So, where were we?
Oh yes! Having left the Vatican, we drove around a bit, then stopped in Via Liegi, in the Parioli area north of town and had a salad at a restaurant called “Insalata Ricca” – Rich Salad. My salad was okay, but nowhere near as good as any of my own creations; still, the rest was much-needed.
So far, so good.
After lunch, keen on a bit of shopping, we drive toward Via Del Corso, Piazza Venezia, Piazza Navona, but our progress is impeded by all these new flashing white signs saying Varco Non Attivo.
In case you don’t know, varco means opening, threshold, portal, and attivo means active. Varco non attivo- non active opening.
Not wanting to go through a non active opening we keep going, then we see a flashing white sign saying Varco Attivo, or Active Opening, finally! We drive through it and it gets us close to where we want to be, we keep going
but avoid going through another Varco Non Attivo even though it would have got us exactly where we wanted to be, but what can you do, non attivo is non attivo, end of story.
But then we strike lucky, for not far from the Varco Non Attivo, we see a Varco Attivo, excited we drive through it, and lo and behold it leads us into a tiny street where we find the perfect parking space, right in the middle of Rome’s Centro Storico! Brilliant, I’d say.
“Let’s go this way,” says Florentina starting in the direction of Piazza Navona.
“Are you sure we can park here?” I ask no one in particular, and none of my family answers with a definite yes or no.
“Look,” I say, pointing to a small-clothes shop opposite our parked car. “I’ll go in there and ask.”
“Buongiorno, mi scusi,” I say to the smiling woman standing at the desk. “Si puo’ posteggiare li? Is it okay to park there?” I ask.
“Si certo, yes of course,” yippee I think. “If you have a permit,” she continues.
“What permit?” I ask, immediately deflated.
“The permit to be in the Centro Storico. This is a pedestrian zone and you can’t drive here without a permit.”
“Oh! We don’t have a permit.”
“Then how did you manage to drive all the way here?”
“We drove though the Varco Attivo, otherwise we wouldn’t have got as far as here (here being steps from Piazza Navona)”
“But you can’t go through a Varco Attivo without a permit,” she explained.
To cut a long, expensive, story short, Varco Attivo means that electronic surveillance is active and your car is being photographed as you go through it. If you have a permit – fine, otherwise you get a fine.
“And how much is the fine?” I ask.
Exhausted, pissed off, we lost interest in shopping and drove home instead. Once home, Hugh went on the internet and discovered that every time we went through a Varco Attivo we got fined eighty euros.
But in the end we worked out that we couldn’t have gone through more than a couple of the active things and thanks to our friends collecting us from the airport, lending us their beautiful apartment and car, our stay in Rome had cost us very little. And on top of that, we’d had a nice time.
So when our friends arrived that evening to take us out to dinner, we relaxed and enjoyed the evening and the company.
The following day, crying, we said good-bye to Florentina and flew to London.
On the way to the airport and on the plane I prayed for my brave little girl, fending for herself in this big world.
I prayed to her beloved brother Andrew to keep a protective arm around her and a watchful eye out for her, always.
After a short snooze, I woke up in London…
To be continued.
PS One other “small” thing that happened that day, someone scratched the left back corner of our stationary, borrowed car. But I don’t want to give you too much excitement in one day, so I’ll leave telling you about that for another time