Breakfast at the hotel is delightful with Francesco as our waiter. He's good looking, energetic and touchy feely as only an Italian man can be. His manner is so disingenuous that he gets away with it entirely. The rooftop of the hotel is resplendent with flowers and greenery so it's a gorgeous quiet place to eat.
We walk around the tall cement brick walls of the Vatican, so grey and sombre until we reach the pillars of the Piazza. These are towering works of art, white and pockmarked with age, but still so majestic. They announce without humility that the cathedral is here: an enourmous structure designed to initimate and inspire.
The lines aren't bad through the security and the men all get in by pulling their shorts down below their knees. Suddenly we are all inside. It is cavernous, awesome-an overused word, but one that is nevertheless the best description here. The pieta is on our right, enclosed in a glass case that's the legacy of some lunatic.
What I admire about this Michelangelo statue is the madonna's face. How can marble convey the grief of a mother who has lost her child? Yet somehow in her downcast eyes, the way she hold his lifeless body in her arms, tells a tale of sorrow and loss that is universal.
St. Peter's is filled with gold, etched in the ceiling and in the tombs which decorate the walls and enclaves. Priceless painting, tapestries, statues, burial sites. The waxen body of John XXIII. We wander and breathe in the history. The soaring rooftop and duomo make me stumble in the effort to keep my head raised to the structure above.
Outside it's hot and humid but we're ready for the hop on, hop off bus. We clamber to the top when we board and there is a hilarious episode of trying to connect our earphones. Something like Monty Python or one of those TV shows about old people. It's a Seinfeld moment, which Vince luckily records.
The parks and piazzas of Rome are amazing. They make turning every corner an adventure. A surprise. Trees are old but green and budding, long arms shading the people, the benches, the grass. There are huge crowds swarming through every space and it's fun looking down on them. There are so many historical monuments and buildings. Even newer structures like Termini North with its glass and slanting roof are creative. Ornate details splash every one of the older edificies, Cherubs, flowers, and vines. Some of the older buildings show off their age through small red brick, clogged together with mortar, fashioned by hands much smaller than the mechanical ones of today. Horses of brillaint marble and stone, white or black, frozen in the sun. Naked men, muscular, powerful. Fountains spill fresh cold water. Several of them are provided for travelers like us; we bend to fill our bottles whenever we exit the bus.
The National Art Museum advertises Once Were Romans. I fall in love with the title. We marvel at the monument of Victor Emanuel, the first king of Italy. At least now it has a function other than serving as a reminder of hubris, the bus narrator tells us. Now it is home to the unknown soldier. Mussolini used to occupy the enormous building across the street during the fascist period, as our narrator terms it. We do remember the speeches from the balconies, but only as black and white documentaries of our parents' time and experience. The Roman Forum lies like lego in various forms of abandonment. Those tiny red bricks clinging to the inner structures avoid the clawback from the earth, but just barely.