That was a long flight. The snow began to fall as we boarded the first plane in Prince George this morning and while I was looking forward to warmer climates my thoughts were with my family. Winter is not my favorite season. It is lovely here in the high teens but rain is threatening. A short flight from PG to Vancouver; then Vancouver to Toronto where we endured a 4 hour layover and a much too expensive airport meal until finally the long hop over the Atlantic to Rome. I was feeling the fatigue when we stepped off that final plane with a train ride and short walk ahead of us. Dad weathered things fairly well but he was looking a little pale when we stepped onto the train for the ride into Rome.
Rome smells of stale cigarretes. Home to the greatest of renissance artists the city has fallen to modern spray paint enthusiasts. Every sign, every train, every brick wall save the ruins is the canvas of the masses. The homeless are not friendless; often a dog or two accompanies them on the littered and broken sidewalks. The city is everywhere in disrepair. Broken concrete and fading paint blend with the ruins and the litter to tell the story of former greatness, of better times.
We walked a block or two past the hotel and had to back track. It was easy to miss. It is literally a hole in the wall. A small bronze plaque next to a nondescript wood door is all that announces the Independence Square Hotel. We had to ring the buzzer to the second floor for the proprietor to let us in. The doors are so narrow that even I must turn to squeeze myself in. The hotel is closer to a Bed and Breakfast but without the breakfast (correction the proprietor just knocked on my door to let me know he’d made a mistake and breakfast is included). The hotel is home to 4-5 rooms sharing two bathrooms. The room includes a sink and mirror though. A single bed and no prospect of a cot. Thank heaven it is a king bed. It made little difference to me as I was unconcious as soon as my head touched the pillow.
It was just after noon (Rome time) when we let our bags down in the hotel room. Our day started at 4:15am and it was now almost exactly 24 hours later. I planned to sleep for two hours and then get moving. I really don’t wish to be wide awake at 1am. The two hours became three before I could wrestle myself up let alone dad. We headed out on foot without any real plan.
We played the tourists. Walking through narrow streets lined with scooters and Smart cars we caught glimpses of the Coliseum in the distance while wandering past nameless brick ruins. In front of the Santa Maria Maggiore an African man selling baubles and trinkets had a “gift” in our hands in moments and was requesting a “donation.” He got his donation. It makes me wonder if we are prepared for India. Perhaps by the end of the week.
An oblisk stands in front of the Santa Maria, chipped and fading with an inscription so badly worn that I could never decipher it even if I knew Latin. We walked past the ristorantes and the pizzerias dodging traffic and weaving our way through the masses. The open doors of a church, St. Pauls’s, and the works of a local artist drew us off the streets for a moment. An Opera was scheduled for this ancient edifice but it was many hours away and we were already fading fast.
We stopped for dinner at a cafe a few streets from our hotel. The food was excellent and surely enhanced by the night air and the atmosphere of night traffic and passing strangers chatting in Italian. It was 6pm when we reached the hotel again and 6:20 when dad slipped into what I wish were a quiet sleep. His nose horn is playing an incongruous melody behind me as I type this out. He’ll be wide awake at 3am.