Italy, Day 20
(Spoiler Alert! You might want to start with Day 1 to follow this trip from the start!)
Another rainy morning was in store for us but we held fast to our plans to meet Stéphane at 9am for breakfast. We ate, Italian style, standing up at one of his preferred cafés. The coffee they served was stupid good and I was sure that we'd never be able to drink coffee in America again.
After breakfast, Stéphane brought us to the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas where he teaches ethics in Law to future nuns and priests and the like. We toured the grounds then walked around the corner through his neighborhood where we — holy Thomas Aquinas! — witnessed a moped accident unfold at our feet along the slick, cobblestone streets. The Italian cursing that ensued was almost as disorienting as a woman commuter honking at the downed cyclist to get out of her way!
After the wipeout, we opted to take Stéphane's rarely used car to protect us from the elements (both natural and manmade.) We drove a few blocks away down a tight alley to a tucked away church, Chapel of Saint Zeno at Santa Prassede, whose ancient mosaics were made of gold and the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli.
Note: That day was, quite literally, the first opportunity since my freshman year in college to use the words lapis lazuli in a context-appropriate sentence. Ever since learning about it's use in ancient Egypt, I have always loved the way the words roll off the tongue — not to mention how easy it is on the eyes. Say it with me "lap-is la-zu-li"... Man that feels good!
After the delightful detour, we accompanied Stéphane to his local market to buy some groceries. Digression: Have you noticed how many times I've mentioned his name in the last few days? Yeah, he was most certainly gunning for a spot in our hearts as our "Favorite Human in Italy."
The market was magnificent, much more of a "local's spot," and I felt as though I recognized a few faces from my hometown, the l'il ol' Village of Frankfort, NY, population 2,537. Either those people get around or their cosmic doubles abound.
Once the market was checked off our list, we toured more churches including the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The ceiling was purportedly made from the gold Columbus "received" from the Natives during his voyage to "discover" America. Tsk, tsk. I didn't research these claims in depth but let's just agree that the Natives generally got the short end of the stick.
Mid-day we circled back and Stéphane cooked us lunch using the fresh clams from our morning's visit to the market. Elodie joined us before heading off to teach history at the French school their kids attend located within the grounds of the Villa Borghese.
It was time to give Stéphane back his life but he insisted on first leading us to Trevi Fountain. Swarming with tourists, several layers deep, we did our best Audrey Hepburn / Gregory Peck impersonation (not that they were that dorky in the movie) then we headed back to the apartment to clean up a bit for dinner.
That evening we headed across the city to a snazzy little restaurant called Zoc which also includes a breakfast spot, Caffe Colette (not sure what's up with the second "f" in cafe?) It was, hands down, one of the most beautiful places we have ever enjoyed a meal and, nothing against Zan's mad photo skillz, but it was just one of those places where you couldn't capture the cool with a camera.
Aside from the fact that we were the only nerds in the place at 7:30pm (yup, we confirmed that cool Romans don't dare go out for dinner until 9pm), we welcomed the challenge to bond with our Spanish waiter who spoke very, very, very little English. With a bit of scrappy Italian we managed to connect and have a delicious, locally sourced, organic, tasty meal. Shut. The. Front. Door.
Dessert was waiting for us next door at a swanky gelato shop where I ordered in Italiano to the best of my ability. Cones in hand, we walked back along the Tiber to apartment. Nope, it just didn't get any better than this...
As we headed back to our apartment we tried our best to walk slowly in an attempt to savor our penultimate night in Rome. Our trip was only one day away from coming to a close and we fought back the sadness of having to end such a magical time...