Our day was delayed a bit because we had to wait to switch rooms, but after all that was taken care of we headed over to the Roman National Museum. Here began our vacation of marble heads. I thought there were a lot here, but I had no idea what was in store for us. The exhibits were really excellent, and I cannot tell you the delight in being in a museum where things are labeled, maintained, and properly displayed (sorry Egyptian Museum in Cairo, but you’re kind of like walking through some grandmother’s basement of oddities).
Afterwards, listening to my father's advise to get lunch early since a lot of places close down in early afternoon, we grabbed a bite at a little cafeteria that was around the corner. We randomly sat at one end of a six-top where another couple was at the other end. As we were eating, they were finishing and speaking to the server and we heard they were Americans. Ron, being the social one, asked where they were from and we started chatting only to discover that they were State Department folk based in Barcelona here on vacation. Small world!
By this point we were ready to attempt the bus system. Ron has a great love of public transportation, and I will admit that he has sparked something in me that enjoys it as well. We knew from reading the guide books, that you need to get your bus pass validated once you’re on-board, and that random spot checks are done by ticket takers to make sure you have a valid pass. If you don’t, there’s a 51 Euro penalty! So we found a bus heading toward Piazza Navona, got on, stood with the masses and Ron sidled up to the validation machine, inserted our passes, and nothing happened. No lights, no sound, nothing. He tried again. Nothing. He came back to me and we proceeded to witness the locals attempt to use it as well, to no avail. Broken. So we kept our fingers crossed and enjoyed the jostling ride. We weren’t entirely sure where to exit, but Ron asked a gentleman next to us which stop for Navona and he said next one. Just at this point, Ron was approached, through the crowd, by two ticket takers who asked to see our passes. Having visions of a 51 Euro fine each, Ron got a little flummoxed as he handed our passes over and, my brilliant half-Italian husband actually uttered the words, “No worko.” For the next minute we were consumed with watching them verify that the validation machine did not work and missed our stop. When they finally hand-validated them and gave them back my brain suddenly realized what Ron had said and I broke out into a fit of giggles that honestly lasted for days. All I had to do was think, “No worko,” and the giggles would erupt. Ron claims he doesn’t recall saying it, but then adds that he was under stress. Brain “no worko.” (Amazingly, when Ron fired back at me and asked what “work” was in Italian I actually uttered, lavoro. Brain “worko.”)
When we did finally manage to get off the bus, a stop or two late, we came upon the Basilica of Saint Andrea Della Valle, which had wonderfully impressive frescos, paintings, and architecture.
We did finally find Piazza Navona, and we would find ourselves here several times throughout our trip. It was a beautiful little square with three fountains, the big central one created by our friend Bernini to represent the four major rivers in the world (yes, the Nile was one), and currently there was a Christmas festival complete with booths, lights and wonderful sugary smells.
We wandered through the church of Saint Agnes in Agony (allegedly her head is on display as a relic here, but there was construction and I just didn’t feel it was appropriate to go poking around behind the plastic tarps looking for the poor woman’s skull). From here we found the Palazzo Altemps Museum, which was housed in a stunning 15th century palace. More marble heads, busts, and full statutes on display. Again, really excellent museum.
By this point we were waning a bit and as we wandered back through Navona, Ron noticed that the gentlemen selling the sugar donut-like things were from Bangladesh. I’m sure there was an underlying need to redeem himself from his “no worko” exclamation, and having a brain that can store obscure random phrases from many languages (although he can’t remember to put the jar of coffee back after using it), he decided to order a donut and share his well-honed Bengali phrase, “One matzo ball soup, please.” It wasn’t intended to make sense, but you should have seen the men beam with smiles and laughter, once they realized Ron was speaking Bengali. In the past, Ron has used this phrase in New York with great success at getting, not only a bowl of soup, but typically a free cookie as well. Maybe if I offer a free cookie, he’ll put the coffee jar away.
By now we were revitalized with the sugar coursing through our systems, so we wandered a little and found a bus stop for the 64 bus. We ended up taking this bus a lot, as did most other Romans. It was never not-crowded. From Termini Station, we walked towards our hotel and had dinner at Andrea’s, which was a little local trattoria behind our hotel. The food was fantastic, but by the end of the meal Ron was almost nodding off at the table. We limped our way back to the room where we collapsed. This was definitely a two Ibuprofen day.