St. Peter's Basilica in Rome

The metro to St. Peter's Cathedral is crammed and I can hardly squeeze through the door. It helps a bit after 2-3 stations.

St. Peter's

We pass through security with no problems and wonder why some women think that their naked shoulders should be given access. There are many signs with pictograms showing what is indecent.

We were here in 2001, but want to be impressed again. Some are praying by the most recently dead pope's grave. Even old people kneel on the cold stone floor. Some cry.

A grey-haired man speaks to the guard and hands him something - maybe a piece of cloth. The guard removes the red rope, steps inside and touches the tombstone with the object. The old man kisses the object and pockets it carefully.

From the crypt we enter the enormous basilica, which seems to contain several churches. You can confess in several languages, but we desist - it would take too long.

Columns outside St. Peter's Basilica From St. Peter's Basilica Water-spouting dragon near St. Peter's Basilica

From St. Peter's Basilica Outside St. Peter's Basilica
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The museum in Trastevere

Italian uniforms

The way back leads across the Tiber and into the old district west of Piazza Navona. A small bar in Via del Governo Vecchio serves cheap coffee. The toilet is on the first floor up a steep iron staircase, and the waitress switches on the light.

The tram goes to Trastevere from Largo di Torre Argentina. The museum in Piazza s. Egidio is open today. On the first floor is an exhibition with beautiful watercolours by Ettore Roesler Franz. We saw the pictures two years ago, but didn't know it was a permanent exhibition. Franz painted the old Rome before the slum clearing in the 19th century.

A suspicious person

Helle gets a seat by the bus aisle. I stand next to her. Helle's neighbour gives her a discrete push in the ribs and whispers: "Attenzione!" (look out) and points - at me!

Afternoon in the Monti district

At Caffé Fantini the proprietor, Kelvin, chats with the guests. He recognizes us at once and cannot believe that two years have passed. Kelvin is English and has married an Italian woman, but as he once told us: "You don't marry an Italian woman - you marry a family!"

Kelvin talks a lot, but from time to time he must attend the register. He is dressed casually and unlike Italians he doesn't care much about appearances. The staff however knows who is boss.

Kelvin has two children now and thinks of selling the café and move to Norcia in Umbria. He will make a living by selling antiques and breathing mountain air. Kelvin tells many stories - he has always had a talent for talking. Maybe he will make a movie, he says. He knows an old man, who has had an adventurous life that would make a good movie. We hear Gino's story.

Gino's story

Gino was a peasant boy from the Rimini region who was sent to North Africa as one of the first Italian soldiers at the beginning of World War II. Unfortunately the regiment was put ashore several miles from their heavy equipment.

The commanding officer thought wisely that they had better get off the beach before making camp. They had tents, but nobody knew how to get them up except a guy who had worked in a circus; so he took command for a while.

Gino and his mate were sent on recognisance with orders to bring back whatever they could find. When they returned with a camel and a donkey, the commanding officer got furious: What the h... they were doing? Gino and his mate said they had just followed orders.

Everybody ate well that evening, because every soldier had some delicacy from Mamma in his rucksack. During the night the Bedouin stole back his camel and donkey, so at least that problem was taken care of.

A sandstorm rose up and the soldiers sought refuge in the tents. When things calmed down and the first soldier had a look outside, the camp was completely surrounded by British troops, and thus everyone was taken prisoner without having fired a shot. They were taken to Liverpool as some of the first POWs in Britain.

Being a country boy Gino was put to work on a farm. He did so well that he became manager, when the war was over. Before that happened he had also taken over the cooking, because Brits don't know a thing about that; for instance they boil potatoes instead of making delicious gnocchi.

At a time a beautiful gipsy girl worked as a farmhand. Gino married her and stayed in England. A contributing factor to this decision was that his family didn't approve of the marriage.

A few years ago the beauty died from the big C, and Gino resumed contact with his family in Italy. Time heals, and he went back to a happy reunion. Here it turned out that he had not received his rightful war pension. On Kelvin's advice he didn't bring the money back to England, where the tax authorities are busybodies. The tax friendly San Marino is close to Rimini, and the Euro is a reliable currency.

At this point Kelvin is interrupted and we hear no more about Gino and Kelvin's movie plans. We say goodbye and good luck and walk to Osteria Tempio Mecenata, where we had an excellent meal the other day.

Osteria Tempio Macenata

A good steak

We order bruschette for starters, for main course a filetto o gorgonzola for Helle and a steak for me. With this salad and fries and a red Bardolino. The steak is perfect, and the wine has character. For dessert Helle has panna cotta with forest berries and I have assorted ice creams.

A large company of noisy Germans leaves, and a young Norwegian couple gets a table next to ours. They are probably on a honeymoon: the golden rings glitter and they must hold hands all the time.

We finish off with espresso and grappa. The grappas taste good and are enormous. The bill says 77 €. That is a bit above average, but this time we had bottled wine. It is a recommendable place: good food and efficient service. It is no coincidence that there are many Romans among the guests.