Our special trip with Alfredo de Bonis begins on October 4, 2001 from Newark Airport.
Continental’s President’s Lounge makes the waiting very pleasant and soon we’re off on Flight 40, a 777 airplane with three-across seating(we had the three seats to ourselves as Alfredo is settled in his bulkhead seat up ahead) and settle into the routine of snacks and personal video screens-we can even track the plane as it makes its way across the ocean. Frank is happy with his “no-lactaid” meal and we’re soon in Rome’s airport!
Monday, 10/15: Easy security and the Alimandi driver comes to speed us through amazing traffic into the city-the hotel welcomes us and soon the greetings: “Alfredo!” begins as everyone seems to know him. We’re off to the open market right away-so much produce-we buy blood oranges for the Almandi kitchen-and then our first lunch at Giulio’s. this place will be one of our best memories: owned by Giulio and his sister, Maria they’ve known Alfredo for thirty years and treat us royally-antipasto of cheese, olives and tomatoes and anchovy with melted fontina on toast; linguine with tomato and basil, glasses of wine and we stroll back to the Alimandi to unpack. We’ve made friends already! Dinner at Bastioni’s where I have my first “Sole Miller’s wife style” and then we walk around the Vatican walls to Old Bridge-for the best gelato. We walk to St. Peter’s Square in the dark- it’s almost deserted and the fountains are on-we are in Rome!
Tuesday 10/16: The Alimandi has a wonderful spread for breakfast: cereals and fruit, eggs, bacon, potatoes and sausages; cold meats and salads, pastries (Frank finds a favorite chocolate one) and caffe latte. We’re off to the buses! Over the Tiber and walking, walking to San Clemente-the 12th century church with three levels-the lowest being the second-century temple of Mithras(only Frank ventures to the very bottom-I adapt the knowledge that the further you go down the more you have to climb back!) The medieval mosaic behind the altar has an unusual vine-covered crucifix. We visit the first cathedral of Rome-San Giovanni in Laterano(c.313) and then to Santa Maria Maggiore. Alfredo is full of the history of Rome and we stroll to the Coliseum-past the arch of Constantine-the Coliseum is larger and grander than we imagined-we can almost hear the gladiators! We have lunch at Enoteca Corsi(pumpkin risotto and sliced veal)and walk to the Pantheon. We need the bus-an exhausting day in ancient Rome! We’ve been in the midst of Rome’s frantic traffic and watched everyone, from elegant suits to classy ladies, wind through the streets in their motor scooters-no signals, no rules just drive on! And of course there are no parking rules-wherever you can is the rule!
Dinner tonight is at Dino and Tony’s another local gem. The antipasto is prosciutto and salami, tiny fresh pizza with thin, thin crust pizza-like pastry w/spinach and cheese, fried olives fried “crema” then roast vealw/potatoes. We enjoy a liter of red wine and did we want a sampling of dolce? Tiramisu, crème cramel, panna cotta, coffee granite w/cream-a plate of cookies and confectioneries-espresso-is there an end? We stagger back to Alimandi-Alfredo goes on line to collect his messages. We fall asleep watching “Joan of Arc” with Malkovich speaking Italian! Alfredo met an old friend tonight as well as two new ones: Dino & Tony!
Wednesday, 10/17: Off early to retrieve our tickets for the papal audience. We sit among 25,000(everyone is here!) First the Pope rides through the crowds in his “mobile” just 3 rows behind us! The audience is 1 ½ hours long- he spoke in Italian, Spanish, German, French and English and greeted us all. There are huge TV screens to give us a close-up view. Afterwards we buy special Vatican postal stamps and walk back to Giulio’s for lunch(this becomes our habit nearly every day in Rome!) Rigatoni carbonara, linguine amatriciana and a tiny mushroom pizzetta for me! Again it’s their treat(via the bet with Alfredo) so we tip well and are off to the Sistine Chapel. The Vatican Museums are vast-first we do the Galeria delle Carte Geografiche with its maps of each Italian region, city and island(c.1580) Then I have to do the Raphael rooms for Kenneth-they’re dark and crowded, but I remember how he poured over the “faces”. The chapel is overwhelming-the guards keep shushing us but