When we finally woke up the second time yesterday, the sky was almost as blue as New Mexico’s in the winter. But here in Rome, green leaves had come out on the trees outside our window and the bells of the church across the street were tolling. Scooters were buzzing, horns were tooting from tiny cars, and the air brakes on the bus hissed loudly. Get up, said the world. Everything is waiting for you.
With all the walking we do, we usually sleep late. It might be our age, but we don’t feel old. It might have been Anne Lamotte who said, “I don’t feel like I am old. I feel like a young person with a lot of things wrong with her.”
The weather was predicted to be very pleasant, and it looked like a good day to do some wandering around the old neighborhood of Trastevere, an area in the southwest part of Rome. Our friend Mary had spoken highly of Trastevere, so we decided to visit for the day.
We had learned to use the subway and the bus systems. We could buy tickers for the Metro from machines just at the turnstiles . Bus tickets were purchased at tobacco stores. But, this was urban transportation that I’d dreaded. Guide books, our host, friends, and other sources had warned us that there were pickpockets in abundance on these rides. As it happened, we were never bumped or groped by anyone. Perhaps we looked too old to have anything valuable on us.
It was late morning when we arrived in Trastevere, and the narrow streets had very few tourists, only a few locals going on there daily business. Sheila asked a woman who was just going into her residence where we might find some good coffee. She indicated a little spot that we’d just gone by, so we retraced our steps and entered.
It was obvious the moment we walked through the door that in was a little cafe that catered to local residents. The young woman behind the pastry case spoke very little English. She had long dark hair tied back with a scarf, dark eyes with long black eyelashes and wore a white top with black slacks.
Not that I noticed.
She pointed out the different pastries, but it was only the black cherry tart that we could identify. We ordered two pieces and our usual coffees, an Americano and a Cappuccino.
There was an elderly couple sitting at a table across from us (older than us!) who were laughing and talking with an old guy with a blue, corduroy cap and dark jacket as well as a middle aged fellow with a lot of tattoos and jewelry. The guy with the ink seemed to work at the cafe.
After a bit the woman was by herself as she was absorbed in her smart device while she rolled a cigarette with a little machine. I was familiar with the device as I’d had one in college that I used to roll joints.
Later we tried to find the botanical gardens that were shown on our map. We followed the winding, narrow streets the best we could toward where we thought the gardens might be. I was a little suspicious of my compass as the poles had mysteriously reversed a couple of years ago, but Sheila confirmed its accuracy with her iPhone compass. We seemed to be heading in the right direction.
After climbing a long set of stairs that seemed to lead in the right direction, we found ourselves in front of a gate that had a sign indicating that we’d arrived at the botanical garden. The gate was locked. The sign, in Italian, also seemed to say that the entrance was elsewhere, on the other side of the huge garden.
The stairs had been steep and long. We were wheezing and puffing, trying to recover from the long climb as well as being a bit pissed that we couldn’t enter the garden from this point. But, after recovering from our acute fatigue we went on to explore the area which turned out to have fabulous view of the city. Wandering on we stopped to enjoy views through the branches of pines as well as blooming fruit trees that spread the fragrance of spring. We could see the colosseum, the Palatine Hills and the ruins of the forum. In the far distance, mountains were covered with snow. Here, away from the noise and bustle of the city, we could hear a variety of birds praising the day with song. Now the long climb up the stair seemed very much worth the effort.
We came to an area where a number of people were looking over a short, rock wall. After checking out the view and taking a few photos, we became curious. It was crowded and difficult to see. We asked each other, “what do they see down there?” Maybe there were animals, possibly pea fowl. Lions? Elephants?
Just as we were getting close and about to look over the wall——BOOM! Smoke filled the air around us, and our ears were ringing. As the crowd cleared, we could finally look over and see a couple of soldiers rolling a canon back into the bunker below. A WWII artillery piece had been fired to mark the noon hour.