We flew in this morning. After a tiring day in Hong Kong I fell asleep as soon as I sat down in the plane and woke to see the lights of Warsaw beneath us. Warsaw! And it was gratifying to note, on this Lufthansa flight, that Air New Zealand really does do it better.
We got into Rome at about 8:00, proceeded through customs (two guys in uniform watching us as we walked unimpeded and unstamped out through the door) and took a shuttle into town. The shuttle was a Fiat people mover, large, black, driven by a guy in a suit with a Rolex who drove calmly, organically and very fast; he knew where the corners of his vehicle were and had an unerring instinct for lane changes; he maneuvred his large vehicle through the traffic jams like it was a motorcycle. I was MOST inspired. Clemency was carsick.
The Monstery of St. Gregory is old, but I can't figure out how old. It has the patina of age and decay, much like the brother who greeted us and led us up the stairs to our room on the 4th floor. The room is basic but clean and we are 100 metres from the Colliseum and from all the old piles of rotting bricks that people travel the world to take a look at. So it was unpack, shower and figure out the bidet. Then we caught the Metro into town, found a supermarket, bought some groceries and had lunch, Then discovered St. Mary of The Angels and were awestruck. There was nobody in it - it's not very prepossesing from the outside and is not in the tourist top ten list. But it is vast, very old and steeped in the silence of the spirit. On our walk home we found a little Anglican church with a famous set of mosaics and tiny lanes with views. We walked into the neighbourhood around the monastery where we seemed to be the only tourists and ordered the wrong sort of coffee and sat under umbrellas to drink it. The eternal city. Age. Deep spirituality. Buildings still in use that were started in the second century. Good grief this place is amazing.
It's night time now. We caught the Metro into town again, and found this internet cafe. We've figured out the train timetable for Assisi and sussed where to buy the ticket (closed right now, of course). We will walk tomorrow - it's about 45 minutes to the Vatican on foot, but of course there will be many discoveries on the way. Hopefully one will be an internet cafe with a card reader to allow me to upload photos. We'll see.