Romans are a bit antsy today. The Leader of the Free World and his wife, Ms. Free World, arrive this weekend. Today, the itinerary was published.
On Saturday morning, Bush meets with Pope Benedict to discuss, no doubt, favorite 14th Century views on Islam and present-day Iraq. If there's time, Benedict will quiz Bush in the sciences. True of False: life on earth began 6,000 years ago.
Laura Bush, meanwhile, will get a tour of the tony 17th Century Villa Doria Pamphili. (Xtina and I were there in April for a rare tour. The interior is spectacular despite efforts by previous landlords to blot out all the good stuff. When the Belgians used it as their embassy in the 19th Century, they covered the pink marble ceilings in a white plaster-like paint. Not my first choice.)
In a twist, along with the typical meetings at Palazzo Chigi and the Vatican, the prez will come to our side of the river, to Santa Maria in Trastevere, to be exact. Yesterday, Italian authorities were trying to talk Dubya's handlers out of such a stop, the narrow, winding alleys of Trastevere being a difficult assignment for anyone to police. But, it appears, the American contingent will proceed as planned. He's then on to lunch with Prodi, an aperativo with Berlusconi and dinner with the Ambassador.
We get a lot of requests here for suggested Roman itineraries. This time, nobody's asked. But seeing as the White House reads my blog regularly (Googling for the Sette Bello restaurant in nearby Alexandria, Va), here's my suggestion:
1. Get the Pope, Prodi, Berlusconi meetings over with before lunch. Start early. Remember: No cappuccino after 10 a.m.!
2. For lunch, come to Pizza da Claudio in my neighborhood. You can take the Number 8 tram. You cannot miss Claudio. All the cabbies eat there. You'll see them all double-parked in front. Careful when you cross the street. Red lights are discretionary for most Roman motorists, making it tricky for us to cross the road. And we didn't launch an unpopular war.
3. Afterwards, head to Ostia on the coast. The dunes are lovely. Just don't head too far south -- if you hit the gay and nudist beaches, you've gone too far, particularly if you've got any Vatican hangers-on with you still.
4. Evening: Stay in Ostia and boooogie! Italians are internationally recognised as the worst dancers in the G8. Your moves can only help.
5. Back to Trastevere. A cup of cinnamon ice cream at Gelateria alla Scala.
6. More dancing in Testaccio.
7. By now, it must be 2 a.m. Time to throw eggs at Benedict's window. It'll be hysterical. He gets up early on Sundays for Mass! (This one's between us.)