September 30, 2008 - Rome

Is there possibly any better place in the world than Rome to spend your birthday? I was up early on my 49th birthday to find a battery for my camera. Thankfully, my Italian was just good enough to ask for the right product at the bar, get directions to the digital camera store, and then purchase the correct battery. Although the proprietor started speaking in fapid fire Italiano, I was able to understand that the issue wasn't the battery itself, but the charger, which fortunately, he sold. Forty euros later I was on my way back to the hotel, quite proud of my ability to navigate in this city in the native language.
We met up with our tour guide, Kathleen, at the top of the steps of the Piazza Venezia at 9:45 - a real treat since on all past visits the steps have been off limits to tourists. The view is great from the top, looking down on the right to the ancient market of the Roman empire.
After wandering through the Chiesa del Gesu (most people never enter because the steps that lead up to it from the main street don't actually lead to the entrance of the church), and snapping pictures in front of the statue of the goddess of love (can't remember her name...)
we made our way into the ancient city, starting with a walk through the Forum. It's hard to fathom that these ruins have been here for many centuries, and even harder to fathom the civilization that existed in the Roman empire at that time.
At about 1:30, we left Kathleen on the other side of the street opposite the Colosseum, starving (not really, but we had become EATERS at this point in the trip) for some lunch. We at the pizza so quickly that this is the only shot of it I got.
The proprietor brought us what we are certain were the left over pastries from breakfast as a complementary dessert after our lunch, and I'm embarrassed to admit that we scarfed down nearly every bit of these cream filled pastries. Don't they look incredible?!
We headed back to the Colosseum for the head set guided tour after lunch, and as we were leaving the Colosseum at 3:45pm I made the executive decision that we should BOOK IT to San Pietro to see the church. You know, when you only have so many days in a city, you need to see what you need to see. After 45 minutes of BRISK walking (that's why we could afford to eat and drink so much) and 30 minutes in the church, we took a leisurely 20 minute stroll back to the Piazza Navonna (by way of my favorite pedestrian only street) for a cocktail and to assist our friends in buying art in the piazza.
We headed back to the hotel just in time to shower and head right back out to Alfredo's for my birthday dinner. Alfredo's is home to the original fettuccine Alfredo, which we were obliged to order, along with the
veal saltimbocca for Greg (his favorite Italian dish)
and the sea bream with tomatoes, olives, and fennel for me.
I was invited to write in the ristorante's journal as a guest who had eaten the famous fettuccine, and after that I couldn't touch dessert and was really just ready for bed (was I feeling old or what?!). The group enticed me into sitting down at a spot in my favorite piazza (della Rotunda near the Pantheon, remember?!) for a night cap - it turned out to be the best decision of the trip. We were enthralled with a mime who managed to copy every person's walk through the piazza and we laughed for an hour. After generous tipping on our part, he grabbed my camera, ran around the piazza, and finally had his picture taken with me.
Birthdays come and they go...but one spent in a special spot (my favorite city in the world, no less) with special friends will always be memorable!

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