Have you ever tossed a coin or two into a fountain and made a wish? Did it come true?
Not exactly Fonatana Di Trevi in Rome, but a small fountain in a garden restaurant somewhere in a Swiss village. This was not for throwing coins.
The real thing is in Rome, and yes, been there and done it. What a disappointment after throwing my coin in the fountain to realise that after approximately a week, the town workers arrive with an electric powered shovel, scoop up all the coins and probably split the profits among themselves, or even deliver them to the Italian authorities. One way or the other, the granted wishes are more luck than judgement. What did I wish, well I was about eighteen years old at the time, spending two weeks in Italy and my four days in Rome were occupied with other things apart from wishing.
My wishes did not seem to bring me luck when my friend and I (a female – too young to go on holiday with something male, and in those days it was not done so much) decided to visit the opera in Rome. We were both opera fans and there is in Rome an open air theatre Terme di Caracalla where operas are performed, so friend and I decided to go. Our hotel was not in the centre of Rome, probably because Rome did not have one centre, but many, which made this excursion even more complicated. We arrived at the bus stop, we had to take two different busses. The first was easy, and we even found the second bus, known as line Chi (Line C, but the Italians say it differently). We arrived at the opera after crossing the town of Rome which took about an hour. We entered the opera place, an open air theatre, and took our seats. It was August, when the mosquitos are at their best, and ready to feed on fresh blood to ensure that their babies develop and grow. Unfortunately they decided to feed on us, so we were sitting outside waving our hands most of the time, not in appreciation of the opera, but to drive the vampire insects away.
The opera we watched? It was Madame Butterfly: not my favourite, many female singers with loud high screeching voices dotted with a few men, and arias that seemed to go on for ages. However, it was all part of the experience; we were there and did it. Now the exciting part begins.
The opera was finished and it was time to take bus Chi on the way back to the hotel. Unfortunately the opera finished after midnight, and the last bus Chi had departed, so there was no bus. What do you do? You walk. We had a lovely sightseeing trip along the wide Roman roads, and many cars pulled up full of young men asking if we wanted a lift. We politely said no and walked on admiring the view of the Coliseum at midnight and trying to ignore the whistling men driving past. We still had a faint hope that even if bus Chi had gone to bed, our second bus might still be circulating. Unfortunately it seemed that no busses were circulating in Rome so late.
Then we were saved, after walking about thirty minutes, the answer to our fears appeared on the horizon, St. Peters in the Vatican City. What could be safer, in the shelter of the Pope. If we had no bus, we were sure he could help (even if we were Church of England) and perhaps he had a room free for the night, we might have even converted. We arrived at the large square in front of his apartment. This square was empty except for two groups of people. I approached the first group and asked in my best Italian (my friend could not speak Italian) if they could tell us where the bus departed. This group looked safe as it was a family with children. Unfortunately they were French, did not know Rome and did not understand us.
We moved on to the second group, two ladies and two men. The ladies were American, listened to our adventure and said we will take you to the hotel. Our friends (the two men) have a car, no problem. We did not know whether to agree or not, imagining the headlines in the morning newspaper, two English tourists found naked in the River Tiber clutching a programme of the opera Madame Butterfly. Our doubts must have been obvious as the American lady said, the men were their friends and both were doctors. Fun, at least if we were going to die we would have a professional job done.
We had no big choice and climbed into the car, which now contained six people. The Italian dottore knew where the hotel was, no problem. After driving a few minutes, we heard the sound of a siren and a police car signalled us to stop. The next headlines, two English tourist women imprisioned, for travelling in a car containing Mafiosi, because they were too late for bus Chi. We had luck, it was not the police, how silly, it was the carabiniere, which was a step higher on the ladder. Perhaps they do not even take prisioners. The two American ladies told us to keep calm, their friends would deal with it.
The two men climbed out of the car and had a long conversation with the carabiniere, waving hands in the air, showing documents and talking in loud voices. The carabiniere were also talking in loud voices. This seemed to work, probably the Italian way of solving problems. My friend and I said we would walk to cause no further trouble, but the men said no problem, we were just too many in the car and it was suspicious.
Eventually we were at our hotel. We thanked our rescuers and arrived at the iron gate to the hotel which was locked. Big deal: we decided to do the loud voice trick and it worked and the hotel people opened the gate. Even the lady in charge of our tourist group was there. Everyone was very amused, except for my friend and I. I still do not like Madame Butterfly, even if it was one of Puccini’s best.
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