September 28, 2006. The Banana Stand and other vendors
In Italy, and other European countries, I’m guessing, there is a vendor for every facet of life. There are no “super” Acmes, no Walmarts, no Macys.
There is the gelateria, my personal favorite, where they sell gelato, the shoe store, the electronics store, the clothing store, the farmacia (pharmacy), the tabacchi (tobacco store, that also sells bus and metro tickets), the cosmetics store, the butcher, the alimentari, a sort of general food store but tiny. There are street vendors everywhere and they sell newspapers, bibite (beverages) maybe sandwiches and fruit, maybe gelato.
For eating, there are bars which serve liquor but the real function is as a café. Prices are different if you order al banco, standing at the bar, or al tavolo, sitting at a table being “waited” on. There are pizzerie, a more casual sit-down restaurant where you can order pizza and other foods. There are tavolo calda, meaning “hot table” where you can take food to a table cafeteria-style. There are also osterie, where you can get a basic pasta dish and wine, trattorie, where you can get a simple full meal, and ristoranti, that are fancier.
And then there are the Auto-Grille, found on major highways like our turnpike rest stops, but Molly Pitcher never had food like the Auto-Grille!
We left Florence on Thursday morning and began our drive to Rome, stopping at the Auto Grille for a quick breakfast. The trip was without incident and we actually were able to find Termini Rail Station and return the rental car quite easily.
We walked out front of the station to the cab stand and Jerry remarked – “That was too easy!” There was a pretty long line for cabs and there seemed to be some disturbance to our left.
Sure enough, there was a demonstration. We never were able to determine their “cause” but Sue and I remembered, 3 years back, a man caused a lot of confusion near the Coliseum because he was threatening to jump. The police stood below him with a net and others tried to grab him. Seems the Italians will demonstrate or go on strike at the drop of a hat! We were the unfortunate victims of their latest cause. They had the entrance to the station blocked – the entrance for taxis and buses… so no one was leaving the station.
Somehow, we got bus tickets and found the 64 bus, ran to Via Nazionale where it was supposedly picking up riders, and then, ran back to the area where it was scheduled to pick up riders.
All six of us, luggage in tow, squished onto this bus filled with other commuters, some with luggage, some with briefcases, and some with shopping bags. For those of you a little claustrophobic, it would’ve been out and out torture. At this point, we could only laugh.
Luckily we had directions to the apartment we rented and were happily surprised when our bus stop was just past St Peter’s Square.
Unfortunately, it had been a long time since Shelden had eaten and he walked up to a street vendor intending to buy a Coke to raise his blood sugar. He must have started to crash because he fell onto the ledge of the cart, knocking over a basket of bananas, while reaching for his Coke. He weaved his way up to where we were waiting and handed me the Coke to open because he was shaking so bad. I also gave him a pack of peanut butter crackers. In no time, he was as good as new, but had a real scare!
We got settled in our apartment and ventured out for lunch. Right next door is a Chinese restaurant but another door down was a little tratoria. We ordered pranzo with wine of course and then made our way down to the Vatican.
We stood in line to get in to St Peter’s and were soon in awe. The piazza, itself, is wonderful but inside the church, it is just a wonder. We saw so many amazing sculptures including one of Michelangelo’s Pietas. We also saw the Bernini columns, the ceiling, the stained glass, the dead popes – all incredible to behold.
Unfortunately I had a bit of a medical disaster. Sweating profusely, I had to leave the church. So THIS is menopause????
Shelden and I went back to the apartment, while the others did a nice stroll of Campo De Fiore, Piazza Navona, Fontana di Trevi, Scala da Spagna and had a nice supper.