The first time we came to Rome, we arrived jetlaged and exhausted. It was ages ago, maybe ten years by now? We found the train to the center of town and then, in our muddied thinking, allowed ourselves to get directed to the rip-off taxi zone.
This time, our flight was only 90 minutes long, and security was easy. No yelling, no taking off our shoes, no need to juggle the passport and the ticket and the gear. The security folks helped us load our bins and the whole thing took less then five minutes. No one cared if my name matched my ticket. It was so welcoming, really.In Rome, there was a little more chaos following the signs to the train station and some anxiety about buying and time stamping the ticket correctly but then we arrived at the station near the apartment we are renting. Which is on the river, south of the city center.
We met the owner, got the keys, left our bags and started walking up the Via de Trastevere toward the Tiber Island. We pulled out Rick Steve’s guide, previously downloaded onto our cell phones, and walked from Santa Maria in Tratevere to Santa Cecelia in Trastevere.
So. Rome is old.Very old. Ancient and proud of it’s antiquity. Rome is one of the places I can stand and look around me and say, We’ve been here a while. The two churches are old, and built atop old homes where first Christians worshiped in the basement. Santa Maria and Santa Cecelia scooped up old columns from the Roman ruins and formed new floors with the chips of ancient stones. Their Christ does not hang on a cross as the primary image, (except for one off to the side in Santa Maria). Instead, their Christ sits and stands in brilliant mosaics high above the front of the church with sheep, in a ribbon, beneath his feet. Santa Ceclia has a fountain in the center of the garden between the street and the church. It is the fountain of paradise, the new creation.
Along the way north, we walk past a wall of stone plaques thanking the Mother of Jesus. At the center is a little nitch with a bust of the woman looking down at us walkers and bus stop waiters, for this is a bus stop. A man stands in front of the bust, looking up at her with a smile while he quietly talks to her. I do not understand any of this. Why this place? Why all these plaques? What happened here or continues to happen here and why a bus stop?
We walked back along the river in the dark and the occasional rain drops. I am moving into pain but there is nothing for it but to keep walking. I know I’ll recover. Then, just as we’re about to cross the river again and turn toward a restaurant, the rain-ette became a huge waterfall and we were both soaked through almost instantly. The restaurant was closed for remodeling. We shrugged our wet shoulders and went to the local grocery store which had jaw dropping parmesan cheese on sale for less then we’d pay in the U.S. and we enjoyed dinner in our dry pajamas.
Today we’ll plunge into the heart of Rome’s ancient center, the Ruins and the Coliseum. I have no idea how people live here. The entire city shouts out, You are just another generation, no more then the yearly cycle of leaves on a tree. We have seen you come and go before and will see you again.
Maybe that’s why the man talked to Mary at the bus stop. At least she knows his name.