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After all the walking around we did yesterday, it was decided that we should figure out this transportation thing quickly or we'd wear ourselves out before Rome was done with us. We managed to get ourselves lost walking down to the central train station, but the good thing about getting lost in Rome is that it is just so darn fun. There's something interesting to see literally everywhere - down the street, across the street, in the trees...
At the train station, the patient lady at the tourist info booth tells us that we can find a bus map 'out in the centre.' We walk around out in the centre for ten minutes, looking for a sign that said ATAC, Rome's public transport company. What seemed so endearing yesterday, the dearth of public signage, is now a curse. Nothing.
We ask at a magazine shop, Parle Inglese? 'A bit.' Where would we find the ATAC office so we can get a bus map? 'Outside and to the left,' he says proudly, and off we go before he can say another word. We head outside, spirits lifting on this bright and sunny Rome morning. We're doing it, I'm thinking to myself. We turn left and find exactly nothing. Maybe he meant the other left. Nope. A few more minutes of befuddled wandering before we go back inside, and Laura asks someone at an official looking desk where we might find this most important map. 'Any newspaper or magazine seller will have one,' they say. Hmmm. At the nearest magazine shop, I find exactly what I'm looking for on the left side of the rack. I hand my euros over to the familiar looking retailer who eyes me kind of strangely.
Our booklet contains a remarkably comprehensive and intimidating bus guide, as well as a handy metro map which shows us that the nearest metro stop is right outside the station, beside the ATAC office. On our way to the bus stop, I frown in that direction, just as some guy jumps out of his chair to ask if we need any help. No thanks, I mutter, forgetting the blue skies for the moment, we're just going to catch a bus. To the Vatican! Laura shouts gleefully. 'It's right there! Go, GO!' he says, his arms flailing in a 'get moving' sort of fashion. We jump on the bus just before the doors close and have our tickets stamped (Matthew is free) in a self serve machine. No one checks that we have done so, but failure to stamp them could result in a fine of up to 500 euros. We will continue to stamp them as required.
In a shady spot near St. Peter's Square, we eat some lunch (assembled from parts purchased at our neighbourhood bakery) and watch all the goings on. Tourists travel in large packs, small groups, as individuals, so much activity that this is nearly an event unto itself.
The lineup for the Vatican Museum is minimal today, so we get in pretty quickly, so quickly in fact, that Laura's still packing our lunch knife away, a knife sharp enough to cut tomatoes so thin your in-laws will never come back. Then we see security, and the bag screeners that look like they're on loan from a major airport. Laura quickly tries to stuff the knife in my bag. I'm thinking, put it in the kids bag, for crying out loud, not mine!
We decide to come clean and tell the security guy hanging out by the door that we have a knife that we used for our lunch, you know, to cut cheese and such. 'What kind of knife is it?' he asks with a pleasant smile. Uh, a cheese-cutting type knife. 'Let me have a look,' he says, still Mr. Casual. Laura pulls out the serrated cheese killer, and security guy does this very audible inhaling whistle. 'Better check that,' he says, pointing to the bag check desk.
Bag check guy is uninterested in us, even as I walk toward him with a knife in my hand. 'Security first,' he says, and waves us away. I stuff the knife deep inside one of our bags and throw them on the rollers of the bag screener, sending them through along with a little prayer. The guy watching the x-ray TV calls Laura over and asks her to explain purpose of the long, sharp-looking item. She opens the bag in question and starts to pull things out, but that is not the bag I put the knife in. I start to suggest that maybe it is the stiff backing of the very sturdy day pack, but TV man puts his hand up in a sort of 'back off' gesture. He calls over a couple of co-workers, and the three of them come to the conclusion that it is probably the hair brush. Yeah, that's it, the hair brush, I say, with a nervous laugh as I quickly gather up our other bag, you know, the one with the KNIFE in it, and we do an innocent-as-possible jog over to Bag Check. We wait for a few minutes before the clerk looks up and says, a bit impatiently, 'You can't check that here, this machine is broken. You have to go upstairs.' I was tempted to say, We have a knife! but I held my tongue.
Up the long escalators, then we see the Baggage Check desk, beyond the ticket booth. We pay our way in, 42 euros (no freebies here), and walk with purpose over to bag check, relieved to finally be rid of this albatross. The man smiles brilliantly and waves us on by, like he's doing us a favour. 'It's okay,' he says, 'you can take that in!'
Stunned, we walk into the Vatican Museum with our very sharp knife.