The Pantheon and Piazza Navona district

The Germans are having breakfast when we arrive. I discreetly admire a German lady who makes Venus from Milo look like a ballerina.

We have no specific plans today apart from cruising the area around Campo dei Fiori, Piazza Navona and Pantheon.

Bus # 40 rumbles along on the cobble stones of Via Nazionale. The heat and crowd in the bus are smothering, but we manage to get off. When a bus is full, getting off must be planned ahead, so you can change places with the other sardines.

From Pantheon Light from the dome's oculus
Click to enlarge

There is no mass being conducted in Pantheon today, so we are free to admire the magnificent temple. I feel so small under the enormous dome where the gods' light shine through the oculus in the centre.

We cruise the neighbourhood. It is entertaining just to watch how the Romans park - dozens of fines could be issued in a few minutes.

Illegal parking

There are many shops and workshops to look at, and the houses are painted with golden colours. At Piazza Navona we seek out a café in the shade, but despite the exorbitant prices the waiters are not particularly attentive. We sit for a while enjoying the shade, but apparently it is impossible to catch the attention of a waiter, so we leave. We need more than shade.

At the square's northern end the price of an espresso has gone down from 3 to 2 Euro and the waiter is quick. There is a bit more street noise here and the view of Bernini's fountain and the obelisk is not first class, but never mind - the coke is ice cold.

The waiter brings us two small plastic spoons with samples of chocolate ice cream, which tastes heavenly. We are not tempted though, maybe because of the obvious temptation, or maybe we are just stubborn northerners.

Hot lunch

Around noon we head home with a detour to Caffé Fantini for a lunch-panino. I want to smoke, so we get a table outside, which is unwise. It had been much better if I had smoked in advance, so we could have enjoyed the air condition inside.

The waiter stands behind the closed glass door guarding the temperature and watching us and other stupid tourists. If necessary he quickly takes care of whatever is needed outside and then rushes back to his place on the cool side of the door.

Marble in Rome

Broom and bucket in Caffé Fantini's basement

There is a lot of marble in Rome. Not just statues, but also many benches and even street curbs are made of marble. Visiting a bar you often find the bathroom in the basement, where you have to descend a narrow, steep staircase. The paint may be peeling off the walls and most likely the door hangs on just one hinge and cannot be closed properly. But the steps? Of course they are made of marble!

Around 4:30 I leave for a visit to Rome's oldest chess club, Accademia Scacchistica Romana, which is said to be open every day at the address 8 Via Re Tancredi at Piazza Bologna. It is rush hour. The air in Metro B is starved of oxygen, and the sardines gasp. Luckily the trip to Piazza Bologna takes but a few minutes.

Finding the address is easy. It is apartments block several stories high, but none of the name tags beside the intercom suggests the existence of any chess club. The door is locked. A man coming out explains that the club has moved. Bad luck! Going back again the metro is only half full and I even get a seat.

Evening in Trastevere

Once again the Grand-Mamma is at the wine bar, the Enoteca, in Trastevere. Humming lightly she shuffles around putting a couple of fingers on the back of the chairs while passing. Not for support, but just in case. The little yorkie is on guard in the doorway.

A street band of some quality plays: two unplugged electric guitars, a double-bass, a saxophone and a woman with a tambourine. They play really well, but why American evergreens and jazz when we are in the very heart of Rome?

We dine at restaurant La Villetta for the third time. Spaghetti alla Carbonara. Veal tail in a powerful sauce for Helle and veal with mushrooms for me. Behind us is a mixed group of Germans and Italians. It seems to me that the Germans speak excellent Italian, and for once we hear an Italian speak slowly and clearly. Very educating!

The youngest daughter of the house - Gino's grandchild, we guess - helps serving the guests. The waiters are extremely busy. Once again we finish off with the wonderful lemon sorbet, which probably isn't a true sorbet, because some cream has been added.

The bill is modest, and we have only to wait a moment for the tram. In the Argentina square we wait almost half an hour for bus # 70. We could have taken # 64 or another to Termini, but they are all crammed and most of them don't have air condition!