On Saturday morning, we woke up to bright blue skies. We had tickets for the Sistine Chapel at one, but nothing planned for the morning. All of the guide books listed the view from the Gianicolo as a must see, and the path leading up to it was less than 10 minutes from our room. A few, or a lot, steep steps later, and we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Rome across the river.
We had a bit of time before we needed to make our way over to the Vatican, so we strolled through Trastevere, checked out the farmer’s market at Piazza San Cosimato, took pictures of laundry hung out to dry, and bought a Fanta (for Erin, of course). After the Fanta break, it was time to scoot over to the Pope’s place.
The Vatican was also only about a 10 minute walk from our room. Approaching St. Peter’s Basilica, we were stunned by the swarms of people and a ridiculously long line snaking around the perimeter. I’m assuming we looked pretty lost, because a young Australian gentleman approached us asking if we had tickets for a tour. We replied that we only had tickets for general admission, and just needed to find the entrance. “Well, you’ll want a guided tour too. The entrance is on the other side of the wall, I can show you where it is, if you want to sign to sign up for a tour with us.” Erin and I exchanged a skeptical glance, before deciding to go for it. The Australian guy (we never did get his name) led us through the crowd and out to the other side of the wall. We followed the wall for a while, until we reached an intersection where he pointed out the entrance. “This is where I lose most of my customers,” he chuckled. That was a dumb thing to say. Anyway, we didn’t have the heart to abandon him just yet, so we followed him all the way to his sketchy office. He told us the next “tour” would leave in 20 minutes, he just needed to round up some more customers. This was our chance to escape, without hurting his feelings too much. “Sorry, we’re in a bit of a hurry,” and we were gone. Thanks to his directions, we found the entrance with no problem (he probably saved us about two hours of aimless wandering).
The Sistine Chapel is the final destination in a maze of connected galleries displaying all sorts of cool old stuff: sculptures, tapestries, maps. After the last gallery, we were funneled down a narrow, windowless passageway. The crowd got really quiet and that’s when you knew you were about to see something really awesome. No cameras are allowed, but Erin managed to sneak an illicit photo with her phone:
We spent quite a bit of time in the gift shop looking for just the right pope paraphernalia for the grandparents, and then made our way back to the Basilica for some photo opps, where we had the pleasure of running into our Australian friend. I don’t think he was having much luck with the tourists that day.
We got home around 8, and then headed out for a later dinner, like real live Romans. We read the menus at a few places, before being lured into one establishment by a friendly waiter. The meal was fabulous (saltimbocca for me, fettucini with a red meat sauce for Erin, profiterol scuro for dessert).
Our waiter was a hoot. He convinced us to finish off the meal with a glass of limoncello, and then accompanied us to his friend’s bar a few doors down. His name was Amadeo, and when I told him my name, he exclaimed, “Heidi! That is my brother’s daughter’s name! I knew I felt a…”
“Connection?” I offered. “Yes! Chimica!!” And with that, I just discovered my new favorite Italian word. Amadeo got us situated at a table outside and promised to join us after his shift. He did, and we learned all about his ex-girlfriends, Egyptian family, and his brother’s daughter, Heidi. Yes, we had much chimica.