Installment Four: An Unplanned Day 2 in Rome

Last Friday Steph and I started our day off with a blank slate.

Or, it was a blank slate in the fact that we didn’t have a tour planned or meals that would be fed to us at their specifically designated times. Other than that I had my map, and my list of suggested places to eat from my co-worker, and my own list of all the places we hadn’t hit yet on our tour from the previous day that I had decided we absolutely had to see before we left.

So I suppose it wasn’t totally blank.

Happiness is a new, gorgeous city with nothing but a map, yum food and all the time in the world.

Although our lovely Le Petit did offer us breakfast in the mornings, it was only available from 7 to 9, and after multiple mornings of waking up early, we had to hit the snooze button on this one.

So out came the map after we finally did decide to wake up. On the schedule for the day: From Le Petit we’d head to the Spanish Steps, than down Via Condotti or Via Borgognona for some shopping, over to the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona, the Trevi Fountain and then, if there was time, over to the Santa Maria Maggiore.

But first, breakfast. Somewhere between our hotel and the Spanish Steps we found the Fontana del Tritone in the Piazza Barberini, and more importantly the restaurant across the street from the fountain with the nice waiter man who called us flowers and served us yummy food and cappuccino, items which are both near and dear to my heart.

Breakfast in the Piazza

Fontana del Tritone

After filling up on croissants and eggs and coffee, we headed off into the crowded Roman streets to make like tourists with our map and walking shoes and cameras. And surprisingly we happened upon a good majority of the places we were hoping to see, starting with

Trinita dei Monti and the Spanish Steps
The view from the church

Our hotel guy had suggested to us before we left that if we were at all interested in shopping, the streets surrounding the Spanish Steps—Via Condotti and Via Borgognona—would be a good place to do it. So we tried there. Or at least, we looked there. But the stores there—Gucci, Fendi, Prada—well they were a bit above our price points. Just a bit. Still, it was like walking down 5th Ave. here in the city—fun to window shop, and to say we’ve been there.

After walking around for a while, pretending like we knew where we were going and avoiding pulling out the large map at all costs, we stumbled across a large building that looked remarkably similar to the drawing of the Pantheon on my map.

But I couldn’t be sure.

“Just ask someone really quickly,” I chided mini.

“I don’t know who to ask—who knows who speaks English?”

“I’m pretty sure anyone would understand Pantheon.”

So we went around in circles (literally, we walked around in circles for about five minutes looking for someone with a trustworthy enough face to ask), before I settled on a group of cops to approach.

The woman with the night stick and the cop hat looked at me as I approached. So I pointed to the large building right in front of me. “Pantheon?” She made a face, as if this was possibly the most dumb question she had heard all day (or perhaps it was just the 50,000th time she’d heard the question all day), and grunted, “Yeah.”

So we’d made it to the Pantheon. We stood outside for a while staring at it.

“It’s big,” I said.

“Yeah.”

We stood around some more, then Steph said, “I think we can go inside.”

So went inside.

After about 20 minutes of browsing we walked out. “That was pretty big,” I said. “Yup,” said Steph. “What was it for?” I paused for a minute and considered making something up to sound smart, but thought better. “I have no idea,” I said. So we left.

That’s the sad part about not being on a tour—half the time, and apparently especially if you are me or Steph—you have no idea what you’re actually looking at.

We forgot all about historical lapse of knowledge when we made it to the Piazza Navona, though. In this large open market you’ll find artists and musicians, outdoor restaurants, gorgeous fountains and people with full body paint on:

What you will also find are people who will stop at nothing to sell you anything (seriously anything, even string), and especially if you look like a tourist.

The man approached us immediately. “Stick out your pinkie,” he coaxed Steph, smiling charmingly.

“That’s okay,” Steph laughed. I laughed. Why in God’s name would this man want us to stick out our pinkies?

We would find out soon enough. He produced three pieces of string—one red, one white, one green—and proceeded to make a bracelet for Steph from the string he attached to her pinkie.

“Make three wishes,” he told her while he wound and wrapped and braided this special bracelet, and Italians around us walked past and giggled. “This string is for happiness, this one is for love and this one is for money,” (I have no way of actually remembering if those were the three things that the bracelet strings were supposed to mean, but it was definitely something along those lines).

When he finished Steph’s bracelet he turned to me. “Hold out your pinkie,” he said.

I laughed. “No, thank you!”

“Oh come on,” he said, reaching for my hand, which for some reason I was unable to hold away from him. “Where are you from?”

“New York.”

“Oh, America,” he got that gleam in eye like Akon-man had the night before. He let go of my pinkie. “You know the Lakers, then?” He lifted up the gold pendant he was wearing that had a photo of Kobe Bryant on it.

Steph and I laughed. “Sure, we know the Lakers,” I said.

When he finished my bracelet I thanked him, and he looked me straight in the eye and said, “20 euro each.”

“Ha!” We outright laughed at the man. I mean, seriously. Yes, we were tourists. And yes, we had just stood in the middle of the Piazza Navona for a good 10 minutes and allowed this man to make bracelets on our pinkies and talk to us about Kobe Bryant—but we were no fools.

“Absolutely not,” I said, starting to walk away.

“Okay, okay, what do you want to pay?”

“5 euros,” I said.

He made the same noise that had come out of the man at the shuttle station back at the airport. “Fine, but you’re robbing me. 5 euros each.”

“No! 5 euros total!” Steph and I pooled our money and thrust it at him and walked away as quickly as possible (although, we were in a Piazza, which is a circle, and there really wasn’t very far for us to go. When we passed him again about five minutes later our Kobe friend waved to us from across the way. I guess we had bonded.)

After checking out the rest of the Piazza with our newly adorned wrists, we headed to a rooftop bar that my co-worker had told me about. For 15 euros a drink, the price was steep, but it was worth it. I had a Whiskey Sour while mini sucked down a Pina Colada.

The rooftop bar at Hotel Raphael on Largo Febo is worth every Euro

Overlooking the city

Slightly buzzed from our one drink each, Steph and I ventured back out into the streets a while later to find the Trevi Fountain, and after it, the gelato place that my co-worker recommended. With a description like, “the best gelato in Rome (arguably in the world)” how could you NOT try it out.

So we followed our map diligently to what was supposed to be the Trevi Fountain. What we found was this:

Steph didn’t even take her camera out.

“This is it?” she scoffed.

“I guess so.” I was disappointed, too. So much for the grand fountain I had in mind.

When we left the “fountain” we spent a good 20 minutes or more trying to find this phantom gelato place that makes ‘the best gelato in Rome, possibly the world,’ but to no avail. Begrudgingly I gave up, after even asking for directions from yet another cop and still not finding it.  Somehow we managed to make our way back to the street where we had dinner the night before, so we stopped at a place near the hotel and had gelato there, instead. I gotta say—I don’t think you really can get a bad gelato in Italy.

Back at the hotel we showered and changed before we headed out for our night tour, which would give us dinner as well. And at night we saw everything all over again, but this time lit up and under the stars:

The Sistine Chapel
Goodnight, Pope
Piazza Navona at night

A street artist working in the Piazza

The last stop on the night tour would be, as we were informed by our lovely tour guide…drum roll please…the Trevi Fountain. Steph and I looked at each other. That place? Again? What’s so special about it, anyway.

So we made our way off the bus with the rest of the group, clamored our way through the crowded streets (I don’t think most people even start eating in Italy until 9 p.m.), and rounded a corner, only to find this awaiting us:

Don’t ask me how, or why, but obviously the dinky little “fountain” that we had seen earlier was not, in fact, the Trevi Fountain. Lucky for us we hopped on that night tour, otherwise one, I would have made a fool of myself when it was inevitably pointed out to me that I had in fact not seen the Trevi Fountain but had instead stumbled upon the Presidents Palace (so said our tour guide. Still cool, but not the same), and two, I would have been sad to have not been able to cross that item off my list. I mean, people even take their wedding photos, here, for goodness sake.

So that Saturday, having completed the majority of items on my list, Steph and I were dropped back off at the hotel, happy with our own day out and about on the town. The next day, Sunday, would be our last full day in Italy, and we had an excursion to Florence planned. We had checked in with the hotel earlier that day and found out that the express train from the Termini would get us to Florence in only about 1 1/2 hours…….

Until Florence….bis bald friends!

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