Thursday, September 5, 2019

summer reads {june, july, august 2019}

prepare yourself for a deluge of books! in the interest of time and space, i'm going to keep my thoughts brief about each one. my summer bookshelf turned out to have several real gems!


Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out (People of God)

1) Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out, by Kevin Clarke. a short but skillfully written account of Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was martyred in El Salvador for his controversial political and religious beliefs. Saint Oscar Romero was canonized just this past fall. 5/5.


All-of-a-Kind Family (All-of-a-Kind Family Classics)

2) All-of-a-Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor. one of my all-time favourite books as a child about a working-class Jewish family living in New York City. now even more delightful as a read-aloud to Greta (who was mostly interested in where she would fall into the age line-up of the five sisters). 5/5.


The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie

3) The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of the Little House on the Prairie, by Wendy McClure. the concept of this book was alluring: a grown woman decides to dig deep into her beloved girlhood world of Laura and Mary, learning as much as she can about the real Ingalls family and eventually retracing their steps from the Big Woods to the prairie and beyond. her writing style became a bit monotonous, however, and i found myself annoyed with how long the story dragged on. 4/5.


The Traitor's Wife: A Novel

4) The Traitor's Wife: The Woman Behind Benedict Arnold and the Plan to Betray America, by Allison Pataki. fascinating historical fiction, told from the point of view of a servant in the house of Miss Peggy Shippen, who goes on to marry Benedict Arnold. 5/5.



5) A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. y'all, i think i might have a new favourite author. this book about an old Swedish curmudgeon made me alternately laugh out loud and sob. i think we all know an Ove or two ourselves, and we'd all do well to understand what really makes them tick. masterful character development and a story arc that manages to be both believable and supremely satisfying. 10/5 (yep, that's right. go read it.)


Dying: A Memoir

6) Dying: A Memoir, by Cory Taylor. a brief collection of the author's thoughts as she anticipates her own impending death from metastatic melanoma. she is direct, concise, and honest. much of the book consists of her reflections on her childhood as well as the experience of parenting her own children, seeking to integrate the living and dying parts of herself. 5/5.


Love Walked In

7) Love Walked In, by Marisa de los Santos. a thoroughly enjoyable read with likable characters. the plot was wrapped up juuuust a tad too conveniently, but it was such a fun read that i'll forgive it. 5/5.


The Cloister Walk by Kathleen Norris (1996-04-02)

8) Cloister Walk, by Kathleen Norris. a truly unique reflection from a married Protestant poet who joined the Benedictines as a lay oblate thirty years ago. she writes about her experience as poet-in-residence at a Benedictine abbey. her love for the community is heartwarming, and reminds me a bit of Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede. 5/5.


Little House on the Prairie (Little House, No 3)

9), by Laura Ingalls Wilder. another bedtime read-aloud. this one required some judgment calls and i ended up skipping about half of the derogatory content about the Indians because i didn't feel like having that discussion right before bed. i did include some of the more nuanced dialogue (mostly coming from Ma) and we talked about discrimination and privilege. still 5/5 for its authentic portrayal of pioneer life.


Station Eleven

10) Station Eleven, Emily St. John Mandel. i don't usually read fantasy/post-apocalyptic books, but this was an incredibly well-done novel that i still think about, two months after finishing it. the narrative shifts back and forth between New York just prior to a pandemic and the rest of the world afterwards. 5/5.


At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe

11) At Home in the World: Reflections on Belonging While Wandering the Globe, by Tsh Oxenreider. a pretty perfect read for me right now, although we're certainly not circumnavigating the globe with only one backpack per person. still, i related to so much of what Tsh talks about: the freedom/loss of living without 90% of your belongings, the reality that your kids' favourite part of traveling is going to be that day they just hung out at the hotel, the ups and downs in marriage as you bond intensely but are also constantly with your kids. 5/5.


Black Narcissus: A Virago Modern Classic (Virago Modern Classics Book 158)

12) Black Narcissus, by Rumer Godden. an incredible novel about a group of twentieth-century nuns who travel on mission to India. Godden herself grew up in India and her book is incredibly rich with authentic detail. throughout the novel, the nuns wrestle with that central conflict of all missionaries: how to help and not hinder, how to adapt to a foreign culture with grace and respect, and, perhaps most importantly, when to leave. 5/5.


Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life's Greatest Lesson, 20th Anniversary Edition

13) Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom. oh, my heart. Gramps mentioned this book a few weeks before he died, and i asked if he'd like us to read it aloud to him. so that's what he did. the author recounts the true story of his weekly encounters with his old college professor in the months leading up to his death. ever the teacher, his professor expounds upon tenets of living a good and fulfilling life at every visit. the professor also candidly talks about his emotional reaction to illness, from frustration and self-pity to optimism and choosing cheerfulness. 5/5 and bring a Kleenex.


My Name Is Lucy Barton: A Novel

14) My Name is Lucy Barton, by Elizabeth Strout. a short, beautifully written novel that reminds me of the writings of Marilynne Robertson. Lucy is hospitalized for weeks for complications following surgery. her mother comes to visit her (the first time she's seen her mother for a while), and her husband does not. an emotionally complex exploration of the bond between mother and daughter, husband and wife, parent and child. 5/5. 


The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time


15) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. an absolutely heart-wrenching novel written from the point of view of a boy with autism. this should absolutely be required reading for everyone. 5/5.



16) Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult. Picoult is one of my favourite authors for her impeccably well-researched books and her compassionate but unflinching portrayal of human nature. this book is about a young girl whose mother disappeared while working at an elephant sanctuary. the huge twist at the end caught me completely by surprise, and made me want to immediately re-read the entire book. 5/5.


Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Cool, Calm, and Connected

17) Parenting Without Power Struggles: Raising Joyful, Resilient Kids While Staying Calm, Cool, and Collected, by Susan Stifel. ha! i needed this one this summer while dealing with some defiance and button-pushing from one of my children who shall remain un-named. her general philosophy is very much in line with the work of Daniel Siegel, Zen Parenting Radio, and Janet Lansbury -- that we are much more effective parents when we remain calmly in charge of our families. 5/5.


Calypso

18) Calypso, by David Sedaris. oh, i just love David Sedaris. his work is so piercingly funny and bitingly honest. i read this in the days leading up to Gramps' death when i needed something darkly and self-deprecatingly funny -- not too heavy but definitely not saccharine. 5/5.


The Nest

19) The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney. a story about four adult children who have been counting on their family inheritance (referred to as "The Nest"), only to find out that it may not be there for them after all. i really wanted to like this book, but i found the characters simultaneously predictable, unlikable, and unconvincing. i still finished it just to see how it all turned out in the end, but in a world where there are books to read like A Man Called Ove, don't waste your time. 3/5.


Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture

20) Brunelleschi's Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture, by Ross King. this was so good! an incredible deep dive into the cultural, social and political milieu of Renaissance Florence. some of the architectural detail got a bit too technical for me, but i pretended i knew what it meant and carried on. 5/5.


And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready

21) And Now We Have Everything: On Motherhood Before I Was Ready, by Meaghan O'Connell. i think this should be required reading for everyone who's about to have a baby or, maybe even more importantly, for anyone whose friend is about to have a baby. it's an unapologetically honest recounting of pregnancy, delivery, and the early years of parenthood. i so relate to her first forays out of the house sans baby, feeling like an hour alone is both infinite and infinitesimal. 5/5.


Speak No Evil: A Novel

22) Speak No Evil, by Uzodinma Iweala. i found myself immediately engrossed in this book about a Nigerian high school senior who is Harvard-bound, whose parents are highly educated and want him to do well while still embracing his own culture. another book with a gut-wrenching twist at the end. 5/5.


Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War

23) Heroines of Mercy Street: The Real Nurses of the Civil War, by Pamela Toler. i started reading this book last year before we moved to Italy, and discovered it in a box in our garage when we were home this summer, so i finally finished it! it's a fascinating account of how the true profession of nursing began. 5/5.

whew! i'm hoping to do a little more spiritual reading now that we're back at the NAC and i have access to the library, but for right now, here's what's on my September shelf:

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Beartown, by Fredrik Backman
Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White (read-aloud)
The Gunners, by Rebecca Kauffman
Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines, by Nic Sheff

Monday, August 26, 2019

Eve of the Feast of the Assumption {Tivoli}

the week we arrived in Rome felt a bit like an extended vacation, as most of the faculty were out of town on retreat and Nick was completely free from Wednesday afternoon through Sunday afternoon. we had casually discussed taking a day trip somewhere before his schedule picks up, but i hadn't given it any real thought. then, the afternoon that we landed in Rome, Nick said, "would it be too crazy to go to Tivoli tomorrow?"

well, it kind of was crazy. but not too crazy -- just the right amount -- because the following day was Wednesday, August 14, the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary. several towns around the country celebrate with special processions, but Tivoli's is one of the most elaborate. so what better opportunity to visit? we still had plenty of clean clothes in our closets here, so rather than unpacking what we'd brought back from the US, i started researching train tickets. we did look into renting a car for the day, but that would have cost at least €100 and four round trip train tickets came out to a total of €17. so, yeah. Nick played for the midday mass at the college on Wednesday, and then we were off!



at first Greta wasn't wild about taking a trip ("i just want to stay here and play with my toys!" she protested), but when i told her she could pack her own little backpack, she immediately perked up. she has matured so much over the past year. i'm sure part of it is that Rome is now familiar to her, but even when something unexpected or unpleasant happens, she handles it with so much more resilience than she did last year. Mom and i were just talking the other day about how kids shift through phases of equilibrium and dis-equilibrium and boy, am i loving every minute of this equilibrium phase she's in right now!

we were in a bit of a time crunch to get to the station on time, so we let Greta hop in the stroller and i carried Cece on my back. as we hustled through the bus station tunnel and emerged just steps away from the colonnades of St. Peter's Square, i had an overwhelming sense of familiarity. this is something our family does now -- we tote a stroller, two kids, and a backpack onto a regional train and go on an adventure for the day. this is the kind of thing i hope to emulate when we move back to the US for good.

Greta wanted to take a picture of us on the train
we had to transfer trains at the Tiburtina station, where Nick procured an espresso for himself and a cappuccino for me for a grand total of €2.60. man, have we missed Italy! then it was on towards Tivoli, which is about 40 kilometers east of Rome.


the train station is about a ten-minute walk from the center of town. of course, immediately upon disembarking, both girls announced that they had to use the bathroom. we couldn't find a bathroom in the station itself, so we kept our eyes peeled for a bar (aka a cafe) and bought a bottle of acqua frizzante (sparkling water) for the privilege of using theirs ("possiamo usare il bagno?" i asked -- may we use the bathroom? -- and they handed over the key with a smile. ah, life with a basic knowledge of Italian! che bello -- how nice!) especially traveling with kids, the lack of public restrooms can be nerve-wracking -- i always make sure we use the facilities if we're visiting a museum or some other tourist destination!

my Google maps walking directions ordered us to turn up a small side street and then climb a serious staircase to enter the city center. all those hours curled up in my favorite brown recliner over the summer were starting to catch up to me!

Welcome to Tivoli! prepare to get shredded!

maybe someday i'll live on this street... 
we continued to climb up the hill for another five minutes or so, before turning onto the unassuming piazza in front of Santa Maria Maggiore (yes, Tivoli has one too). adjacent to the church is the entrance to the Villa d'Este, built for the Cardinal Ippolito, the grandson of Pope Alexander VI and the governor of Tivoli in the sixteenth century. but the first thing we noticed was the crew setting up for tonight's festivities: two arches of greenery had been erected in the piazza for the culmination of the procession. this procession has been tradition since the Middle Ages, or possibly even before that. on the eve of the Feast of the Assumption of Mary (when we celebrate Mary's body being taken up to heaven), an icon of Jesus kept in a church across town is processed around the city, with ritual stops at three places: the bridge to the north of the city, the hospital, and finally, the Piazza Trento facing the church where a beloved icon of Mary is kept throughout the year. the icon of Mary is brought out to "meet" the icon of Jesus. the two icons "bow" to each other three times, and then they are both brought into Santa Maria Maggiore to spend the night "talking" to each other. it's just the epitome of Italian Catholic lore and i love it!

with the arches set up, artists are hard at work creating sawdust "paintings" between them

the entrance to Villa d'Este


we purchased our tickets and an audioguide to share between us, and stepped into the courtyard. Greta chose this auspicious moment to fall asleep in the stroller, so Cecilia had to be the sole subject of my photography!

the Fountain of Venus in the courtyard, which maintains its original design 

Liszt was a frequent guest here, and even composed three piano pieces dedicated to the beauty of the villa
and surrounding gardens

every planter should have little lion heads at its base, don't you think?


i asked Cece to make a mean face...


the villa was built on the site of a 9th-century Benedictine convent, which itself was built on an ancient Roman villa. the former cloister is now a courtyard, which hasn't changed much since its original construction. the first floor of the villa, however, is currently hosting an exhibition on the feminine mystique (complete with a small room advising those with "sensitive eyes" not to enter), so we mostly examined the beautiful ceilings as we hurried along.

detail above a window

a room with a view, indeed! 




maybe one day we'll have a coffered ceiling in our living room. 

or maybe a floor like this in our sunroom. (well, we'd need a sunroom first, but still.)

the ceiling of the chapel

the Cardinal's private chapel
then we emerged onto the terrace, and spent the next ten minutes exchanging looks that meant, "can you believe we're lucky enough to be here for another whole year?" and "screw jet lag, this was definitely worth the trip."


i was pleasantly surprised to see that they had installed clear plexiglass in front of the balustrade
so no little ones could slip through and fall. i'd expect that in the US, but in Italy, you never know!

i have a similar picture of her sleeping in the stroller in front of the Pantheon last year

looking down into the gardens

i just love this man! 
we continued on our tour of the villa, exploring the ground floor. these rooms are absolutely covered in beautiful frescoes, entirely safe for "sensitive eyes", thank you very much.

mosaics decorating the ceiling of the hallway. some of these were damaged in WW2. 


the Hall of Venus used to have its own fountain in this little grotto

a glimpse of the original mosaic Roman floor below the current floor


a glimpse out the window...

another view of the original Roman floor, preserved beneath glass

the Hall of the Fountain. those strange looking creatures beneath the basin of the fountain
are supposed to be dolphins. artistic depictions of dolphins from this time period
always look like something out of Jurassic Park!

another little grotto down a side hallway 

this floor! i literally cannot even. 

Cece kept shrieking so she could hear her own echo in the rooms of the villa. i stepped out
on the portico with her so at least the shrieks wouldn't bounce off the walls... and discovered
this absolutely gorgeous light! so we had to take a selfie. 
the subject of this fresco is the Synod of the God, reminiscent of Raphael's painting in the Villa Farnesina.
we visited that last year and you can read about it here

i can't get enough of this light. i need to learn how to use our real camera to be able
to capture it properly!

the labors of Hercules, who was considered the patron of the town of Tivoli in ancient Rome. 

the crest of the Este family, with their motto: "ab insomnia non custodita dracone", a verse from Ovid referring to the dragon guarding the gardens of the Hesperides.

this room was painted with all sorts cupboards and shelves, including this one
on which reside the bishop's miter and cardinal's hat.

Greta finally woke up and wanted to listen to the audioguide while we visited
the last room, the Hall of the Hunt
finally, we were able to explore the gardens themselves. it felt at least ten degrees cooler here than in Rome, and the misting spray from the fountains was delightfully refreshing. of course, around five o'clock, the mosquitoes started to come out in full force. they have teeny mosquitoes here called tigre or tiger mosquitoes, and their bites are insanely itchy. poor Cecilia always gets terrible reactions to them, so now i'm vigilant about bug spray. i doused the girls and myself (Nick opted to take his chances as the mosquitoes never seem to bother him that much) and we were back to uninterrupted enjoyment of the elaborate gardens!

the Fountain of the Tripod, based on an ancient Roman fountain. the original fountain
is now in the Louvre. 

looking down from the terrace

viewing the villa from the garden side

there were several old grottoes lining the walkway toward the gardens proper

is this real life?

diligently listening to the audioguide (but what fun is it to listen to the
entry that corresponds to what's in your field of view? she likes to press random buttons
and listen to whatever starts playing!)

a true oasis

the Rometta fountain, which was dedicated to Rome. this fountain symbolized the Tiber River
and the boat symbolized Tiburtina Island. the boat's mast was supposed to evoke an obelisk. 

another portion of the Rometta fountain, with a miniature ancient Rome in the background



walking down past the Hundred Fountains. there are actually almost three hundred little fountains in this wall. 

each individual fountain has a different animal face

Cece was quite enamored with this talented creature! (also, she had asked me for French braid pigtails
that morning and they are just about the cutest things ever.) 

another animal face
the Oval Fountain stands at the opposite end of the path, a majestic cascade with the jets of water meant to mimic a fleur-de-lis. it's hard to capture the grandeur of this fountain but Nick and i both agreed that it makes an impressive statement even today, let alone 350 years ago. 



we climbed up to the high point of the gardens, and were rewarded with this jaw-dropping view. 






at the base of the fountain, i staged a full-on photo shoot. how could i not?


look at the rainbow!!

Christmas card 2019? except for the fact that the lighting is so uneven...
i wish we had all just scooted over a few feet!
we had to hurry back up to the high point of the gardens to catch the Water Organ playing its music, which happens every two hours. this organ is entirely powered by water pressure, so it naturally has some dynamic vicissitudes. it was installed in 1571, the first of its kind in the world. apparently when Pope Gregory XIII visited the gardens the following year, he demanded to be let inside the interior of the organ structure so he could verify with his own eyes that no human organist was creating the music.

the facade of the Fountain of the Organ

voila! the shutters slide back, revealing the organ pipes. 




after this, i wanted to explore the rest of the gardens, while the girls were ready for a break. so they camped out near one of the fountains to play with their Splashlings and Little People princesses while Nick supervised, and i went off by myself. we'd already seen the real showstoppers as this lower part of the garden was originally used as a kitchen garden, but i enjoyed meandering through the far end of the gardens alone as the early evening sunlight slanted across the valley below.


looking back toward the villa. this is the way that visitors originally would have approached.


Fountain of Diana of Ephesus, modeled after an ancient Roman sculpture
(the original is in the Archaeological Museum in Naples)

these fountains were meant to resemble natural rock growths

view of the Fountains of Neptune from across the fish ponds

the Fountain of Dragons, with more nightmare-ish dolphins on the side

sunset in the gardens
we emerged from the villa around 7 p.m. to find the sawdust painting complete in the piazza outside. we could hear music coming from the church of Santa Maria Maggiore, so we ducked inside to find mass underway. the famous icon of the Madonna delle Grazie was still hanging on the wall -- a few hours later, it would be brought out to the piazza to "meet" the icon of Jesus. we said some prayers. Greta lit a candle beneath another depiction of Mary, and as we were on our way out, she insisted she wanted to light another candle. "i want to light one for Jesus!"

"well, honey, we need to go and find some dinner," i whispered.

"but Mama! i love Jesus so much!" she pleaded.

i couldn't say no to that! so we went, lit a candle at a side altar with a crucifix, and she prayed for Nana, Pappy, Grammie and Grandpa.


inside Santa Maria Maggiore


back outside the church, Nick noticed these fireworks suspended from the top of the facade,
ready to be set off at the culmination of the procession
by now it was high time to get some dinner. the procession was set to start at 8:45 PM, departing from the cathedral across town. we walked down the main thoroughfare past several restaurants with open-air seating. the prices looked reasonable but i'm always skeptical of the food quality at a place that seems so convenient for tourists, so i did a quick Google search and discovered the Trattoria da Gabriella, just up the hill. and oh, my goodness, it was worth every one of its 4.5 stars. we enjoyed a four-course prix fixe menu for €15 per adult (the girls ordered pasta bianca a la carte -- it's just plain pasta tossed with olive oil). i ordered antipasti, fettucine al ragu, veal scaloppine al limone, and a chocolate orange cake for dessert. Nick had the misti fritti (literally "mixed fried" appetizers, generally fried vegetables, suppli, and French fries), bucatini all'amatriciana, salsiccia (sausages), and a different type of cake. the entire meal was unbelievably delicious. everything tasted fresh and flavorful. the ragu in particular was a masterpiece, rich and yet pure. one of the waiters spoke excellent English, but we felt pretty confident using our Italian to communicate with the other members of the staff as well.

perhaps not the most picturesque location, tucked up on a little alley lined with garages,
but it was seriously one of the best meals we've had in Italy, for an unbeatable price! our total bill for
 all four of us was €48 and we ate like royalty! 

antipasti

miraculously Cecilia managed to avoid dropping her glass!

Nick's appetizer arrived several minutes after mine, and we wondered if they had forgotten
about it. when they brought out this literal cornucopia of fried deliciousness, our jaws almost
hit the floor! they certainly had not forgotten!

the best ragu i've ever had


by the time we ordered our desserts, we realized we probably wouldn't be able to see much of the procession as it was already 9:40 PM and the last train of the night back to Rome departed at 10:32 PM. we tried to hasten the process as much as we could, but it was a few minutes after ten by the time we settled our bill. we knew we would miss the historic "bow" of the icons in the piazza, since that wasn't projected to occur until 11 PM, but we hoped we could see at least some of the festivities. so we rushed back down the hill, through throngs of people (already the streets were much more crowded than they had been two hours prior), to find the piazza packed with people.


at this point, it was 10:10 PM and we had a good fifteen-minute walk back to the train station, so we made an about-face and hurried back toward the station. along the way, people were lining the streets and we saw some confraternities ready to join the procession with their individual banners. then, as we passed the hospital, we saw the icon! a young girl was leading the procession in a recitation of the rosary. we paused for a few minutes, wishing we could stay longer and join in the festivities.



outside the hospital, one of the ritual stops on the route.
it was 10:20 by this point, and Google maps was telling me we had an eight-minute walk to the station. we knew it would be close, but we'd still make it. we came to an intersection and the Google map directions were clearly telling us to turn left, but according to my own sense of direction, i felt like we should go straight. Nick flagged down a police officer who pointed to the left, and we continued on. then Google maps told us to turn right down a dimly lit pedestrian path, despite the fact that we could see the train station straight ahead of us across the river. "maybe that's the only way to get across," i said.

"but it's right there!" Nick said. he asked another pedestrian, who motioned to keep walking straight ahead, so we did. and lo and behold, there was a set of steps leading down to the foot bridge across the river. Google wanted us to avoid the stairs by taking a circuitous ramp that eventually connected with the foot bridge, but it's a good thing we didn't because that would have added at least a minute to our walking time. by this point, Cece was asleep in the stroller (so Nick hoisted the whole thing aloft to go down the stairs) and i was giving Greta a piggy-back ride. we hustled across the bridge and then had to climb the opposite hill to reach the train station. it was 10:28 PM. we could still make it by the skin of our teeth, but i was really starting to sweat.

then Nick had a brilliant idea. "Greta, do you think you could get down off of Mommy's back and run like you ran in your race?" (she had just run her first one-mile race, the Liberty Mile, in Pittsburgh the previous week. with alternating running and walking, she clocked in at 13:36.) i never thought she would go for it, but Nick persisted. "we have to really hurry if we want to make our train. and Mommy can't go as fast as she needs to go with you on her back. we're almost there. you won't have to run for very long. as soon as we get on the train, you can lay down."

and miracle of miracles, she got down off my back, and she ran! we must have been quite a sight with Nick pushing the stroller at full speed up the hill, and me running alongside Greta shouting "go, go, go Greta! you can do it! yes! we're almost there!" we burst into the station, spotted the announcement board with our train listed with a flashing dot next to it (meaning that it was about to depart), flew down the steps to the tunnel beneath the tracks and then back up the steps to reach our platform, then victoriously aboard the train! there was no one else in the car, so we parked the still-sleeping Cecilia between two seats and plopped down across the aisle from her. and at that moment, probably 20 seconds after we'd boarded, the train silently glided away from the station. there is no way we would have made it if Greta wasn't willing to run. we would have been stuck in Tivoli for the night, which wouldn't have been the worst thing in the world, of course, but still!

the journey from Tivoli to Termini station was uneventful. Cece continued to snore, while Greta was hyped up on adrenaline. the conductor passed through our car and i pulled our tickets out of my purse to show her. she waved her hand like "don't worry about it." we had the same experience taking a late-night train back from Orvieto, where they didn't check our tickets (which was a very good thing because i didn't have a hard copy printed out, and my phone had died. now i always carry a hard copy, plus a portable phone charger!)

as we approached Termini station, i knew it would be a tight connection to make our train from Termini to our local San Pietro station. what i didn't realize was that our train to San Pietro was leaving from what i like to call the wastelands -- a section of platforms all the way at the far end of the station. even with our most valiant efforts, we ran panting up to an empty platform just after our train had departed (also the last train of the night to San Pietro). but not to worry! we knew that several bus lines were still running, and Nick happened to have a few bus tickets on him, so we hopped aboard a 40 bus. Greta was still wide awake and reminded me that i had promised her earlier that she could have some gummies. despite the fact that it was now almost midnight, i decided she deserved a special treat. so she had a few gummy bears while the bus bumped and rattled towards home. the 40 is an express bus, so it only stops once close to our house, but i remembered exactly which stop that was and we disembarked. then we crossed the bridge over the Tiber under the benevolent moon, and were home.