Our dinner with Dr. Morehouse was fortunately uneventful.. Most of the conversation concentrated on the research presented at the conference. After dessert, we took a walk outside for several minutes. Dr. Morehouse is truly a man of few words. Without any explanation, he quietly warned us to be careful in Rome. And then returned to the hotel on his own. Josh and I exchange looks but remain quiet. We both think Dr. Morehouse is our silent ally at the Institute but we doubt he would give us a straight answer if we asked. The following morning, we land at Fumicino airport and check into the Rocco Forte Hotel de Russie. It is a quiet, boutique hotel and opposite in style from the Four Seasons where we had stayed in Milan. Its central location is perfect for our needs. Josh explains that he prefers staying in understated surroundings that have ambience rather than large opulent hotels.
Immediately after checking in, we walk down the Via Cola Rienso and visit the Sistine Chapel. Josh had booked a private tour guide to take us through the chapel to avoid the long lines. Upon arrival, the three of us marvel at the human landscape Michelangelo created from lying on a scaffold. Visual sense is overwhelmed upon entering one of the most famous chapels in the world. While the eye is drawn immediately to the famous image of the two touching fingers, there is such an incredible display of art on almost every surface of the chapel painted by other well known painters, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Roselli and Peruigia. It would take years to study and truly appreciate every singular piece of art in the chapel. When we depart the chapel, we wander through the Vatican museum and then sit down for a coffee at an outdoor kiosk before we tour the Basilica.
“I almost feel normal, well for me.” Kevin muses as we quietly drink our coffees.
“What do you mean?” Josh asks quietly, while putting an arm on the back of my wrought iron chair. Josh has become increasingly protective of me since we came to Italy. It is almost as if he is reacting to an imminent threat.
“Just the stress of the last week, hell the last three months has been getting to me. Just having the next few days to play a normal tourist is so welcome.”
I smile at Kevin’s remarks. “Well it is almost over, at least this phase of it. God only knows what will happen in the future. Personally, I am so happy that I got to see the things we did here in Italy. Just the ability to travel and see these masterpieces, it was freedom. Something my mother and I were denied the last fourteen years. While I am not happy about our circumstances, I am glad we are doing something to actually change the circumstances.”
“Me too.” Kevin responds with puppy eyes at me. I elbow Josh to stop him from smirking. Josh shakes his head and stands up.
“Let’s go tour the Basilica and walk back to the hotel. I’ve booked us all massages for this afternoon and then we will stroll around the eternal city and drop some coins in the Trevi fountain for luck. We are having dinner at this family run restaurant this evening in Trastevere. The food is indescribable. I talked to the owner and they are going to let you into the kitchen to observe Kevin.”
“Really, that is great.” Kevin looks flustered for a minute.” I have never had a massage before.”
“Neither have I. Are you up to all the touching Kev?” I ask with concern.
“I am not sure. If I am not comfortable, do you mind if I skip it Josh?”
“Not at all. Sorry I should have checked with you first. Kevin, would you mind if you stayed around the hotel while we are getting our massages. I want to keep us close together, especially in a foreign city after what happened yesterday afternoon.” We get up and start walking into the Basilica. After we finish, we walk back to the hotel. Kevin decides he is going for a swim instead of a massage. We agree to meet in three hours and visit the Trevi fountain before dinner.
The rest of the night goes by in a dream. We each toss coins in the fountain in the hope of returning one day and then take a taxi over to the restaurant, Amici Mei. The waiter seats Josh and me at a table towards the back, abutting the sidewalk. We have the perfect view of everyone in both the restaurant and on the street. Kevin spends the night in the kitchen and manages to converse in Italian with the mother of the chef, Nonna. Fortunately, Kevin avoids any idiomatic idiosyncrasies and gets on quite well in the kitchen. Nonna takes to Kevin and allows him to help with the prep work in the kitchen. Josh and I sit back with a glass of prosecco and just take in the smells and sounds of gastronomical heaven.
I give Josh a smile. “I think I am hooked for life on the therapeutic value of a massage. I especially liked doing it as a couple.”
“I liked what we did afterwards as a couple.” Josh leans in and gives me a kiss. “Now that’s amore.”
I laugh. “Did I just hear the extent of your Italian speaking ability?”
“Pretty much. But I nailed the most important word. Kevin and I were talking earlier. We want to rent Vespas and travel to the Coliseum and Pantheon tomorrow. I also want to take you to the Church of Luigi de Francesi near the Piazza Navona. The Carravagio in the church is amazing.”
“Seriously? Don’t we have enough excitement involving guns coming up soon? Have you ever driven a Vespa before? Has Kevin?” I find this request more than a little alarming. The drivers in Rome seem chaotic and I’ve never seen Kevin drive before. After all our planning, how fruitless would it be for any of us to become injured on the streets of Rome?
“I used to own a motorcycle and Kevin has driven a Vespa in Europe before. It will be a hoot.”
I drip a little sarcasm. “That’s reassuring. The two of you are like big kids. Ok. Why not? I am already living dangerously.” I’m still not entirely sold on the idea but table the discussion when the waiter arrives with our meal.
“The chef prepared his specialty for you tonight. Bon appettito.” The waiter pours more wine and then hurries back to the kitchen.
I take several bites. “I think I just died. This is amazing. I am almost sorry I am not back with Kevin in the kitchen learning how to make this.” Midway through the meal, the waiter comes and turns on the outdoor fireplace.
Kevin bounces out of the kitchen at the end of the dinner shift. “How did you like the meal? If I weren’t a scientist, I would definitely become a cook. I loved it in there. Thanks for hooking me up Josh. I am going to come back tomorrow after we go to the Coliseum. Has Analia agreed to the Vespa idea?” Kevin looks hopefully at me.
“Yes, I agreed Kevin, with reservation. The two of you need to be careful and no driving on sidewalks.”
Kevin looks at Josh and grins. “Thanks for taking me along. This is turning out to be a great trip, despite the debacle yesterday morning at the conference and the scare at the restaurant. I have never had friends like you.”
“Me neither.” I reply. We depart the restaurant shortly thereafter and Kevin kisses Nonna goodbye.
We spend the next few days sightseeing and taking it easy on the streets of Rome. We keep gravitating to Trastavere for the food and the nightlife. Kevin goes to the Amici Mei restaurant every afternoon to prep and learn some trade secrets, or at least he thinks he does. While he is gone, Josh and I make the most of our time alone. We return on the last night to Amici Mei restaurant and Kevin helps prepare an elaborate meal for us. The next morning, we depart for New York. I wish we could stay longer in our microcosm of happiness. As we board the plane, I can’t help thinking that my bubble of happiness is about to pop.