I made it. My convoluted itinerary worked out, and I finally made it.
I flew from Flint to Atlanta to Frankfurt and finally Rome. Why? Well, I got a deal. The good people of Delta got me to Frankfurt on time, where my transfer went off without a hitch and the very efficient people of Lufthansa got me to Rome. Hopefully the trip home works equally well.
My hotel in Rome has a shuttle bus from the airport. I went to my designated area (spot 30) where the bus should be found, and there was, indeed, a bus there. The driver, however, told me that my shuttle would be waiting elsewhere and sent me away. I double checked my information and returned to the area where the driver was now sending somebody else away. This other gentleman and I walked together while he called the hotel, the representative informing him that we were correct, and should wait at spot 30.
The driver was not happy when we returned again. He aggressively tried to get rid of us. This time I told him, in Italian, that we were indeed in the right place and we were going to wait anyway. He turned in silence, going back to his seat, where he sat glaring at us. He was clearly annoyed by our presence, and after a few minutes watching him sulk our shuttle arrived and the new driver told him to move his bus. As it turns out, I think he was squatting and trying to keep his parking spot, because everybody on our bus had been redirected by him.
Our hotel is not really in Rome – it is well beyond the perimeter of the city, because that’s where the conference hotel is. I, of course, am not at the conference hotel, a conscious choice, because the conference hotel isn’t near a subway line or train station – it’s 30 minutes from the nearest public transportation. My hotel is near the train station at least.
The entire thing is ridiculous, however. Who puts a conference near a great city, rather than in the city itself? That’s like putting a conference in New Jersey and calling it New York! It isn’t New York, so don’t call it that!
After checking in, I headed into Rome. The trip from the periphery involves taking a train to one of the numerous Roman train stations, but this time it is one of the stations normal tourists avoid. I disembark at the station and find my way to a subway, which I then use to get to the ancient city center. It is rather frustrating and confusing, because for the most part Metro stations are near the train stations, but not together.
Still none of this stops me and I am soon in the dense, loud, fragrant streets of the ancient city, dodging Vespas, automobiles, motorcycles, and other pedestrians. I have no formal mission, but in a strange way I manage to avoid most of the major tourist sights for most of the day.
I did find the Piazza del Popolo, with its towering Obelisk of Rameses II, from Hieropolis. I’m not certain that I’ve ever been here before. How has that happened? I don’t know.
Finally, it is time for dinner and I have a goal. It is, of course on the opposite side of the city from where I am. A 30 minute walk (passing the Spanish Steps) and one gelato later, I arrive at the Hostaria da Nerone.
There are some restaurants and meals that haunt me, that I think back to longingly.These are meals that I remember and want again and again. The pizza of Naples haunts me, for example, and I cannot find its like at home. Hostaria da Nerone haunts me for its spaghetti alle vongole: spaghetti with clams. I cannot find anything so simple, clean, and balanced back in the US, so this must be my first meal in Rome, and it is wonderful.
From where I sit, I can see a stone archway in the distance, and I am reassured. This place has been calling me all day, and I have found it.
After eating, I head down the street, descending the hill to where the buildings and trees part way for a view, at long last, of the ancient walls of the Coliseum of Rome. And all is right in my world.