Sept. 8 Continued
We make several unexplained stops on the bus and are left baking in the relentless sun and humidity. By the time we reach the Colliseum we are hot, tired and thirsty, so we visit the building from across the street. The beer at the restaurant is cold and the sandwiches yummy. We people watch and discuss the Colliseum's checkered history.
We walk to another stop by skirting the Forum, staring at the ruins from the walkways. Across the Circus Maximus, constantly aware of the ground upon which we stand. The echo of chariots and hooves, the dirt mixing with the humid air. The bus is a long time coming so we are hot and tired again by the time we reboard. Now we can see parts of the Forum from above, the ornate bridges embracing the river, the trees arching the streets. The city is stunning, rich with age, beautiful.
As we walk back to the hotel we tell the gang about meeting Maria on the street this morning. She and her borther run a restaurant on this very avenue. We'd been here several times on Kitty trips, and once we reminded her of who we are, she actually remembered. Everyone votes to stop in for a cold beer.
With the sun dancing overhead and gleefully drenhcing us with humidity, it was not a hard sell.
Maria greets us like old friends. The atmosphere is fun, friendly, a joie de vivre that's infectious. Soon we are laughing, chanting, clapping. Brother Julius arrives and we clap for his entrance, urged on by his sister. Maria delivers free pizza and we order more beer.
She introduces us to a young man whom she calls hermano. He's a handsome man with startlingly blue eyes. He relates the story of his capture as he tried to escape Cuba and his subsequent jail time. When he was released he fled to Moscow, but is now a political refugee in Italy. We all remark on his resilience and the glow that emanates from the fact that this young man has found peace. He joins us in "salute" and tells us how the Vikings invented the toast in order to protect their drink and keep their hands on their weapons at the same time.
We are surrounded by the street, sirens howling, cars zipping past, people talking and laughing in our space, but it doesn't matter. A soft breeze cools our cheeks, the beer is cold, the pizza delicious, and we have each other. The atmosphere, the lovely lilting friendliness of the Romans, is intoxicating.
Later we cab out to the Pantheon but it's closed for a Mass so we can only admire its beauty from the outside. There are thick crowds in the Piazza and in the narrow streets, but it doesn't bother us. Everyone seems to have laughter on their lips and energy in their faces. There are several carbinieri throughout the area, just in case those energetic souls become a little too frenetic.
We have dinner in the Piazza Navona, next to the Bernini Fountains, the sounds of water from the marble fish, shells, Neptune and nymphs a soothing backdrop. Stars overhead, pigeons fluttering, moonlight bathing it all in a soft benevolent glow. It's loud and soft, romantic and crowded, cheesy and unique all at once. Overwhelming our senses, making us fall in love all over again, with Rome and with one another.
We visit the artists in the square. Say arrividerci to Helen and Sandy.
Back at the Alimonde we're in the mood for a nightcap. Right around the corner we discover a little German beer cellar which has, of course, limonciello. The perfect antidote to too full stomachs and the wish to make our last night in Rome go on forever.