Day 29 – Rome

Last night I heard a lot of fireworks but was too tired to check them out. This morning from my window I see the colors of Italy’s flag, streams of red, green and white smoke, released by planes flying over Rome for the Republic Day celebration.

It’s raining, and the buses have changed routes as streets in the city center are closed off due to the festivities. The changed routes must be documented somewhere in fine print if only you could find the fine print and have the patience to decipher it.

I’m heading for the Palazzo Madama, seat of the Italian Senate, once again pretty sure I’ll avoid mobs of tourists. The bus that should take me to Piazza Madama winds through the Borghese Gardens, and I start to wonder where I’ll end up.

The driver is of little help through the plexiglass that shields him from pesky passengers like me. A woman tells me to get off now and walk up a street she points to. It’s a long way but the only way, she says. With no other guidance, I take her advice and debark the bus.

I find myself in the rain at the Piazza della Repubblica.

The wolves that adorn this fountain have their teeth locked together by couples declaring their love with lock and key.

I notice an interesting building and decide to go in for some shelter.

It’s the Basilica di Santa María degli Angeli e dei Martiri, built inside the ruined frigidarium of the Roman Baths of Diocletian. The Basilica was constructed in the 16th century following an original design by Michelangelo. An amazing Roman bath made into a Roman Catholic Church by an artistic genius.

A very small museum shows the history of the building and Michelangelo’s plans for the vaulted ceiling.

A Japanese chorale group sings a beautiful song to an appreciative audience under the enormous structure.

Ready to leave, I try for a taxi, but the FREENOW app that served me so well in Spain does not come up with a driver. It’s the holiday and the rain.

I start to walk, but it’s raining too hard. Despite my umbrella, my feet are soaking wet, my polyester raincoat is sticking to my skin. I pop into another church. This one has a Filipino congregation. A young girl who has been preparing for the mass says something about the sanctity of the Eucharist and not wanting people to be distracted. I take that as a hint that the very few tourists like myself who have found shelter from the rain should take off before the mass starts. So it’s out in the wet again.

Across from this church is the Fountain of Moses, but it offers no shelter.

I continue to walk in the rain and come across a huge block-long building. It’s the Quirinale Palace, which, according to wiki, “has served as the residence for thirty popes, four kings of Italy and twelve presidents of the Italian Republic.

Under these umbrellas are visitors who have reserved tickets for the Quirinale museum.

This man tells me what’s what. He is a security guard for the President. I ask him where the President is, and he says he doesn’t know. Security guards are everywhere due to the festivities.

To get out of the rain and look for a restroom, I go into an impressive building that is open to the public.

It turns out to be the Palazzo Venezia, once home to Popes, Cardinals and ambassadors, now a national museum. I finally get the benefit of the day’s free museum entry.

From the terrace I can see the construction site at the Memorial to Vittorio Emanuele II.

The palazzo was built by Cardinal Pietro Barbo, who became Pope Paul II (1464-1471). Many Popes and other dignitaries stayed here in the ensuing centuries.

Cardinal Barbo must have had a lot of coins to save. These clay items are labeled “salvadanai,” which translates to “piggy banks.”

Mussolini took over the Palazzo Venezia and made it his fascist headquarters. His desk stood in front of the fireplace.

After a very interesting and surprising visit, I continue walking. The rain has nearly stopped. I pass by the Largo Torre di Argentina, which is said to be the site where Caesar was assassinated. It is also known for its cat sanctuary. I decide to forgo the descent.

But I do decide, when I come across an artisanal gelato shop, that a gelato is in order. I choose a cioccolato fondente made from Ecuadorian chocolate. Yes! yummy 😋 A window lets customers see the gelato being made.

Down the street another window shows workers making pasta.

The window belongs to the Osteria Da Fortunata. Patient tourists wait in a long line for a table.

One street off the Piazza Navona, a row of palm readers have set up shop.

I have finally reached the Palazzo Madama and pick up a ticket for the 4:30 tour. I go across the street and have a late lunch at the place on the left. It is surprisingly peaceful despite all the crowds going to and from Piazza Navona.

I enjoy the tour of Palazzo Madama, the seat of Italy’s Senate, although I would like to take photos. The guide speaks of the building’s history, saying that its is built on the ruins of Nero’s baths. It belonged to the Medici family and housed the Medici cardinals before they became Popes. The name comes from Madama Margherita of Austria who married a Medici.

In the very velvety and somber Senate Hall, where the Senators vote, I couldn’t help thinking of the recent shameful behavior degrading our U.S. Senate.

As we leave, we each receive a goodie bag.

Tomorrow I go to Fabriano for a book and paper making tour. A new adventure.

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