Saturday, September 8
Breakfast (Colazione) at Hotel Smeraldo is lovely, with trays of salami, ham, and cheese. Yogurt, cereal, fruit, rolls, and coffee round out the fare. After breakfast I meet with my group in the lobby, armed with our Roma passes. Like a line of ducklings, we wander out, snaking through small piazzas, looking for Bus # 116 which will take us up to the Villa Borghese and the Borghese Gallery. One of my favorite places in Rome, the Borghese Gallery houses, among other spectacular artwork, mosaics, etc., the statue of Apollo chasing Daphne, by Bernini. Spectacular . . . and I am awe-struck again. (Unfortunately, absolutely NO photos allowed, so I revel in the real thing, and buy a postcard . . . ).
A walk through the Villa Borghese grounds to the lookout point above the Piazza del Popolo, then a stroll to the top of the Spanish Steps and down to the fountain, where we can fill our bottles with water from the fish’s mouth.
On Via Condotti, the high end shops do NOT beckon to me, but it’s interesting to see the suited-up concierge outside each entry door. We ducked down a block or two and had a delicious light lunch. More walking walking walking and we were at the Pantheon. The McDonald’s across the Piazza from the beautiful round-domed building is no longer, and a waiter at what is now a lovely restaurant in hat location confided that there was “funny business . . . connected to the mob” which caused the shut-down of the greasy fast food place. Excellent! The Pantheon does not deserve to have to look at the golden arches for the rest of its historical life.
Anne and I went in to the Pantheon just as it was closing to tourists, because a Mass was about to begin. We simply said we were attending the service and the guards let us in, though their looks were dubious. Do you think I LOOK like a Catholic, rather than a heathen?
The priest appeared to be as old as Abraham, his black four-cornered hat atop his white and balding head, escorted in by a young assistant. The usher lifted the front hem of the old monsignor’s dress as the Monsignor took one step toward the altar and plopped into his carved chair.
He had his role, but it was only for half of the service, while the lay participants and the younger assistant read the various parts of the mass. Anne and I sat, amazed by the ancient priest, and we snuck off at the Communion. More walking before we caught up with Sue, Marie, Laurie and Amy for dinner on the Piazza Navona and back to the hotel.
7.28 miles logged on the pedometer for today.