No trip to Rome would be complete without a visit with the Pope, whose country, The Vatican, is surrounded by a city founded by heathens. While heathens still abound, they are outnumbered by Italian Catholics, who consider The Vatican also their country, and St. Peter’s as their church.
Pope Francis was not receiving visitors from Sonoma on the day we stopped by, but, thanks to Lucia, our tour guide, we had passes to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel, exiting into St. Peter’s.
Lucia created a game for each of our grandkids that challenged them to find objects in the museum that were described in her list of clues. The kids, being ever competitive, eagerly played the game. What could have been a long and tedious tour through a crowded museum was made entertaining as well as informative.
Lucia gave credit to Pope Julius II (Pope from 1503 – 1513) for starting the process by which the Vatican acquired and restored a huge collection of ancient art. Julius, known as the “Warrior Pope,” was also a patron of Michelangelo, and persuaded the artist to paint part of the Sistine Chapel.
My attention span being shorter than the average 6-year-old, I found the tour to be a tiring ordeal of walking and jostling through crowds, especially so in the Sistine Chapel, which was impressive, but also jammed full of other visitors. I most enjoyed the periodic respites that Lucia suggested, when we’d stop, gather ’round her and she’d tell us a story of how a specific work of art had come to be there and how the various successors to Julius didn’t always admire his taste in art.
After three hours of walking, stopping, being elbowed by other tourists and needing to use the bathroom, I was ready for the fresh air in the grand expanse of St. Peter’s Basilica and Square. The kids, on the other hand, were eager to see more.
I wonder if years from now, when, and if, schools still teach art appreciation, if the Vatican tour and their visit to Florence will make them far more appreciative of Renaissance art than I ever was in school. All that walking generated an appetite, and there was no shortage of places to fill that need.
We made reservations one night at Da Meo Pataca, a lively somewhat touristy restaurant in the Trastevere part of Rome. Ken and Pat McTaggart first introduced us to Da Meo Pataca 10 years ago. While the food is classic Italian and good, the primary reason we took the kids there was the entertainment. A quartet of musicians circulate throughout the restaurant all evening, serenading diners and inviting them into singing along to popular Italian-American classics like “That’s Amore” and “Volare.” Sophisticated it is not, but a lot of fun.
There is always something new to see in Rome. Dottie and I took a metro ride out to E.U.R. Built in the late 1930s by dictator Benito Mussolini, it was supposed to show off the modern wonders of fascism, but then World War II came, and the massive, stark, unfinished, 1984-ish looking city within a city wasn’t finished until the 1950s. In contrast to old Rome, it has tall, sterile office buildings in an Italian modernist style, laid out in a grid with wide boulevards. Architects may be impressed, but to me it seemed cold and devoid of passion and human touches.
The best thing there, and reason enough to go, is the Museum of Roman Civilization. This well-planned and easy to walk museum is huge and un-crowded. You can spend many hours there viewing the story of Rome from prehistoric times to present, with artifacts from each era on display.
All good vacations eventually end. Happy, stuffed with Italian food and very tired, we all flew home 14 days after our arrival. For Dottie and me, the pleasure we took in having our entire family with us was beyond measure – the dream trip of a lifetime.
We know our adult children appreciated it, but most importantly, so did our seven grandchildren ages 5 to 12.
Who knows how much of an impression it made or if it changed them. But we took great joy in what Joey, our oldest (12), said to his mom when they got home – “It was the best two weeks of my life.”
Closer to home, Capt. Rick Powers, at Bodega Bay Sportfishing, continues to have fantastic combo trip days in relatively calm waters of our coast. “It just doesn’t get any better than this,” Rick told me Tuesday while he was out on his boat.
His clients are bringing home full limits of rockfish, plus limits or near limits of big lingcod, plus limits of large dungeness crabs. Rick cited his Saturday trip as typical of what local anglers on his boat, The New Sea Angler, have been experiencing. “We had 40 anglers on board, who caught their limits of rockfish, and crab, plus 52 ling to 18 pounds.” The day before that all of his clients on board limited on everything, including lingcod.
Rick will be taking out combo trips this week, Friday through the weekend. The cost is $110 a day an angler. Call him at 875-3344.
My old friend Vic Zarzana, a longtime Sonoman, went out with Rick last week and came home with some nice rockfish and crab.
Inside the Bay, there are excellent tides this weekend that should mean good action on stripers and sturgeon in the Sturgeon Triangle Area bounded by the Pump House, Buoy 5 and China Camp, said Keith Fraser, at Loch Lomond Bait Shop in San Rafael. Keith books Bay party boats. Give him at call at 415-456-0321.
I haven’t seen much on local lakes, but heading north, the Klamath River, upper and lower Sacramento and Trinity River are all providing fair to good fishing for steelhead and trout right now.