Rome 03/2008 Day 5



Thursday March 20 , 2008

Borghese Gallery

This is another early morning for us because we have 9AM reservations for the Borghese Gallery. We are a little better prepared for the bus this morning however. We know where to go and we know we can use our RomaPass transportation passes. We validate our passes when we get on the bus and they are now good for 3 days. The ride is easy and much less crowded than yesterday morning for some reason.

As the bus enters the park we start looking for the museum. We are the only people left
on the bus and we're a little uncertain as to exactly where the correct stop is for the museum. We think the driver will stop but realize one second too late that he won't. We push the button to ring the bell to indicate we want to get off and he keeps driving. Now really? We are four obvious tourists, on the "tourist bus", at the end of the line and we don't want to get off?
Is this his sick sad way of getting revenge on us for the fact that he hates his life because he drives in circles all day? We get off at the next stop and walk back. It isn't that far, but we all think he did it deliberately and there will be future karmic payback.

The Villa Borghese is a beautiful building and there are a fair amount of people milling about outside when we arrive. We go though the open door at the bottom, underneath the staircase, and there is the ticket counter. We wait in line a few minutes and present the cashier with our reservation print out and RomaPasses. He validates the passes, hands us our free tickets and recommends we use our 2nd visit at the Coliseum. We're told no bags at all can come in so we must wait in another line to check our camera bags and purses. They do not check coats, so I keep mine on with my "wallet on a string" underneath. I see them giving a woman a small plastic bag in which to carry her wallet.

We all decide to get the Audio Tour for 5 euro, so we have to wait in another line. It's now 5 minutes to 9, but the line is moving pretty fast. In line ahead of us are a group of Americans, obviously all traveling together. I can't tell if they are on a tour or not. They are all "of a certain age" and if you were to ask me, judging by the accent, from the south, most likely Texas. While we are waiting, they are talking loudly, but having a good time. The line moves.
Then I hear,
"Do you take American?"
I turn to Jessica and say out the side of my mouth, "She did not just say that"
"No Madam, we only take euros"
"Well, I just don't know if I have enough. Do you take credit cards?"
"No madam, we only take cash."

I take a very deep breath and then another. We are all appalled. Then I try to be gracious and say to Jess (who looks as if the top of her head is going to explode), "maybe she's never been out of the country before and doesn't know any better". I'd really like to give her the benefit of the doubt.
(But seriously people, why the heck would they take American dollars anywhere in Rome?
Would a museum in Houston take Euros? How about Thai Baht or Chinese Yuan? Sigh.)

We get our audio guides and pay our euros with no problem. I really did want to ask if he'd take Baht for it as I'd just found some in my bag for it but wasn't sure if the joke would translate. We agree to meet J and T at the end of our 2 hour allotted time at the gift shop and we all go outside and upstairs into the museum.

Of course, the museum is very crowded with everyone starting at the same time. David and I stick together, going through the first 5 or 6 rooms before deciding to skip ahead and go upstairs to the Painting gallery. This was a good move as it was much less crowded. We finished the second half of the downstairs last. I won't go into detail on all of the sculptures and paintings, but it is certainly worth the visit.
Bernini is truly the master that everyone says he is. No one could turn marble into living, breathing flesh like he could. I love both the Apollo and Daphne and the Rape of Persephone. Canova's sculpture of Pauline Borghese (Napoleon's sister) makes me want to reach out and touch the chaise she is reclining on because the marble cushion looks so soft. I also think Pauline looks a little bit too much like her brother from certain angles, but that's a different story.

The above photo of Canova's Pauline is a scan of a postcard.

Besides the "main" sculptures in the center of each room which are roped off, the rooms have sculptures up against the walls and in corners. Of course, one is not supposed to touch or take pictures of any of the sculptures. More than once we saw people (including our Texan friends) leaning up against the sculpture bases. At one point David says to someone, "Please, do not lean on the Bernini". Later, we see a man taking pictures with his cell phone.
Coming soon, the top ten of "Bad Tourist Behavior"....

We end up downstairs where there is a bar/cafe next to the small gift shop. We each get a cappuccino and a pastry and wait for J and T. I go into the ladies room and there are three stalls and two women in line, Americans who are talking to each other. One of the stall doors opens and out saunters an absolutely gorgeous man with shoulder length dark hair, wearing a police uniform. The two women in front of me are completely incredulous, and I think one even says "Well, I never!"
This has to be one of the better stops on the "Bathrooms of the World Tour". I think, "He was beautiful. Nice eye candy." and appreciate every moment of it. It still makes me smile every time I think about it.

After the Borghese, we debate what to do next. It's tempting to wander through the park, but if we want to have lunch, we'll need to go someplace else. I don't have much in the way of restaurant recommendations in the area, but there's one place which looks interesting called Enoteca Buccone. We agree that we're going to walk down to the Spanish Steps first. It's a longer walk then it looks on the map, but I choose the street that brings us to the top, right in front of the Hassler Hotel. We spend some time up there, admiring the view and trying to avoid the endless annoying street vendors.

We wander down the steps, pausing in the middle to take a photo for a woman who is traveling alone and check out all the other tourists including several nuns and a group of young men from Spain. Suddenly, the clouds roll in and it begins to rain fat drops. In an instant we are in a deluge which then turns to, yes, hail. It's crazy.

Both D and I had talked up the Mc Donald's at the Spanish Steps as being so cool and unusual so we head there to get out of the rain. It's just not as cool as I remember. Oh sure, there's an espresso bar, marble everywhere, Roman columns, a fountain, and statues, but in the end, it's just a McDonalds. We buy nothing and head back out into the rain to find the enoteca.

Enoteca Buccone

It's a long walk down the Via Condotti to Via Ripetta, but the trip is worth it. Enoteca Buccone is a small place, about 3 blocks from the Piazza del Popolo.The entire place is lined floor to ceiling with shelves of wine, olive oil and vinegars. There is a tiny room in the back with a few tables and a smaller area with only four tables, where we sit, surrounded by the wine.
We each order a glass (Brunello, Barolo and Chardonnay) and breaking our rule of "everyone must order something different", we order two tortellini and two Buccone salads. The salad is just what I want after days of eating heavier foods. We also get a slice of "torta" with artichokes and a plate of mixed grilled vegetables which are lovely.

After lunch, we ask for some Amaro Lucano and the waiter asks us if he can recommend another. It is Amaro Nonino and we like it so much David and Tris each buy a bottle to take back to the US. The wine, food, 3 coffee, 2 glasses of amaro and a lemoncello are 88 euro for four. The bottles of Amaro Nonino are 16 euro each. Enoteca Buccone, Via di Ripetta, 19-20, Tel: 06 3612154, Lunch every day except Sunday.

From Buccone, we walk over to the Piazza del Popolo to check it out. It's huge, flanked on one side by "twin" churches ("fraternal", because they are slightly different in order to fit into the space).

We're standing at the fountain, and I notice a large banner for an exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci's machines. I'd read about this exhibit online, but everything I could find indicated that it was closing at the end of February. We go over to investigate and it turns out the exhibit is alive and well, with no plans of closing. The curator tells us the other exhibit we'd come across in the centro storico is an imposter, with fewer pieces to view.

Since we're here now, we decide to see this one, but first we have to find an ATM for J and T. There are several banks outside the Piazza, but Tris' card will not work. Fortunately, J's will work, as will ours. On the way back into the Piazza, we pass a young woman on her cell phone and hear a very whiny, "It's been like a week - I haven't been like this for the whole semester!" It strikes us all as a very odd statement and we all get a giggle. I figure she's an exchange student on the phone with her mother. She's been sick and she's trying to reassure her mother she's fine. I know that tone, and it's one reserved by exasperated daughters only for their mothers.

The da Vinci exhibit is really interesting. There are models of around 70 of his inventions, many of which can be moved and touched by the viewer. He invented many things which weren't actually built or created until hundreds of years later; a prototype for a helicopter, a bicycle, a scuba-type underwater breathing apparatus, many machines utilizing ball bearings, etc.

After the exhibit, the girls go in search of a bridge where young lovers leave a lock along with declarations of their love, and us old married folk take a very long walk back to the apartment. I know from my bus map that buses run one direction up one side following the river, and the other direction down the other side. What I did not know was that the buses do not run south on the other side of the river north of the Vatican. This was a poor assumption on my part. I thought we'd be able to pick up a bus, but instead we had to walk all the way back. It wasn't that bad and was fairly picturesque.

About two hours later, we get a call from J and T saying they had taken the bus to their bridge, but could not find a bus back. Surprise! They too have a very long trek back to the apartment and arrive exhausted, about an hour before we need to leave for dinner.

Dinner #2 at Armando al Pantheon

Tonight we have reservations at Armando al Pantheon so we can try the oxtail. We arrive and our table is ready and waiting for us.

Jessica wants to try an antipasti made with Smoked Herring, red beans, olives, red onion and a balsamic vinaigrette. It sounds odd but was really, really good and the fish was not as strong as herring sometimes can be. Tris also orders Stracciatelle (egg drop soup) which has great flavor. We have another order of the excellent spagatini alla verde and an order of gnocci alla gorgonzola which was a little heavy.

For our main courses we get two orders of Oxtail; it's tender, meaty, and so delicious, very much like Osso Bucco. We also get duck with prunes, grilled beef strips with arugula on top, two orders of artichokes and I finally get to try the vegetable puntarelle, which comes like a salad with an anchovy dressing. It's slightly bitter and with the salty dressing, I love it. For wine, we have a bottle of La Scola Gavi di Gavi Bianco and a 1/2 bottle of House Red (mediocre). Some guests at another table offer us a taste of their wine; Valle Reale Montepulciano de Abruzzo and it's excellent. Dinner for 4 is 146.50 euros including coffee and amaro.

After dinner we walk over to Frigidarium but it is closed! We are shocked! Something has to be wrong...more to come....

David and I make a long late night trek in an unsuccessful quest for "other" gelato. Nothing is open near the house and we return defeated, with no gelato.

On to Day 6...

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Above, Jessica with our favorite color
of Smart Car, Lime Green!

Below, the Hotel Internationale where my
Mom and I stayed on our very first visit
to Italy in 1992. Note the Smart Car
parked perpendicular to the curb.















Locks on the Bridge (photo by Tris)



Puntarelle salad


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