Monday, January 25, 2016

Pizza, Parking and Popes

1. After too many nights of a plate of meat, potatoes and salad; after having a Greek salad with EVERY meal, we arrive in Rome and dine at our first pizza cafe! We watch the pizza men ball, punch, and roll out crusts. When the first pizza slides out of the oven, we're all shocked to see everyone is served their own pizza!! This must be a mistake--but it's not. I can't imagine that I'll eat a whole pizza. But I do! It's not one of those personal mini pizzas. It's a full size thin crusted, margarita pizza. The sauce is so rich, the cheese so creamy, the crust so perfectly crunchy and soft.

The next day, our options are beef stew, calamari or pizza. Pizza it is again! And again-- next afternoon's lunch, and the next day's dinner. I even order a mushroom pizza in the kosher/Italian/Jewish bistro. I wonder what's going to happen when I wake up on Tuesday morning (in America) and I don't feed my body a whole pizza for lunch or dinner. Will it adjust?

2. There are a million cars in Rome, 350,000 scooters, motorcycles and mopeds, and only 350,000 official parking places. That's why the cars are mini, and why we see them parked at all different angles. At least once in our lives, we've been tortured by the non-existent parking place or had it stolen from a fast-swerving, swindling driver. Tawanda! Imagine this challenge everyday.

3.We are visiting St. Paul's cathedral. This is supposedly where the ancient apostle is buried. Along the upper walls are paintings of all the Popes. Our most lovely guide tells us that Nostradamus predicted the world would end when there were no more spaces for the Popes in St. Pauls. Fortunately, there are 23 spaces left.

4. Unsure if asking about the supposed Pope Joan would be a cultural faux pas, I hesitate until I arrange the words as innocuously as possible. Our guide doesn't seem to be bothered at all and responds, "Yes, she was an intellect who slid into the position after the devastation of the black plague. There was no organization and so it was possible. Romans acknowledge her, but you will never find her portrait among the 267 Popes at St. Paul. Nor at the Vatican." And the same goes for the Popes in Avignon.

5. Mussolini's existence and destruction cannot be ignored while in Rome. We pass the Villa Torlonia and learn that Mussolini confiscated the villa from a prominent Jewish family. He also allowed Hitler to deport Roman Jews. There is some satisfaction to the Romans that the villa was built over the Jewish catacombs--underground graves. The very people he helped to destroy were buried underneath his residence without him ever knowing.