A family travels Italy day 4-5 Vatican Trevi and our best gelato in Rome

It is 2am and I up nursing an upset stomach, the thought of dinner is causing me to gag. I’m not sure what makes me more ill, the fact that the six inch scampi were served raw or the fact that the bill came to 290.00 Euros. We learned an important lesson tonight: do not let the waiter decide what to order. He brought us small squid, large squid, fish balls, those were all cooked. But then raw shrimp, raw oysters, raw scampi, raw tuna, enough for all four of us. The kids couldn’t handle it, understandably, though Nora gave it a good college try. Scott and I were trying to eat it up, but we finally had to send the scampi back. I did slide one down my throat all slimy and cold but the thing is huge, like swallowing a slug…oh my God, I have to stop writing about it. It took a long time for the scampi to come back from the kitchen cooked, and the waiter looked at me with utter disdain (what a peasant I am, what an americana) …but it was rather delicious when actually prepared.IMG_3457

For the second course, I knew my step son was green with the sight and smell and texture of what he just tried to eat so I pleaded, “Can you prepare him something vegetarian?” The waiter said, “Oh my son doesn’t like fish either, but he likes the gnocchi, cannot taste the fish at all. Fish makes you strong, eh? Try.” So he brought the gnocchi and it was full of fish and topped with shrimp. My poor young fellow got very silent and very flushed. He did eat most of his gnocchi but then later admitted it was horrible for him. Poor guy. He didn’t have to eat it. We gave him some wine to wash it down. Our seconds were handmade pasta and then dessert. It all may have tasted better if we weren’t glutted with raw fish beforehand. We were utterly shocked by the bill.

It reminds me of how I felt about the Vatican. I was glutted by the excess of art and precious artifacts within five minutes. The rest was a blur. That said, we had an absolutely excellent tour guide and my God am I ever glad I spent the money for her. It was Christina from Walks Inside Rome. http://www.walksinsiderome.com/en/about-us.html

She got us into the Vatican at 7:30am so we beat the crowds. We saw prominent works like the School of Athens in the Stanze di Raffaello in a nearly empty room, and we had a lot of time to view the Sistine chapel unobstructed. What I loved about Christina is she commanded our attention for nearly four hours. We paid for a semi-private tour so there was only one couple and us. She made steady ferocious eye contact with each one of us, including the children. She was kind and inclusive of their questions and though she was very well seasoned she was reverent and passionate about the amazing art we were seeing. But it hurt to rush past  ancient Egypt and the contemporary collections of Matisse, Chagall and Bacon. The ceilings full of carvings frescos, the floor covered in precious mosaics, the walls in ancient tapestries, the displays of naked statues heaped upon one another..reminded me of mass graves. It made me sick to think of the tons of priceless art hidden away…literally tons.

We peered through a window at the cushy garden home of retired Ratzinger (a pope I am quick to criticize) and we vainly hoped to catch a glimpse of gentle humble Papa Francesco (a pope I am hopeful about) but it wasn’t a day for audience. By the time we got to the Basilica to see the Pieta the crowds were streaming in. It was absolutely packed mid week in off season here. I was really struck by the garish Bernini bronze seven story high baldachin. Pope Urban VIII of the Barberini family had in made in the early 1600s to stand over St Peter’s burial place. There is the rumour that the bronze was stolen from the pantheon.  A satirist at the time wrote, “What the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did.”IMG_3455

Christina kept saying the Vatican “preserved” precious artifacts during the Barbarian raids and such and often used the term “recycled” instead of plundered or stolen, and called many items a “gift” from the faithful. This really struck my husband. He kept shaking his head for the next twenty four hours thinking about how the sale of just one of those pieces would help feed so many starving people. He didn’t see how this was in any way like Christ.

I see the value in creating beautiful art as worship and aspiring to excellence and magnificence in architecture as a reminder of the Divine and as an offering. But if the hoards of riches aren’t even seen by the general public…it quickly gets to the point of too much raw fish. Oh, I shouldn’t have brought that up.

After the Vatican tour we were so overwhelmed, all of us, especially the kids. We just wanted to go home and eat something very simple and sleep. So, we did just that.

Today, we did a lovely wander around Rome to shop. My step son got a handsome shirt and my daughter got a beautiful Italian designed dress and belt and I got nothing I could stuff myself into. We slithered through the crowds to make a wish at the Trevi fountain.IMG_3468

I hunted down a decent gelato place, having turned my nose up at the more commercial varieties we happened upon. It was a twenty minute walk to gelateria Romana and very very worth it. http://www.gelateriaromana.com They have three locations in Rome. I told the kids, “good gelato will not be displayed, it will be kept at the correct temperature in the canisters.” I had some sort of Nonna biscotti concoction on top of ricotta cream something-er-other. Apparently San Crispino is very good too, but the line ups are terrible since Elizabeth Gilbert wrote about it in Eat Pray Love.

The kids put on their lovely new duds and Scott and I pulled on our wrinkled suitcase offerings and headed out to the aforementioned restaurant.

I am now finished writing my blog post and my stomach has settled down with the chamomile tea our airbnb host has kindly stocked in the cupboards.

I’d definitely recommend this airbnb and this neighbourhood. I have really appreciated its quietude after the crowds and tourists. https://www.airbnb.ca/rooms/13678642

Tomorrow we have a huge day heading to Naples and Pompeii then over to Foggia to meet up with my family. I’ve had one hour of sleep. Skimpy due to scampi.

Tired but never too tired for word play.

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  1. Anthony Boone

    Love these posts. Not only enjoying the colourful and engaging episodes, but shamelessly making notes as we plan our own family trip to Europe this summer before our boys get too old to be seen with us in public….

    Mille grazie!

    (PS Are you conducting the Playwriting course at Langara this summer?)

    1. Lucia Frangione

      wonderful to hear, Anthony! Yes, if we have a decent class size, I will teach! Please make notes, so happy to be useful!

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