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Des Moines, Iowa
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Europe Trip - Day 7

Geoff Wood

After finding our way to bus 42 again and getting on the route the correct way this time we made our way back to Via Tritone (without that route map we were limited on options). They day before we had noticed a nice open top bus tour in "Ciao Roma" and decided to try it. As I previously mentioned, we try to do this in all new cities we visit to get the best lay of the land. We're not fluent in Italian (I've been forwarned that even the words the D'Amico clan brought back from the old country have different meanings depending on the region - they say 'ma pina' is dishtowel, others have found it offensive) so we had to listen to the recorded English version of the tour.

We jumped off the bus in the Jewish Quarter (called 'the ghetto') near Tiber Island to visit Iowa State's Rome studios. I had done some Google Mapping (Double True!) on my iPhone(1) the night before and pretty much figured out the location. We found the correct Piazza and then even found a buzzer for the Rhode Island School of Design's (RISD) studios but no dice for ISU. We buzzed RISD (assuming they were our best chance at English) and after two attempts they directed us to the right place:


The building is the home of legendary/notorious family in Italian history: the Cenci. One of the profs offered us water, showed us around, introduced us to the students, and told us about the Tiber River shorescape project they had been working on all year. I read a neat anecdotal paragraph on a bulletin board that most people will say that the oldest ISU campus building is the Farmhouse Museum but this space predates that by more than 300 years.

On our way back to the catch the 'Ciao Roma' bus we passed an Irish pub "Mad Jacks Roma" and decided to pop in for a pint. It was a bit odd that no one spoke English in an Irish pub but didn't really matter once the Guinness was served. I decided back in March, on our weekend trip to Cleveleand, that I was going to start collecting t-shirts from Irish pubs. Mad Jacks had them all over the ceiling so I asked if I could buy one. They said "no" and alas my collection is stuck at 1.

Back on the bus we headed off to see the Pope (Hey ya, boys, dis is the pope!) at Vatican City. The sun was blazing on top of the bus and that really made the multi-hour line looking intimidating. We settled for wandering about the Piazza San Pietro for a bit and marveling at the architecture:

We headed back down Via del Corso and found a nice little place for dinner. We were the only diners once again and had a hard time convincing our waitress that we didn't want coffee with our pasta. We didn't want it with our desert, either, which seemed to frustrate her.

We stopped for gelato near the Pantheon on the way back to Via Tritone (48 hours in Rome and still no bus map) then decided to hit up our second Irish pub "Trinity College". I really wanted to go in just because I thought this is the best name for an non-Ireland Irish pub ever (they didn't sell t-shirts, either, some collection). We then took the hot, sweaty, crowded bus back to our hotel and decided to get some more drinks.

The concierge recommended the "Friends Music Cafe" and it turned out to be what we were looking for. We had our first authentic Italian red wine followed by several Peroni's. Our waitress spoke zero English (hardest person to talk to on the trip) but she knew that one bartendar did and was very patient and accomodating in going to get him anytime we had a question. Eventually, we asked if any other table was speaking English. She/they pointed us to a couple near us that turned out to be from Manchester, UK, and on their own Roman holiday.

While on the trip he had proposed to her so they were out celebrating. We invited them to our table and had a great conversation until closing time.

The night before we left for the trip one of the men in our bible study had lead a discussion about how we jump to characterize someone we meet by their profession. The immediate question following "Hello, what's your name?" is "What do you do?". I challenged myself to go out of my way to replace the "What do you do?" question with "What is your passion?". It sounds a bit corny but I love meeting new people on vacations and I thought it would be interesting to get to know what them first by what they are really interested in.

This bloke(2) was the first person I tried it out on. He told me his passion was football (translation "soccer"). Knowing he was from Manchester, I cut him off and said "Manchester United?". They laughed. He said he was actually a fan of the other Manchester football club "Manchester City". He said that everyone assumes that you're a Manchester United fan even though the City squad routinely beats them head-to-head. Funny, sounds like parallel frustrations to us Iowa State fans.

(1)Lots of technology name dropping to begin this sentence (2)I believe that is actually the correct use of the word.