Tuesday, June 03, 2003

And so she woke up
Woke up from where she was lyin' still.
Said I gotta do something
About where we're goin'.

Step on a fast train
Step out of the driving rain, maybe
Run from the darkness in the night.
Singing ah, ah la la la de day
Ah la la la de day.

One thing I've learned about national holidays: when they're you're own, they're an event, because you've learned to plan accordingly, or someone has, and you find a nice way to spend the day. When they're someone else's, it can be a long day.

Yesterday was the Italian Unification holiday. Unlike the United States, which was already united colonies which broke away from Britain, Italy was a series of independant nation-states, which were joined together by Victor Emmanuelle II in the late 1800's. Oh, sure, at one time Rome ruled most of the known world, and Italy was one country, but this wasn't always the case. Italy went through several different versions before what we now know as Italy came to be. In his honor, the government of Italy spent 30 years building a monument to Victor Emmanuele II. Immense, white, and illuminated at night, the monument got the nickname "the wedding cake" from the Romans. Most don't like it, finding it gaudy and pretentious. Others just deal with it. It's size and characteristics make it easily the most recognizable of all of Rome's sights, which helps when you're on the hills trying to point out the Vatican, the Colliseum, and other landmarks. You just start with the wedding cake, and move left or right as needed. Another notable point about the monument is that it is where the tomb of the unknown soldier resides in Italy. Closed for a number of years (25 or more) to the general public, it was recently re-opened. We visited it last week, and several of my classmates were admonished by the military guard for running up the stairs (I declined to join them, and so escaped admonishment).

Anyway, I digress. Yesterday was a national holiday. And, like national holidays in the US, everything was pretty much closed. Only restaurants, cafes and the occasional store was open. So, like Sunday, it was a good chance to catch up on homework, and I took full advantage to get up to speed on class reading.

In the evening, Brian, Elise, Lisa, Bridget, Scott, Laura and I headed up to the Zodiac Cafe, one of two restaurants (the Il Bagat that John, Jeanne and I visited last week being the other) on the hills of Monte Mario. It's an up-and-down kind of deal. A nice, sloping downhill walk to the the driveway's entrance, followed by one killer uphill climb. When I was in Rome two years ago, several of us went for a jog. Even the best runners had a hard time making the hill climb.

Anyway, it's a nice, elegant restaurant with a killer view, and indoor and outdoor dining. Unfortunately, with our group of seven (G7?), the restaurant seated us inside. For the first time in two weeks, we felt the coolness of true air conditioning. We sat down, and quickly ordered two bottles of wine - una vino rosso (red) e una vino bianco (white). Now, for the uninitiated, there are three types of restaurant in Italy: the Pizzeria, which is the bottom rung, is often cheap and carries a limited menu - mostly pizzas, salads, and appetizers, though some may have sandwiches; the Trattoria, which serves multiple courses, and is a bit pricer; and the Ristorante, the nicest, and priciest of them all, which traditionally serves a 5-course meal - antipasto, first course, second course, insalate (in-sa-latte, or salad) and dolci (dol-chay, or sweets). The Zodiac is of the latter type. Rule 1 is that when you dine at a Ristorante, you don't just order one course and leave - that's an insult to the cook and the restaurant. Unfortunately, I'd had done that in previous days with others, and was not inclined to do so again last night. So as I declared my intent to do the full meal (or what I could of it), Brian was asking, "are we doing the whole meal, or are we insulting these people?"

Fortunately, my dinner companions were all of the same mind. We got the wine, then we ordered the antipasto. The antipasto came, and we ordered more wine, and the first and second courses. The first course came, and we got some wine. The second course came, and we got some wine. Then we talked for a bit. Then we got more wine. And the dolci. The food was wonderful. we ordered calimari, ham and cheese, and salmon for appetizer (antipasto). Scott, Lisa and I all got the same first course, a seabass/mussel mix which was quite delicious. Brian got the gnocchi, which he thoroughly enjoyed (he also got a nosebleed, which left me to order for him). Brian and I both got the veal scallapini for dinner. (Just thinking about all this is making me hungry again, and I just had lunch.) For dessert, we split Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, and Gelato. Our waiter loved us, and he should have. When the bill came, I grabbed it looked at it, and made everyone guess as to how much they thought it was. Estimates ranged from 550 to 700 euro, so I knew no one would be floored by the total bill - 398 euro. Over half was attributable to the seven or eight bottles of wine that we consumed. We divvied up the total (62 euro each), ignored the unfavorable exchange rate (about $1.20 to each euro, according to someone), polished off the rest of the wine, bid our waiter adieu, and stepped out into the Roman evening.

Halfway up/down (depends which way you're going which one you'll use) the hill, there's a spot where you can stop and take some captivating pictures of Rome. We'd stopped on the way up to do just that, but now, as we were going down, Scott lamented that the gate was locked, and we couldn't take anymore pictures. But then I noticed a whole in the gate that another couple was using, and we made our way through it. Bridget and Brian walked on, but Laura, Lisa, Elise, Scott and I took more pictures of Rome at night.

On the way back to the Rome Center, we passed one of those little photo booths, out in the middle of nothingness. We all piled in, and spent our last loose coin trying to get a picture of the five of us together. It didn't come out as planned. We continued walking back, and the girls peppered Scott with questions about his relationships, who he dated, etc. etc. (Scott's a New Yorker living in San Diego, on the trip with Loyola). I walked about twenty feet behind, clearly out of the conversation, just watching the two single women and one married one battle for the attention of the lone single guy in their age range.

And we all agreed it was the best night we've had in Rome so far.

Sweet the sin, bitter the taste in my mouth.
I see seven towers, but I only see one way out.
You gotta cry without weeping, talk without speaking
Scream without raising your voice.
You know I took the poison, from the poison stream
Then I floated out of here, singing
Ah la la la de day
Ah la la la de day.

She walks through the streets
With her eyes painted red
Under black belly of cloud in the rain.
In through a doorway
She brings me white golden pearls
Stolen from the sea.

She is ragin'
She is ragin'
And the storm blows up in her eyes.
She will suffer the needle chill
She's running to stand still.

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