Yesterday at the Café Vaticano, right across the street from the Vatican Museum, I ordered a €15 "personal pizza" was looked like a large delivery pizza in the U.S. So ok, it was really good, then I ordered two cans of coke zero and a single cup of cappuccino and it cost me €31, plus I left the coins for a tip which totaled to €4 (which the waiter grabbed from my table before he even cleared my coffee), so it was a €35 lunch!
So for dinner today, I skipped the cafe experience, I've kind of had it with the Rome experience. Instead I went to the Pam market at the corner of Via Crezencio and Via Terenzio, grabbed a €2.99 salad. Then I walked down to the other corner of Via Terenzio and Via Cola di Rienzo, Gastronomia Franchi and got a take away order for lasagna and canneloni for €11.30.
Such good food and such a nice price.
Good lesson to learn, check out the neighborhood for quick cheap eats.
This is my 17th day in Europe and I actually had a great early start. I discovered that the Spanish Steps was Spagna, a metro stop. It was just 8am so they had just washed down the steps with water and there was no one on the steps yet.
Then I jumped back on the metro and got to the Colosso stop because it stopped right in front of the Coliseum.
I had the Rome card so I fast tracked into the Colosseum. It was grand, it was only 830a shortly after they had opened and the crowd wasn't heavy yet so I got the chance to crosse the 2nd level and the 1st level.
I had not had plans to walk throughout the Palatine Hill, but it wasn't as hot as I feared and the stroll up to the Palatine museum was actually very peaceful. The rise is a general sloping area with lots of trees providing excellent shade & coolness.
I imagined how the ancient Romans had it right strolling around in togas! I can imagine how cool that would have been.
I was fascinated by the ruins and enjoyed the giant rocks that served as their road. Then when I crossed over and exited at the Via Fori Imperiali, the breeze was cool and the crowds were just starting to gather.
I walked along the Fori Imperiali where the street was lined with statues of various leaders & statesmen. I think I saw Julius Caesar.
I walked to Piazza Venezia, crossed the crazy traffic and continued to walk up Via Del Corso because I wanted to see the Trevi fountain. Which by the way, was under construction. That was a disappointment but I enjoyed the area I had to walk through to find it so no big loss.
Then I decided to just let the crowd sweep me away and I turned amongst the tiny streets and ended up in front of the Pantheon. Since it's Rome, there was another fountain in front of it and people were sitting on the steps gazing at the front of the Pantheon. It was only 11am but I had breakfast at 7am so I took a spot on the fountain steps and took out a sandwich I had bought from Pam and enjoyed a moment in the sun.
After I finished, I continued to follow the crowd, listening in to some of the English speaking tour guides. Today I learned that there are over 900 churches in Rome! And fountains were ancient Rome's answer to getting water to their growing city and population.
Then as I was swept by the crowd, I ended up in Piazza Navona! Beautiful big fountain in the middle and the houses that surrounded the piazza were gorgeous. Something about the Roman houses that despite the obvious signs of age, refuses to be defined as decrepit.
After Navona, I followed a family who I thought was Italian thinking, they will know their way. They were Spanish and quickly stopped and began arguing and pointing to different streets. They were now lost.
I was constantly being distracted by the lovely houses with their gorgeous shutters and balconies. I headed for the river so I could cross back over the Tevere River towards the Vatican.
I wound my way through these cute little cobblestone streets and when I finally reached a major intersection, I was much farther than I thought but I was at Via Tomacelli and crossed the Ponte Cavour bridge. It was as if I couldn't get lost.
I saw the Palazzo di Giustizia and Piazza Cavour, bereft of the maddening crowds of tourists and a slice of the locals. I crossed the piazza and continued to Via Crescenzio. Which was now in my neighborhood.
I had been walking with my map in my hand but when I reached Via Tibullo, I put it into my backpack because I knew where I was. I had been looking for a post office so I could mail a few things. So I knew there was a post office at the Via Ottaviano, so I crossed the street to take Tibullo back to St Peter's square to Ottaviano.
As I crossed the street, I saw two guys standing and talking; kiddie corner from where I crossed.
When the shorter one started crossing in the same direction as me and started to corner me up against a car, I stopped in the middle of the street. He tried to talk to me and I just said no no no no and I tried to keep walking.
Then he tried to get me to the sidewalk and up behind the parked cars and kept looking around suspiciously, so I looked around too. That's when I saw the other guy had crept up behind us. And when I turned and saw him, he suddenly looked away.
"Danger Will Robinson, warning warning!" Rang through my head like an alarm.
Then he started to stand next to us and that's when the first guy wanted to know where he could change money. I keep shrugging & saying no no no. How was I supposed to know? He kept asking me if I was a tourist. So how was I supposed to know?
Then the other guy flashes me his ID and says he's police and we shouldn't be changing money in the middle of the street or looking for drugs.
I know my heard jerked at that; then I knew it was all a scam. He was going to say something like I'm going to jail and face a fine unless I pay the fine to them.
He asked for our passports, I watched the first guy show him something, he showed his wallet full of two U.S. $1 bills and a ten Euro bill. Then the second guy asked me for my passport and I said I don't have it! I had to hold my tongue and not snap back "Do I look like a moron to walk around with my passport?"
So then he changed tact and said I need to show ID, I had my drivers license, he read carefully, tracing my name and address but it never left my hand.
Then he asked me how much money I had.
"What's in your pockets?" He asked.
I pulled out €40 and change and showed him the crumpled bills and coins. Nothing.
"Is that it?" He asked.
"Yeah." I was starting to sound petulant.
"What is in your bag?"
He wanted me to take off my backpack and show him the contents!
I didn't move, all I said was "my food" snottily. I knew that if I made a move to take off my backpack, it would just prolong this nightmare. I wasn't doing anything more because anything more was too much.
"Ok," he finally said. "don't change money on the street or drugs". He actually smiled, trying to be officer friendly.
He stretched his arms like he was going to pat us both on the back and I slid under it and walked away as fast as I could.
I knew they were full of it. So when I continued walking and found a big scouts jamboree and real cops, I found a cop who spoke English and told him that there were guys pretending to be cops to take my money!
I'm kinda mad at myself, I saw it coming but you never know what will happen. There was no one else around if I tried to run or yell for help. So basically I played along with their scam. But when they saw that I was a poor mark for them or someone else must have been coming down the street, the "cop" ended it quickly.
I'm ok, just a little shaken, I had been warned, but you never believe it can happen to you until it does. I was starting to relax and enjoy myself, I just got to put in that game face again.
So enjoy my posts while I share my experiences in Europe and learn from them as well.