Rome, Italy - A Roman Holiday, page 2
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By Meeta Gajjar Parker
Photography by Frank and Meeta Parker

We spent time at the Roman ruins, at the forum which was the heart of the old city.  The ruins are quite extensive and can take awhile to explore on foot.  It was that day that we came across the man working on artist’s row.  We walked by a few painters, and came up to one artist who was painting.  We liked his work.  He had his paints out in his aisle. 

We watched him finish up a painting, then asked him how much it would cost us to buy one of his small portraits.  It was the equivalent of $6 US.  It seemed like a great deal, so we bought it.  We were excited as we continued walking down the road.  We decided to see some more paintings by some of the other artists, so we got close enough to see another painter’s artwork.  Surprisingly, he was painting the same picture we had just purchased from the other guy.  Frank and I looked at each other and realized that we had just been duped.  That nice framed picture hangs on the wall of our powder room.  It does bring smiles to our faces when we look at it and reminisce.

Article continues after photo

The attraction known as “St. Paul outside the Walls”, in Rome, draws many visitors who want to see what is inside.  This building holds a portrait of every Pope that has ever lived.  In 1994, there were spots for only seven more.  Some people believe that when those spots are full it will be the end of the world.  Our guide told us not to worry because every time it gets close to getting full, they build another room. 
Getting a photograph of Michelangelo’s statue of Moses was very difficult.  The statue is kept in a dark room, then once we paid, the lights would come on.  The problem was that every time the lights came on, tourists from the four corners of the globe would appear in front of the statue just as we would lift our cameras up for the shot.  We did not give up, and after several attempts, we walked away with a photograph of this famous statue. 
The Gypsies in Rome are a pervasive problem and we were aware that we could run into them.  To prevent theft, Frank wore a money belt and I wore my purse strap over my head to make it difficult for anyone to grab my purse and run.  Somehow, Bharat had managed to get a bright colored canvas bag for our purchases that had now drawn attention to us while coming back to our hotel at night.  We were on the bus and a Gypsy had honed in on us.  We were nervous.  We did not know what his intentions were, but he eventually got distracted by another man who came onto the bus and stole his seat.  He followed him off the bus and we were saved.
One of the highlights of our trip was going to Naples, Sorrento and the Isle of Capri.  When we arrived in Naples, the Italians taught us how to cross the street in Italy.  We stood at the traffic light for ten minutes, watching the lights change.  The cars never stopped coming. They were flying by us at 60 miles an hour, straight through the red light and had no intention of stopping.  A local took pity on us and showed us how to cross the street.  He stepped right into the traffic and the cars all stopped on a dime.  It was quite baffling.  In Sorrento, we were taken by the impressive inlay work that the woodworkers accomplish.  In Capri, we marveled at the beauty of this Island with its white buildings against the mountains.  They transferred us onto a small bus that took us around and up the mountainous terrain until we reached a restaurant high up in the mountains.  I can still remember the savory taste of the fresh mozzarella in our sandwich that melted in our mouths that day.  We enjoyed the breathtaking views from the restaurant and after lunch, the little bus took us to where we could see their famous soaring Faraglioni rocks.  In ancient times, Emperor Tiberius loved this Island and if someone made him angry he had them flung to their deaths from these very cliffs.  We were really hoping to get the chance to experience the Blue Grotto, but because of the high winds that day, that expedition was impossible.
Two things about Italy baffled us.  The Italian people were very thin and there were no benches to rest upon if you got tired.  We sat down to dinner and experienced the normal language barrier. That day, Bharat had come up with a creative solution as he called it.  He pulled his notebook out and drew a picture of meat, put a line through it, and repeated this for a chicken.  I was totally amused.  He called it international sign language.   As vegetarians, we sometimes get surprised in a foreign country when we discover that the word peppers means pepperoni.  Our pasta arrived in surprisingly small bowls, the size of our cereal bowls at home.  We concluded that the reason why Italians were thin is that they have smaller sized meals.  They proceeded to re-educate us.  As we finished our meals, all the rest of the restaurant patrons continued to eat course after course.  They told us they would be there for the next three hours.  We were shocked. 
On our last day, Bharat was tired and decided to stay at the hotel and rest.  We took the bus back into Rome to see the Castle that was closed during the tour we had taken earlier in the week.  Surprisingly, it was closed again so we decided to create a plan B which was to go back to the Vatican and spend some more time exploring it.  We had already decided not to go to the group blessing on Sundays at 12:00 noon, where the Pope appears in a tiny window to millions of tourists who flock there to get a glimpse of him.  We thought our time might be better spent elsewhere.  When we got to the Vatican, we were able to get much better pictures, we weren’t with a crowded tour bus, and areas that had previously been blocked off were now accessible.  We had not noticed the Vatican Jewel Museum before and decided to see their extensive jewel collection.  Displayed there were huge precious stones in various forms such as crowns.  We were busy browsing when we noticed an entourage coming toward us.  Secret Service men asked us to stand back and then our eyes got really big.  We were looking directly at Pope John Paul II. He was so close, we could almost touch him.  We looked at each other and both of us thought the same thing.  We followed the entourage out of the room.  The Pope was about to conduct his 5:00 mass and we were going to attend it.  It was truly an amazing experience.  There are no accidents and this was really happening to us.  The mass was completely in Latin and the Pope had a powerful presence. 
When it was time for Communion, I wanted to get Communion from the Pope too.  Frank told me I should not because I’m not Catholic.  He has since told me that if he had to do it over again, he wouldn’t have discouraged me, and told me what to say and do.  So, I sat down.  Frank got in the Pope’s line.  The staff was trying to usher people into the other three lines for communion, but Frank decided firmly that no matter what, he was not going to move out of the Pope’s line.  He got his communion from Pope John Paul II.  It was a very special day and to think we lived it!  Bharat was disappointed not to have been there.  I suppose it was not his karma. 
Our Roman holiday was incredible and we can truly say that Rome has so much to offer to those who want to come and explore it.  The rich history, famous artists, ruins, friendly people, diverse landscape, cuisine and wine are enough to entice anyone to want to experience Rome intimately. 

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