“Eh?!” The waiter gestured toward the window and shrugged the question and the answer with his whole body.
Twenty-four hours earlier, James and I had been stretched out on beach chairs under a big umbrella on Lungomare, Fiumicino. But Sunday brought sheets of rain, so we had ventured into Rome to see history indoors. And the waiter was right; we would have to stick around inside the pizzeria a little longer if we were going to get anywhere dry with just an umbrella.
Eventually the rain slowed and we made our way to the nearby National Museum of Rome. It was a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. From the comfort of modern hallways filled with ancient art, we could see rain still falling in the inner courtyard over an artistic arrangement of orange trees. Most of the halls and rooms were filled with busts of emperors, Greek and Roman gods, athletes, philosophers, and other elite. One floor housed collections of mosaics, frescoes, and reconstructed rooms of an excavated Roman villa. The basement was mostly dedicated to displaying changes in currency over time up to the modern Euro.
We waited in the lobby for a while around closing time for another break in the weather before heading to the Basilica Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri (St. Mary of Angels and Martyrs). The crumbling brick exterior gave it the appearance of a ruin, but the inside was marble and gold and statues. A baptism was taking place at the altar, not far from an enormous sculpture of the decapitated head of St. John the Baptist.
By evening, only the clouds remained and we were able to take a walk around to some of the other sights. The Trevi Fountain is currently being renovated, but that didn’t stop crowds of tourists from flocking to see it empty and surrounded by a wire fence. Sadly, pickpockets, scam artists, and panhandlers could be seen (and I have no doubt many were unobserved too) everywhere. The train stations and main squares were the worst, where crowds and confusion provided distraction. We had mostly avoided this threat all day by staying indoors in uncrowded areas, so had to stay more alert on our evening explorations. Knock on wood, our wallets and cameras survived the trip.
For a late dinner, we ended up sharing a seafood assortment that turned out to be an elaborate work of art. The wine bar we had stopped into was showing the World Cup match between France and Honduras (final score: France 3-0), and had live music from two guys playing the guitar. Despite the weekend ending in rain it was hard to leave Italy, with its cross-at-your-own-peril traffic safety, expressive body language, delicious food, and generally relaxed attitude toward people and rules.