When properly conducted, travel is a learning process, one that occurs on several levels. On one rudimentary plane, you discover places you like and didn't like. Sorrento falls into the latter category. I think we are all regretting the decision to spend an entire week in the city when there were places we would have enjoyed more. The girls would have wanted more time in Taormina, and I am already chafing at the idea that we are only going to have four days in Rome. Oh, to be able to reallocate your days on the fly.
We leave tourist-packed Sorrento on the 10:37 Circumvesuviana train. I know that some people must love this city, but its charm eludes me. I am not sorry to say goodbye.
Moreover, we are on our way to the Eternal City, Roma, whose charms are both self-evident and evergreen. They say that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, then you will return to Rome. Fortunately we have thrown sack loads in. May we never stop returning.
The Circumvesuviana deposits us in the Naples train station, and with just a few minutes to grab a bite, we decide to try the local McDonalds. I guard our great pile of luggage while Mary orders the imitation food products. “Just order me something vile,” I tell her. Ah, but she is a literalist at heart and does just that. We choke down our fare then bolt for the train.
The ride from Naples to Rome takes a little under two hours, and in a space of time that seems less than the Circumvesuviana trip from Sorrento to Naples, we are alighting at Roma Termini. We catch a cab outside the door of the station, and he whisks us through the crowded streets (narrowly missing 8 pedestrians, 7 buses, 6 motorcars, and 5 Vespas) to Piazza Navona.
Our flat is two blocks off the Piazza, next door to the Church of Santa Maria della Pace. Our building was formerly a convent, and as it turns out, the bedroom that Mary and I share was once the convent's chapel. Two brick arches support the ceiling over our heads. I wonder how the ghosts of nuns departed feel about a man sleeping in their chapel. Hopefully they were a forward thinking order.
As sundown nears, I pack camera equipment on my back and set off for the Vatican. Oh Roma. If it wasn't for the crazy traffic and the Vespa motor scooters threading the alleys at high speeds, I could certainly see settling here. There is a stunning church on nearly every corner and thousands of evocative alleys that I long to poke my head into. A person could spend a lifetime and never tire of the Eternal City.
As it grows dark, the crowds begin to drain from St Peter's square. The police are out in force tonight, directing the heavy flow of traffic and blowing shrill whistles at tourists and transgressing taxi cab drivers. I find a place midway down the Via della Conciliazione and wait for the lights of St Peter's to come on. I am not disappointed. At 7:00 PM, the Pope throws a switch and the largest cathedral in Christendom begins to glow. It is a stirring sight, Michaelangelo's great dome shimmering on the skyline.
I snap away for a while, and then trudge back to the flat. I have found a pizzeria that looks promising, and the crew dutifully troops out to dinner. The pizzas are excellent—the authentic thin crust of the north—and reasonably priced to boot. A lucky find, tucked a few streets off the Piazza Navona.