What final surprises lay ahead today? We knew that we would reach St Peter’s but what will happen in between and after?
After crossing a bridge that spanned the highway encircling Rome, we fast descended into another valley of fields. This area had no homes because it was probably wetlands. We threaded our way along a narrow path for about a mile that then opened up. We had some surprise company on the trail. The shepard with his dogs moved his flock for us to pass.
As was the pattern each day, we climbed a steep hill to reach our first encounter with a Roman neighborhood.
The street seems quiet but it wasn’t. Just a few moments before, a string of vehicles went by, one of them a wide body bus that seem to glide down the street coming within inches of the cars on either side of it. After many twists and turns across streets and a few roundabouts (our eyes were peeled on every sign pole, wall, and fence for VF symbols), we entered the park where we would come upon the lookout where we will have our first glimpse of St Peter’s from afar.
From afar, it was afar. As we gazed across Rome, St Peter’s was the largest structure. But I had imagined that it would fill the panorama. We would see it up close and personal. Many of you have visited Vatican City before and St Peter’s interior. From these perspectives, the church is imposing. But from this hill, it was another feature on the landscape. I was bummed out until Monique reminded me that reaching St Peter’s was not the goal; it was the journey with all of its richness that I had experienced alone and with Rich and her.
We made our way down the hill — 12 hairpin turns to Viale Angelique for the final mile to the piazza that Bernini’s colonnade forms. The area was mobbed. We found the office to secure our final stamp, took in the scene of crowds of tourist roaming the square, and admired again Bernini’s columns. We went off to the subway to find our hotel.
I love subways. Although I had been to Rome several times before, this was my first ride. Our hotel is named Domus Sessoriana, former housing for the clergy at the Basilica of Santa Croce. The front door to the hotel is just to the right of the church. The hotel renovated the inside but kept the original details of the structure. The rooms are basic but 2x or even 3x the size of a typical Roman hotel room.
The concierge recommended a restaurant, Bottega Trattoria De Santis, a few blocks from Santa Croce. We were there by 7:15, the second table, but by 8:30, the restaurant was filled inside and out. Deservedly so. Our dishes were noteworthy: caponata, polpo with a light tomato sauce and homemade maionese (Italian spelling), beef involtini with chicory (olives and raisins as part of the sauce), and pasta of mussels and smoked pecorino. Our wine opened to reveal a richness that our bottle of the same area and style from the night before didn’t have. I also had to include a photo of the bread in the bag and the two brioche piccolo that came with the meal.
Partway through our dinner, a couple sat next to us. Somehow we started to talk. The conversation turned to who we were and was this our first time in Rome. It turned out that the woman was leaving alone in a few days for Burgos to walk the Camino for three weeks. She wanted to know if we had done so and what were our experiences on the Camino and VF. Ask a question, and get a speech. I restrained myself; yes, I did. (Monique chuckled after reading this sentence.) She did most of the talking in Italian. The upshot was that our dining acquaintance was more thrilled to go after our conversation although her husband was hesitant about her impending trip. I hope that we had done our good deed for the day.
Tomorrow will be a transition day. We decided to visit the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in the morning. Monique will be off to another hotel before her train trip to Switzerland. I will make the short train ride to Fiumincino where I stay overnight for Wednesday’s trip home.
I have enjoyed writing these blogs. I love to share the experiences. Each blog will remind me of the details when they fade away or become melded into a snapshot of this journey. Thanks for reading and commenting about them.
Thanks to Rich and Monique for deepening our friendships and creating lasting memories. Thanks to the many puppies who gave their love along the way. However, I could do without the barking from dogs behind the fences. They certainly woke up the neighbors where we walked.
The VF adventure all began in summer 2019 when Barbara and Steve Diamond suggested that I join them from Orvieto to Rome. I added on San Miniato to Orvieto. We were set to go in April 2020 and then. . . You know the rest.
Thank you Sharon for supporting my three walks, for helping me prepare, and for being an enthusiastic listener about each day on What’s App.
I could not have done the 88, the Camino, and the VF without you all. Thanks again.
PS — a new day dawns. Who knows what lies ahead. This photo was taken this morning, 1 November, from the rooftop of the hotel. The belltower of Santa Croce.