Democracy–or at least free speech– is alive and well in Roma, Italy.
After a lovely breakfast at our hotel, we asked the concierge to call us a cab to start our day’s mapped-out route, which was to begin at the famed Trevi Fountain. After a number of turns through the crowded streets of the Eternal City, the driver told us that he could not get us to the fountain due to a protest that was going on. He suggested he could drop us at the Spanish Steps instead. Since that was the second stop on our planned itinerary, we agreed.
After several more turns, more congestion, and a few shouting matches with the carabiniere, the driver apologized that he could not reach the Steps either, due to the moving along of the protest marchers. I asked if it was within walking distance, which it was, so we hopped out to walk the few blocks.
Walking the streets, past small shops selling lingerie, shoes, clothes and leather goods, was very different from walking the streets of a mid- to large-sized city in the USA. Narrow sidewalks, cobbled streets, cafes and bakeries all seemed quintessentially European.
In other words, delightful!
After walking down the many steps, and taking lots of pictures, we wandered the small streets some more, buying a few gifts. All of a sudden, here came the protest marchers. There were police officers in full riot gear, even though the protesters were peaceful. They were allowed to march, but we moved away and walked down a different street.
We ended up in the Piazza di Popoli, which turned out to be the main staging area for the protest! Loud music, men handing out pamphlets and crowds of people chanting and waving their flags made it impossible to see the Piazza, so we moved on once again. We couldn’t get where we wanted to go by walking, so we ended up hailing a cab and riding through the congestion with a taxi driver, who was texting the entire time he was driving. Talk about scary.
Fortunately, the afternoon went more smoothly.
We had booked a Golf Cart Tour from Angel Tours, which promised an afternoon of tooling around Rome in a golf cart, seeing a number of sights both common and unusual. There were eight of us, plus the driver and guide, in two carts.
What a great time we had! Riding through Rome on a warm spring day with the breeze blowing, the flowers blooming, whizzing through traffic and down small side streets was a grand little adventure! Some of the things we saw: The Villa Borghese, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Square, Giancolini Hill, the Mouth of Truth, the Keyhole, the Circus Maximus. Thomas, our guide, was quite knowledgeable and able to answer our many questions.
For example, he answered something I have always wondered about–why is it called St. Peter’s Square when it plainly isn’t square? I thought maybe it had been a square in years past, but, no, it turns out that it’s simply a matter of translation. Piazza is often translated “square,” which is a literal translation, but it also means, in common practice, “a large open place.”
Have I mentioned that I love language, and the etymology of words? I have now fallen in love with Italian as well as French, and wish I was better at learning languages so I could learn it!
A lovely dinner at a local restaurant rounded out our day (I had a plate of handmade pasta with four-cheese sauce. Half-way through, it occurred to me that I was really just eating a plate of mac-and-cheese–but what great mac-and-cheese it was!), and we packed up and got ready to transfer to the ship in the morning.