Here and there in Rome and Trastevere

Terme di Diocleziano

There is no hot water this morning. I curse the hotel, but it turns out that the hotel is not to blame; it is the city's department for water supply that has switched off the hot water earlier than announced.

The first destination today is Terme di Diocleziano, the old Roman baths just opposite Termini. I had imagined something like antique swimming pools with lots of marble, but it is nothing like that. It is a museum with a courtyard designed by Michelangelo. There are old photos, sculptures and busts and we do not stay for long.

Bus #64 takes us close to the market Campo Fiori. Here is an abundance of delicious vegetables of a quality never seen in Denmark, and you can buy fish and meat at reasonable prices.

The museum in Trastevere

Trastevere's city gate

On the Argentina square we change to an air-conditioned tram to Trastevere. Piazza della Scala offers coffee and water in the shade before we continue to Villa Farnesina, which is close to the botanical garden.

However today the villa is closed to the public due to some extraordinary occasion that involves more important people in polished limos with uniformed drivers.

So instead we visit the museum in Trastevere. The ground floor exhibits large photos of young people doing modern things and there seems to be nothing old. However on the first floor is an exhibition with paintings (watercolours) by Ettore Roesler Franz (1845 - 1907) that depict Rome in the 1880's.

He decided to paint the Rome, which the city council wanted to demolish. The pictures are full of life and action and are excellent contemporary images of a Rome that is no more.

On our way home we pop into the famous church, Santa Maria in Maggiore, but being barbarians we just see another church with columns and a carved ceiling. We feel no urgent need to explore, especially not when Helle discovers that her water bottle leaks and has drenched her bag. Back in the room the bag is treated with the hair dryer.

The chess club

At 15:45 I get ready to visit the chess club, but I could have saved myself the trouble if I had opened the shutters and looked out: it is pouring down and soon it grows into a thunderstorm.

At five the rain stops. I am restless and leave again. The metro to Tiburtina is crammed and steaming, but fortunately many descend with me. It can require planning to get yourself in a position close to the exit, and when you are there you still have to pass the crowd right in front of the door. Fortunately there is a drawing where you can see on which side to descend!

Tiburtina is quite a big station and when I get out I am in doubt whether to turn left or right. I choose left and walk about half a kilometre before I realise it was the wrong way. Bad map reading! Back again and this time it is easy.

Via Luigi Pulci 14 is a five storey building and the front door is locked. By the door telephone the top button reads "Accademia Scacchistica Romana". I press the button and the door opens immedeately with a buzz. I take the lift to the top floor, but there is no chess club here - only apartments. It is the same on the next floor and next and next.

A lady is leaving her apartment and I ask her where to find the chess club. I guess she is not used to perfect Italian, because it takes a while before she understands and explains that the chess club is in the basement. I thank her and continue my descent and 2-3 floors below street level I finally see a door with the name of the club.

The door is open and I enter. At a table just inside sits a mummy and to the right is a long table with six men playing blitz (fast chess). Nobody looks up. Politely I say "Buona sera" and surprisingly the mummy greets me likewise. I explain that I am a Dane on holiday in Rome and the mummy asks "For how long?", but does not react to the response.

You don't just barge in. I stand discretely behind the players and watch until someone asks me if I want to play. He speaks a bit of English and asks if I am a "maestro"? I don't know - I guess so, but I don't know the Italian titles.

We play a game with 10 minutes each. I win easily and a younger man takes his place. Time is reduced to 5 minutes for each player. This opponent is a better player, but none the less I win three games fairly easy.

" forte?" somebody asks from the other end of the room. " maestro!" my first opponent answers. A slim well-dressed gentleman with tie and Clark Gable moustache approaches. The young guy thanks me for the games and leaves the seat for the heavy artillery.

I am up against a cunning trap-player who has an annoying habit of whistling and drumming the table with his fingernails. I win the first game fairly easily - he does not resign even when the position is hopeless.

In the next game I make a blunder, loose a piece with no compensation and resign immediately. After this I win 3-4 games playing with a "dry" and technical style that exploits his bad endgame technique. I thank everybody for the games and find my way home. This time the metro is not crowded.

Evening in the neighbourhood

We take the bus to Via del Boschetto and get a table at La Vecchia Taverna. Helle gets a fish risotto and I a filling vegetable soup. Yummy! For main course Helle gets scallopini that are very tender but with too much flour, which the wine sauce cannot balance.

I get a big steak. I see the cook turn it over the firewood in the oven. It is very tender and tasty. We share a salad and a red house wine, which is a pleasant country wine with no di-da-di-da. For dessert we get tartufo nero, truffel ice.

We take coffee and liquor in the hotel bar. There is no soccer tonight and the service is almost quick.