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Trip Log 15.  Day 15. To Roma, via Hadrian's Villa Ruins

Wednesday October 27, 2010. Get Thee To A (Roma) Nunnery

We're up and packed before the crack of dawn.

Aiming for 7:30, we are out of here at 7:20. Let's see, I dropped two keys under the office mat, whre I noticed a little orange and white cat inside the office. Haven't seen you around.

It's just starting to lighten up, looking like a beautiful day coming.

Sharon is complaining about the tiny amount of remaining space in her luggage when Shirley says to Sharon, "Oh no. You couldn't-a ordered a tea towel. You HADDA get a cow bell." This cracks us all up, and we are off to a roaring good start, me at the head of the list now that my badwater problems are behind me, as it were.

When we started loading the van, Sharon said to me, "Where's the package of travel books for Rome? Well like when you play a game of Tetris, how I pack is to place all the stuff going into the suitcase into a semi ring around the luggage. Then when it's time to load the next thing in, I search the circle for the closest thing that will fit in the next "hole." I'm guessing what she's looking for is in my big luggage piece, in the middle, deep in, where I might have found such a hole during packing. The reason I say that is because I can sort of peek under everything on the edges of the suitcase well, but not in the middle without exploding the whole works.

Sharon told me last night to leave this out, and which I promptly forgot about when I was packing. So now I have to find it.

Fifteen minutes later, Jerry has unpacked all the luggage from the back, so I can get out my big piece. Without totally unloading it, I can't find the Rome books, and Sharon finally says, "Don't worry about it. I don't want to delay us any."

You know? It'd been simpler if I'd have not packed the Rome books, but I didn't listen to her actual request, just the words. Which I then forgot. Her actual request was to leave the books of Rome out so she could read interesting things about Rome as we drove today. And for that I'm sorry, because she digs up the most fascinating stuff. {I've made that my job for the trip. When we are going to a new town or museum, I read all the Rick Steves' information about it and then (annoyingly at times, I'm sure) I drop in tidbits of that information when we are there. "Did you know that Hadrian's Villa was built in.....?" I love to know those interesting bits of history and wanted to read up while we are on the way to Rome.}

I close up my big piece, Jerry repacks the back of the van and closes the back gate. Then it's in and off again.

We have programmed Hadrian's Villa address into Jerry's Garmin GPS {No, no, they do it while we sit in the car at 7:40 and try to figure out why the Garmin won't take it then she starts talking to us, showing us the way. We are calling her "Lady Gaga" by the way} and by about 7:50 we make it through a key traffic circle, after which we are headed for Roma, no Bologna. It's partly overcast and cool. I love to hear Italians say 'Roma.' It sounds so much cooler than 'Rome.' So I'm gonna start saying it too.

And singin' it. "No matter where you Roma, you can always come homa..." xxx

Sharon is seeing a large dark-backed gull over the fields, but we can't figure out what it is.

Sharon says we must not forget to write about the extra cost incurred because of the mechanical problems at JFK, and how they were handled. Oh, "it's all goin' in the letter".

9:15 am and we pull into a stazione, for a rest room stop. It's cool, partly sunny and the weather is identical to it was where we started this morning. I expect it to get warmer as we get towards Rome. We're going to Rome. Doesn't that sound cool? To Roma.

Back on the road by 9:30 and I'm trying to think of this song when Shirley starts talking. I can't think of anything else when she's talking. Shirley sings this, to the tune of "When the Moon Hits Your Eye, Like a Big Piece of Pie, that's Amore," by Dean Martin. "When the cheese's been outside, and the cat's can't abide, that's a-roma."

11:00 am, and we're parked in the inner circle here at Hadrian's Villa ruins. We learned that it's free to get in if you are handicapped, and can take one person in with you. So we're all in free. We drive up to the beginning of the ruins. {We had again been worried about parking the car for a number of hours in the public parking lot with all the luggage in the back. This parking lot is also, strangely,divided into sections by tall bushes so you can't see your car after you go into the Villa grounds so any burgler could break into it without anyone being able to see. So we go in to ask about handicapped accommodations and they let us drive into the guarded grounds to park closer to the ruins.}

Now the funny thing about all this is that I was expecting a fully functional villa, all working, with flowing water, and amphora and grass and domes and homes. Not some ruins. Ah me. I tell Sharon and she says, "Didn't you know that?" Ah, expectations. One of life's problems. But you know, ALL YOU HAVE TO be able to DO, is to instantly abandon them, take what you get, and BAM, you can be happy.

We locate the main office and in we go. There is a wonderful 3D model of what the Villa used to look like.

Then we're out, into the ruins.

That's a European robin. We walk the ruins up and down, and take many fine ruined pictures. Er, ruins pictures.

(L and R) The first thing we come upon after entering through the big arch is a huge, shallow, rectangular pond, filled with fish. That gets Jerry's attention.

So now just have a look at some photos of the villa. {This and other villas were places for the royalty to get out of Rome during the hot summers. They are situated in the hills and have lots of trees and water to be cooler. The water is all from the aquaducts that brought water into Rome. In fact, we learn that ALL the water in the fountains and water faucets is still brought into Rome through old aquaducts and is "Safe to drink."}


(L) Not many columns were standing, but these must have unusally good balance. (R) Doesn't this look like Dick Tracy or some 50s detective busted through a stone wall?

(R) Shirley is particularly interested in patterns during this trip. She will undoubtedly quilt a piece or two based on patterns she finds here. And not just in obvious things like mosaic floors, but on different crops on fields covering a hillside.

(L and R) Roman assembly instruction manual: "Place Head A on top of Column B."

IR) I'm not sure what town is in the background, but I think it might be Tivoli. We are sort of northeast of Rome here.

(L) These are called umbrella trees, because of the way they are trimmed.

(L) A piece of bark from some kind of pine or fir tree with a most interesting hole in it. {Jerry sits while we walk, under this tree, eating walnuts he finds on the ground. He gives me one and they are delicious. Thanks, Hadrian}


As we finish up, we exit through an olive grove, and there are lots of birds about. Let's see, Tree Sparrows, Sharon and Shirley saw a Long-tailed Tit, and I just saw a number of European goldfinches, with their red face mask. Very colorful.

We make it back to the car, extract the remaining food we have, and have a picnic, right out in the sun, on some park benches. Ah, my life is in ruins...

OK, folks, it's time to get down and dirty. Jerry's going to do the unthinkable, and actually drive on the streets of Rome. We have the address of our convent accommodations, and "we're goin' in." Come on Garmin, we're counting on you.

Several near misses and lots of frustrations bring us to our convent, known by several names, but "Santa Sofia" is on the location placard. It's not by any means my idea of what a convent might look like. It's a common looking multi-story apartment building, with double doors that close and lock in the front. {It is an order of Catholic sisters of Saint Anne from the Ukraine. None of them speak much English, but it is Ukrainian not speaking, not Italian not speaking English. When I ask the sister at the front desk after being shown to our rooms, "How do I turn on the steam heat?" She says, "Oh, we haven't turned on the heat YET" They do give us many blankets so I can get warm after I get into bed. It is clean and neat with a bathroom in every room and close to everything we want to see so we love it.}

The convent is, oddly for me, located right on a very active piazza, with fountain, coffee shops, a magazine kiosk, and lots of young people sitting around, having coffee and talking. But the first thing we notice is a group of young women singing lively spiritual songs. Very nice. {They had the most beautiful voices and it is so special to be greeted by their singing. I thought they might be girls on an Italian tour until I noticed a container for money that they wanted people to contribute. Maybe they ARE on a tour and need money to get home!}

We park and unload, and I call our car rental return place. They say, yes, bring it on over. Sharon and Shirley stay and begin unpacking, while Jerry and I (Jerry, actually. I'm just riding shotgun) drive to Europcar, or CarEuropa. Whatever.

We have filled the tank, but it may be down just a hair by the time we get to the drop off, but I don't want to add to the driving frustrations by trying to find a fueling station too.

We nearly make it there, then we do. There's no parking places open, so we double park and I go in. "May I see your contract?" the fellow asks. I give him my paperwork, and he says, "No, the contract. The CONTRACT!" So I look through everything I've got, we check the glove compartment and all the pockets and, sir there ain't no contract." "I need the contract," he demands. It's like they don't even WANT the car.

Finally, I suggest that he close us out without the contract, and he sends his assistant out to try and find the contract, and to get the mileage and gas gauge readings.

Then after a bit, he says, "OK." And we're off. We find a taxi, flag him down, and he delivers us to the convent. He's a young, good looking guy, and after talking about sports and some stuff, I ask if he's married. No. "Do you have a girlfriend?" He says no, that'd just be trouble. "Tranquil!" he says, and sort of grins. Then we're at the convent, so we pay him off and up to our rooms we go.

But the girls aren't here, they have gone to see the Colosseum to take photos and check the place out. {We see these boys playing soccer (football!) with a ball made of tape rolled into a ball. They are in a square that has two entrances and they use each entrance as their goal. Kids around the world, always finding a way to play.}

We can't find them anywhere, so we head that way too. I think I withdraw 200 euros from a cash machine attached to a bank (the ONLY arrangement to use, according to Rick Steves, meaning don't get cash from a stand-alone machine, not attached to a bank. They have very high fees), then Jerry says, "There they are." And they're walking this way, giant grins on faces.

We want to see, so they turn around and we all go to the Colosseum for more photos.

(L) Just your average Roman street, with Colosseum visible at upper end. (R) The golden light of sunset warms up this building near the walkway overpass.

(R and L) And to imagine the USC Trojans play football here. Long way to go.

We unpack our luggage, wash up, and agree to meet to go out to dinner. But this only after Jerry and Shirley's wall tank (for the toilet) overflows a little. Rough seas, Captain. I don't remember where we ate dinner, but Sharon might. {It might have actually been the Chinese! restaurant across from our convent, I know we did eat there one night. We have to be back in our convent before midnight curfew. Not a problem for this tired crew.}

Otherwise, good night.

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