For about a week now, ever since my mother arrived in Venice and spotted her first Italian fountain, she's broken into the chorus of "Three Coins in the Fountain" every now and then. I felt bad about not getting the 1954 film reference, until I looked it up and found that it was about "three American girls looking for love in Rome" and starred nobody special. Being as we weren't going to scoot around on a Vespa, get our haircut or try our first cigarette like Ms. Hepburn in that far superior movie, we figured we might as well go down to Trevi Fountain and each throw a coin in. It was fairly mobbed with tourists, but still really beautiful. Barely anyone was talking in a collective attempt to listen to the water rush.
My mother's coin-wish must have come true, because the next day she fell in love. With this sandwich. Two hours after enjoying one at lunch, she already wished she had bought another for dinner. The selection at this cafe was pretty impressive, squash blossoms, sauteed spinach, shrimp, really colorful, inventive combinations filled the premade selections, piled up behind the counter. Mom's was eggplant, some breaded, some not, with mozzerella and prosciutto on olive bread. She asked them only to 'panini' it halfway, so that the eggplant would retain some of that refreshing, cold gushiness.
It's definitely not peak tourist season here right now and the vendors and photo-opp guys around the Coliseum mostly sat around reading the newspaper, looking up to shout out things like "You can pay with a kiss!" every now and then. I'm not sure if that's the most savvy business proposition, but most of the poor guys are dressed up like Ben Hur outfitted by Ricky's, so they've gotta brighten their day somehow. Snacks available for sale included roasted chestnuts and fresh coconut water. Next to the Berlusconi and Pope Benedict bobbleheads were lions and Santa Claus.
In an effort to see something by Michaelangelo before mom left Italy, we headed over to the Cordonata, a staircase he designed leading up to 'capital hill.' We walked up and down the empty staircase looking for the staircase. It couldn't possibly be it, we figured, because there weren't any tourists. On our way back home, a hoard of school children filled the stairs and we realized our mistake. We tried to get a picture with as few people in it as possible.
We decided to walk along and across the Tiber River to find the Porta Portese flea market. We figured, if we were going to contend with a crowd, it may as well be haggling old ladies instead of international undergrads. The walk was beautiful, but the market didn't appear to be running on the other side. Nonetheless, it was nice to see a more local side of things and a different sort of ruin before turning back to cross Monti toward home.
Another type of crowd altogether met us in the streets, the very beginning of a nationwide labor union strike. Apparently, it went on to cripple cities all through the country for at least twenty-four hours. Subway operators, government workers, airline attendants, basically everyone except for school employees took part in it. Luckily, it all appeared to settle before we delivered my sun-kissed and sandwich-full mother to the airport back home.
For the record, our Roman Holiday did include a photo shoot at the Bocca dela Verita. Something we only remembered after seeing a calendar featuring a movie still of Gregory Peck with his hand "bit off." We waltzed right in, waited for two people in front of us, then nerded it up like true tourists. As we walked out, a tour bus unloaded and a line formed around the block. Perfect timing.