A stroll in the city centre
Our last day in Rome and my birthday. It is difficult to comprehend that I am now 50 years old. When I get out of the bathroom Helle waits with a birthday card and presents.
At the breakfast table the Danes' "lead dog" is once again wearing a bleached Tee-shirt, shorts and bath slippers. Several of the Danes, who were eager and full of expectations Tuesday, now look tormented and their body language tells a story about stiff legs and sore feet caused by too much walking and too few breaks in shady cafés and piazzas.
We take the metro to Tiburtina. The train to Tivoli leaves at nine from track 16. I buy a ticket at the last moment and we run to track 16, but the platform is not accessible! We try track 17 and 19, but with no success.
The next train leaves at 11:34 and takes an hour to get to Tivoli, so we drop the trip and go back to Termini. Here we change to metro A and get off by The Spanish Steps.
Unfortunately all the fashionable shops in Via Condotti are closed on Sundays, so we'll get no Dior, Cartier, Valentino or Spada today and will have to make do with window-shopping.
Our course leads us towards Pantheon and in Via Uffici Del Vicario we find a shady café, Giolitti, where we relax outside with espressi and water.
We are not far from the tourists' pilgrimage route and pay a visit to the Trevi fountain, but don't waste any coins. There are incredibly many tourists here, and where there are tourists the hawkers home in with all their junk.
We get on a bus at Piazza Venezia and walk to Café Fantini for a light lunch. But Fantini is closed on Sundays and instead we find a place by the Maggiore church. The photo shops electronis sign shows that the temperature is between 32 and 34 in the shade.
Back home Helle falls asleep and I finish my book. Outside the room a telephone rings frequently - annoying. Hotel Ariston prides itself of four stars and the official rent for our room is 240 €.
It is simply not worth that much; the room is so small that you can hardly manoeuvre, the bathroom door jams against the floor, the safety box does not work, the toilet's small flush does not work, water takes forever to drain from the sink and there are black finger marks on the walls that could easily be cleaned. In the corridors the carpets are worn thin and the walls are dirty. The staff has exercised inefficiency to perfection.
We pack most of our stuff and strangely it does not seem to be as bulky as when we left home. Maybe it is because the clothes are not folded neatly. At six we walk by a new route to Via Broschetto.
La Vecchia Trattoria is closed so we need to find another place, but there is plenty of time. We go to the piazza with the fountain and order white wine and water. A dark cloud sneaks in over the rooftops and rumbles with displeasure.
The waiter orders everybody to get indoors and starts saving tablecloths and ashtrays before it is too late. We sneak around the corner where the parasol looks sturdy, but soon after it gives in to the flood and we flee inside.
Lightning and rain whip down and the street is transformed to a frothing stream. I am happy not to be where it ends! The room is hot and sultry. Next to us a lone Asian girl shares her adventures in the eternal city with some postcards.
Two American couples eat and are comfortable. A second bottle is opened and the ladies now chat freely, while the men are bored stiff. One of them in particular looks as if he could fall asleep any moment.
Half an hour later the storm has passed, and the waiter gets a smoke outside before he wipes tables and chairs dry. The sky is blue again; the air temporarily clean and the birds test their voices. Guests trickle out and look up in wonder.
In Via del Boschetto 91 we find ristorante Il Cove, where the menu looks good. We get a table next to an American company (12-16 Texans) that is noisy because they are so many.
I get ham and melon as first course, and it is delicious. The main course is tenderloin and also delicious, but the salad we ordered as contorni is extremely salty and inedible.
When asked the waiter claims that the expensive red wine, a Dolcetta Asti, is all right and healthy. If that is true the producer has cultivated a sharp taste with a mouldy bouquet. A mixed experience and for the first time in 50 years a bottle of red wine leaves my table half empty. Not a place I can recommend.
At the bus stop just before Termini two uniformed men board the bus with a merry "Ciao a tutti!". They want to check tickets. The very first passenger has no ticket and tries a long explanation, and the fine is written politely with a smile. Our week cards trigger a polite nod and a "Grazie".
Monday June 20th 2005
Now it is over - we are going home. Helle has had diarrhoea all night and definitely does not want breakfast. Like when we arrived the Ciampino airport is utter chaos, and it certainly does not help when the computers break down before check in.
The plane takes off with a 45 minutes delay and the pilot cannot catch up. Fortunately our train tickets have room for delay and we get to the platform 15 minutes before departure.