top. The male store clerk was standing nearby, closely watching us. Sharon asked him, "What size is this?" He replied, "One size fits all." She frowned and said, "Oh. Do they seem a little small?" He said, "Yes. They for YOUNG girls!" Sharon responded, "Alrighty." She then promptly walked out of the store. When I caught up with her outside, we were talking about the store clerk's lack of tact during the exchange. We laughed when Sharon said, "He should have left it at 'they run a little small.'"

Returning via the Metro to our hotel for a little rest, Marianne and Laura ended up going back out for a walk and returned with new shoes. Heaven forbid that Sharon and I should miss out on seeing a great shoe store! We needed to check out all of the available choices. So off we went to locate the store, in which we did manage to leave a few Euro. You have to love these shoes!

Back at the hotel once again, I checked email and then we chose Le Tavernelle Roma for dinner. The spaghetti was delicious and huge in circumference. We weren't worried about the good food causing us to gain weight, as we have been walking many miles every single day. It's the ONLY way to truly absorb the culture. As a matter of fact, we have done so much walking--including many, many stairs--we feel as though we have new and protruding calf muscles. We are certain that the walking has more than offset the intake of calories, as not one of us is feeling that our clothing is snug.

The prevalence of so many stairs to climb in Rome has made us wonder how on earth the elderly folks or those with compromised knees could have made this journey and been able to see and do everything that we have enjoyed. Sharon's favorite sandals were almost a casualty of the constant walking, as one evening just as we approached our hotel, the strap on one of her sandals completely broke. She retrieved her little emergency sewing kit and performed an impressive leather repair. So far, so good.

Tomorrow is our last full day in Rome, and we are all beginning to admit that we miss our husbands. This has been a long stretch of time to be separated from them. Fred and I are accustomed to our independent lives for a few days at a time due to his travel for work, but we've never been apart for this length of time. We all wish that our guys were here in this amazing city with us. I don't know how Marianne's husband would feel about all of this, but Sharon, Laura and I know that unless there was a golf course involved, our husbands would be suffering from very short attention spans on this trip. With all of the shopping and sightseeing in which we have participated, they would be distressed due to serious withdrawal from their drivers and putters. Perhaps it is just as well that we are simply 4 women who love 2 travel!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica

9/11 Remembrance: I am actually entering this post on 9/11/11 and must take a moment to honor those who were victims of 9/11/01, whether they were workers in office buildings or firefighters who were bravely attempting to save them. A special and heartfelt thank you to those who continue to work diligently and tirelessly to do everything possible to keep the people of our great country safe from evil. We owe you.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summy brought our breakfast at 8:30 a.m., and we opted for languishing in relaxation mode this morning, which meant writing in my journal and answering some emails. As I catch up on the journal writing, I already have regrets about one aspect that I neglected to fully capture during this trip. I wish I had taken a photo of every meal we have eaten, preserved a description of exactly what our food selections were (including the wine details) and the name and address of each location where we dined. It is so easy to become caught up in the experience, that it makes it difficult to remember to stop and take a moment to jot down and/or photograph those important bits of information. I have included several restaurant names in my blog, but not so much about the food, wine, ambience and other particulars of the wonderful dining experiences.

Most of my food comments revolved around everything being "delicious," but that isn't very helpful to people who might be planning a trip to Italy! If I am ever fortunate enough to chronicle another fabulous European trip, I would be certain to include more information in this area. Marianne and Laura photographed their breakfast tray at Caesar House one morning, so at least I can share this.

Our adventures of the day began with a subway ride on the Roman Metro (Metropolitana) to an area across from the Vatican Museums, our designated location for meeting the Angel Tour guide. We weren't exactly certain what to expect from Rome's subway system, but we found it to be inexpensive (1 Euro), the stops easy to understand and recognize and very clean. There are two lines on this Metro system--the Red Line (A) from Battistini Terminal to Anagnina Terminal and the Blue Line (B) from Laurentina Terminal to Rebibbia Terminal. One vital piece of information you need to acquire in advance is which line your destination happens to be situated on and at which stop you need to exit. Armed with these clues, we managed remarkably well!

Killing time before our tour, we window shopped, ate lunch at another outdoor cafe and were approached by sneaky handbag vendors who were trying to avoid the police. They would hide behind or between vehicles and then approach the dining tourists when the coast was clear. They weren't very open to negotiation on the prices, however. Laura tried her best to bargain with one, and he wasn't having any of it. He just wanted to hurriedly conduct his business and move on so he could evade the police officers who were nearby. We saw one policeman literally chasing one of the vendors on an adjacent street. It reminded us of buying merchandise from the cage-front New York City Canal Street shops that suddenly close when the police are in the vicinity. Instead of working in actual stores, these merchants are carrying as many handbags as they can drape up and down their arms and alternate selling their wares with spontaneous games of hide and seek.

We met our guide Joanna, and in our group were couples from London and Long Island, New York. In the locations we are touring today, there is a specific dress code for women. Shoulders are to be covered and knees are not supposed to be visible. We knew this in advance due to Marianne's thorough research, so we were prepared. First on the agenda was the visitor-accessible parts of the Vatican.

We were told that the Vatican was established as a separate state and has its own post office and zip code. It also has its own police, diplomatic corps and army, which includes Swiss Guards. These Guards wear colorful uniforms, which are said to have been designed by Michelangelo and have remained the same for five centuries.

Joanna was a sweet, personable guide who really knew her subject backwards and forwards, inside and out. She was easy to understand and gave us so many tidbits of information that we wouldn't have otherwise discovered on our own, so we were thankful that Marianne had found Angel Tours during her advance investigation. This was a 3 1/2 hour tour beginning at 1:00 p.m., and I have to tell you that trying to take it all in was somewhat overwhelming. The Vatican Museums contained such amazingly detailed artwork and sculptures that I could visualize returning here someday just to absorb it all...slowly, deliberately. It's difficult to walk along, craning your neck to view the intricacies of these elevated, venerable works of ceiling art and not become dizzy--or perhaps that's just me. Some would say that I was already dizzy before I arrived in Italy.

In the Sala Rotonda, we saw, in the center of the room, what is reported to have been Emperor Nero's enormous, ornate bathtub.

We were taken to St. Peter's Square, the Pope's audience area, and although there were only a few tourists wandering about, it is easy to imagine the multitudes that would be present if the Pope was appearing today.

We moved on to the Sistine Chapel, where we learned a great deal about Michelangelo's works in general and then heard about his famous art in the Chapel. The collection began with a team of famous painters who were commissioned to create the twelve frescoed panels depicting the lives of Moses (left) and Christ (right) and were completed in 1482.

The ceiling was originally painted as a blue sky with golden stars before a reluctant Michelangelo was given the task of painting the Chapel ceiling, which he worked on from 1508 through 1512. He considered himself to be more of a sculptor than a painter and was resistant to undertake the Sistine Chapel job. He did comply, however, and this venue contains his famous work, The Creation of Adam, among many other Biblical scenes. He was in his sixties when he painted The Last Judgment (1535-1541) on the altar wall. The detail in these works in mind boggling and almost overpowering. It is difficult to imagine an individual tediously and meticulously painting all of these scenes.

Our last stop was St Peter's Basilica, which took more than one hundred fifty years to build. Its dome was created by Michelangelo and can be seen from most every location in Rome. Once inside, this site seriously felt like a genuinely holy, sacred place--likely because St. Peter was martyred and the Apostles buried here. We all shared a moment of silence and said a very special prayer for our friend, Liz. She would love being in this church with its historical Christian depth. The structure is enormous, and looking up at the ceiling makes one feel almost lightheaded. As I turned and saw the rays of sunlight illuminating the room, I knew that this would be a scene that would remain with me for many years to come.

We stayed in the same vicinity for dinner, choosing Il Papalino for our incredible dining adventure. Because patrons are encouraged to linger, we were there until 8:50 p.m., at which time we discovered that the subway system stops running at 9:00 p.m. No problem. We knew we could just call for a taxi. Our waiter was unable to reach a cab for us and suggested that we take the bus. We found out which bus we would need (#40) to weave our way back to Via Cavour and our comfortable hotel, and we had no trouble locating the bus stop. With virtually no waiting, there was bus #40--just as big as an elephant right before our eyes. This was pretty easy! There was just one minor problem though. They won't sell you a ticket after you get on the bus, so we had to find a ticket machine. There happened to be one very close by, so we dashed over to it so we could quickly buy our little tickets and be on our way.

Unfortunately, nothing is quite so easy. Our first issue was that all of the directions for purchasing a ticket were shown in Italian. The bus driver looked over at us and could easily see that having tickets in our possession was not going to happen any time soon, so off he drove. Great! How long would we have to wait for the next bus if we ever figured out how this machine works? Laura was able to decipher how to buy a ticket, discovering that they were 1 Euro each. We all had 1 Euro coins except Marianne, whose only coin was 20 cents. We began to scramble and dig in our handbags to come up with enough coins to reach 1 Euro and buy her ticket. We kept feeding in all of the coins we could locate, and just when we thought we were almost successful, the machine rejected every coin we had inserted. They poured out like the payoff from a winning spin on a Las Vegas slot machine. Sharon and I couldn't restrain our laughter. One by one, Laura calmly and carefully reinserted the coins into the sensitive machine and finally--out popped the ticket!

Carefully grasping our tickets in hand, we were ready and eager to board the next bus to Palazzo Venezia. It was very dark, getting rather late, we were in completely unfamiliar territory, and we had once again been walking all afternoon and were totally fatigued. When the next bus arrived, Laura politely asked the driver if this bus was going to Palazzo Venezia, and because her pronunciation wasn't perfect Italian, at first he said, "No." Then he repeated it HIS way, which honestly didn't sound much different from Laura's version, so we knew we were on the right bus.

Our next challenge would be: how would we know when we reached our stop? Obviously, the obnoxious bus driver wasn't going to give us a hint. Laura began studiously reviewing her trusty map to see if we could find a landmark that would tip us off that we were close to Palazzo Venezia. A kind gentleman with an American accent took pity on us after observing our consternation and asked us what we were looking for. Laura told him, and he said that it was the very next stop. He also said, "Go ahead and step on up to the door to be ready to exit. The driver won't wait for you to get organized." He was Angel #2, sent to us at precisely the right time to help us. Thank you once again to God and to our faithful friends and family who are thinking of us and praying for our well being. They must know that we are occasionally in need of these angels!

Our evaluation of public transportation in Rome was: you either have to have a good sense of your bearings for riding the bus, or you need to get to the subway before it stops running at night. People perpetually walk in Rome. And when I tell you that there are a ton of stairs to climb, I am not exaggerating. Here are just two examples:

At this point, we were beyond ready to crawl into our beds and sleep well. Tomorrow will be a day that I've been looking forward to since I discovered in a Rome guidebook on my Nook a not so widely known site that I can hardly wait to locate. Our tour guide today wasn't even aware of it, but when I told her the history and details, she said she would definitely be going there tomorrow to check it out for herself. I know it will be amazing!!!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

When in Rome.......

Friday, May 27, 2011:

Our hotel, Caesar House, is incredibly charming in a bed and breakfast sort of fashion. Attached to a chain that hangs on our door is a leather packet containing a sheet where we are to indicate our choices for the breakfast to be delivered to our room. Last night we were so tired that we neglected to mark the time for delivery, and the packet was returned with an inquiry regarding our desired time. We designated 8:00 a.m. and quickly returned the packet to the outside of our door.

Sharon and I are sharing the room named Livia, while Laura and Marianne are in the space called Claudia. Standard fare on the list of breakfast choices are croissants and breads with jams, as well as other items such as yogurt, cereal, fruit, etc., and this is included in our room price. The mini-bar is also complimentary and is stocked with waters and sodas.

We had just finished showering, dressing and pulling ourselves together when a smiling young man named Summy knocked on our door to deliver breakfast. It turned out to be perfect timing.

Today's 9:00 a.m. tour was entitled Ancient Rome, and our guide was Hilde. She spoke in a very soothing tone and had a small microphone, so she could easily be heard and understood. She provided great information as we toured the Coliseum and surrounding ruins of historical note. Of significance to us were the general architecture and engineering during ancient times, hearing the history of Nero and other notables, how extravagantly they lived, how they were able to build such massive structures, the enormity of the Coliseum and monuments, the fact that they had developed rudimentary elevators, and that they had actually built a retractable covering for the entire opening at the top of the Coliseum to offer protection from the burning sun--their own version of a canopy. We were told that most of the women sat in the far upper areas of the Coliseum, as the sights were considered too gruesome for them to view from a closer vantage point.

The stone streets in the area of the Coliseum are original and have been preserved because the stones are actually huge boulders with tremendous depth. They appear to be smaller stones because we can only see the exposed surfaces. We wondered about the individuals who had walked these same streets back in the olden days--even before Christ was born.

Roman history tells us that the city originated on the Palatine Hill. It was a village with shepherds and farmers around 753 BC. Today, it is a hectic city, buzzing with taxis, scooters and small vehicles maneuvering along the narrow streets and bursting with an enormous volume of tourists and locals sharing the same sidewalks. With much to see and only a few days to spend here, the local tours that Marianne has booked for us through Angel Tours are worth every penny. They provided an excellent overview of many "must see" sights.

It requires some imagination to visualize Rome in its heyday, but multiple gargantuan columns and/or portions of columns still stand and provide a basis for the picture in our minds. Hilde explained that not only are these sites in ruin due to earthquakes and wars, but that the Romans themselves took materials from these locations for the purpose of creating buildings in other parts of Rome. For instance, many of the stones from the facade of the Coliseum were used in the construction of St. Peter's Basilica.

Walking by the Arch of Constantine and hearing that it was inaugurated in 315 AD brings to mind the complexity of comprehending the ages of these buildings and sites. I found it difficult to wrap my pea brain around viewing these architectural wonders which have managed to remain in place, many of which depict particular life events of ancient inhabitants. To think that we are seeing exactly what these people saw and walking where they walked is almost a supernatural sensation. It makes us realize that preserved sites in the United States that we consider old are actually brand spanking new by comparison.

One of my favorite acquisitions is a photo book entitled Rome and the Vatican, which tells us that the Pantheon was originally built by Marcus Agrippa in honor of Augustus a few years before the birth of Christ. Many famous artists are buried there, as well as notable Roman family members. Walking through the Pantheon and visually grasping everything would require far more time than we are allotted on the tour, and I can easily see why people would plan to spend a month or more in Rome to take it in slowly, carefully studying the history and soaking it all in.

The portico of the Pantheon is supported by huge columns of stone weighing 60 tons! Each column is thirty-nine feet tall and five feet in diameter. The stone was quarried in Egypt, brought to the Nile River on wooden sledges, barged to Alexandria, sent by ships across the Mediterranean to Ostia and finally brought to Rome via the Tiber River by barge. We felt like ants standing beside them.

The Forum is in the center of ancient Rome, where activities included religion, politics and commerce. One has to imagine the great orators of those times, standing there in their full length robes to announce their official communications to the public. The Curia, which was able to seat three hundred senators, those massive columns and remaining stone work actually deserve far more time and consideration than we are afforded on this trip.

Following the tour, we enjoyed lunch at a cafe directly across the street from the Coliseum. It was fabulous to sit for a while, as benches and other seating are rare unless you are willing to park your bottom on a dusty, dirty step. Even that isn't always a good idea because you would probably be sitting where people are trying to walk, something they might not appreciate. While we were waiting for our lunch orders to arrive, I took the opportunity to dash into an adjacent gift shop and purchase post cards for my adorable grandchildren, Gabriella, Alexandria and Nicholas. They used to love visiting a store named Ten Thousand Villages, where the merchandise was made in remote foreign lands, so I knew they would enjoy receiving cards from Italy and seeing the unfamiliar postage. Sharon had done the same for her grandchildren, Ella and Logan, when we were in Florence, so I already knew the ropes for obtaining the postage.

In the gift shop, I had an interesting conversation with the owner, who was selling copies of a book that he had published. It was his autobiography, and we chatted about the importance of preserving our stories. He asked me if I could translate his book into English, but unfortunately, speaking, writing and reading Italian are not skills that I possess or I would have loved to work with him.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon exploring the shops and also getting our bearings. Marianne found a beautiful dress and matching shawl, and Laura bought a gorgeous skirt. Prices were surprisingly reasonable. We were then trying to locate a restroom and resorted to an Italian Burger King. Laura and I sat for a few minutes, enjoyed beverages and passed the time while Marianne and Sharon stood in a very long line of both men and women who were waiting to use the one single unisex restroom. Just the thought prevented me from feeling the urge to go.

We had essentially walked all day long, and there are an excessive number of steps to navigate in Rome, so we retreated to Caesar House to relax for a little while. We are quite fond of this hotel, as it offers only six guest rooms, and the service is very personal. Rosanna is delightfully personable and eager to help us in any way. We met a nice couple from Ohio, who are staying in the room across from Sharon and me, and there is a lovely sitting room directly off the front desk area where people can use the guest computer, sit around and read or chat with other guests. Caesar House provides many local guide and travel books for the guests to borrow, as well as their personal recommendations relative to sightseeing and restaurants.

Choosing Iari Bar for dinner because it was directly around the corner from our hotel, we encountered yet another couple from Ohio. Is there anyone still remaining in Ohio? We have also noticed that, as in Florence and Sorrento, people leave their windows wide open with no screens--just breathing in the fresh air. There don't seem to be any insects present to dissuade this practice. We were surprised to also see this being done at office buildings where officials and politicians were at work. It is just so foreign to us because of the number of mosquitoes and other flying insects we encounter living in the eastern region of the United States. If we sat outdoors during the evening without the protection of a screened in area where we live, the insects would carry us away. Not so in the regions of Italy that we have visited.

Tomorrow we are scheduled for an afternoon tour of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica, so we retired to our hotel after dinner, indicated our breakfast choices and time of delivery for tomorrow, placed the chained selection packet on the outside door knob and proceeded to sleep like bricks.