Monday, July 10, 2006


My trip to Rome was a real experience, especially, the getting there part of it. The flight left from Charleroi Airport, outside of Brussels to Ciampino Airport, outside of Rome. To get to Fiumicino, where our friends' boat was moored, and where Rome's main airport is, I had to take a bus into Rome's main train station, buy a train ticket to Fiumicino Airport, and from there take a bus to Fiumicino Port. I had arrived in Rome at 8:30 AM, and did not get to the boat until 12:00 PM. Of course, it was the hottest day they had had in a long time. It was never cooler than 34 C.

Soon after my arrival, we had a lovely lunch on Arteme, our friends' boat, I took a shower, unpacked, and I was off with Willemijn to explore Fiumicino Cita, which is pretty much a lower middle class area on the outskirts of Rome. The River Tiber runs into the sea right there, so walking along the docks is a fabulous experience. We got to see all the fishing boats coming in loaded with fish, snails and shrimp to sell it fresh on the docks. We bought some beautiful "zigalas" which we grilled that night. There are all kinds of little shops and markets belonging to Pakistanis, Indonesians and Algerians which sell everything from food to porcelain. Utterly fascinating.

I was there for five days, three of which were spent in Rome, exploring new areas and visiting some of the ones one does not want to miss. Trastevere, is one of the areas where we got to see very well. It is one that is being recovered, right by the river, full of beautiful narrow streets with plenty of trattorias, cafes and galleries and where one of the lovelier churches in Rome is located. Sta. Maria in Trastevere. It has a beautifully preserved XIII C mosaics on its exterior as well as interior, some great frescoes, and a sumptuous ceiling in gold and blue. There are little piazzas everywhere, and the best thing is that there aren't any tourists at all. We walked across the river to The Synagogue, now a Jewish museum, and to Marcello's Theater and the Temple of Apollo, gorgeous Roman ruins right behind it.

One of the most beautiful new things we saw was the Basilica of Sta. Maria sopra Minerva, a church that did not look like one from the outside, but it was absolutely incredible on the inside. It has such art treasures, like sculptures by Michaelangelo, as well as a painting and some frescoes, a whole chapel by Fra Filippo Lippi, frescoes by Fra Angelico, as well as his tomb, and many more. It was there that the Italian inquisition took place in the time of Galilleo. Just outside of it, there is a monument of an elephant with an Egyptian monolith by Bernie, and on the other side, you can see the Roman Pantheon, one of the sights we revisited. It is a church now, but one wouldn't know it judging the behavior and dress of the tourists that were there.

On Sunday we were all ready to go to St. Peter's Square for the Pope's Angelus and blessing, but we did not make it on time. Bus and train schedules are different, of course, so we decided to go to The Spanish Steps and Trinita dei Monte, where there is a beautiful chapel with a fresco of Mater Admirabilis, the patroness of the Sacred Heart schools all over the world. I wanted my friend to see it, so we spent some time there. We were allowed into the big church at the top through the side entrance, just because I was an alumna of the school. On Monday, we visited Ostia, the beaches of Rome and Ostia Antica, the ruins of Rome's first port, where during its prime, more than a million people lived.

As you well know, the World Cup has been going on for a while now, and we have been caught up in it. After Italy's victory it was not easy to sleep. The car horns and street singing did not stop until early the next morning. Upon my return to France, we watched France beat Portugal, then came the fireworks and the parade of cars waving their flags and singing The Marseillese. Everyone at The Cafe de la Marine, where we watched the game, including Bill and me, got a French flag painted on his/her face. It was loads of fun.

Tomorrow is the final game, and I think France is going to win. ALLEZ LES BLEUS!

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