You will probably shudder to learn that I need to renew my passport— now—in Rome! Bad planning, you’re probably saying. But life is full of surprises!
When I returned to Rome two weeks ago, I went to the U.S. Embassy in Rome website and made an appointment to renew my passport. I completed the passport-renewal form online and printed it. I attached a recent passport-sized photo and signed the form. This morning I headed to the consulate for my 10:30 appointment.
Not knowing exactly where I was going, I caught MY 116 bus at 9:10 and arrived at the consulate on Via Veneto at 9:40. I expected everything to fall apart at that moment, having visited the Italian consulate in Philadelphia to get our Italian visas and having lived in Rome for nearly nine months (minus two). But no. I was the only person in line for services for American residents (many non-Americans were in a line to get visas, and everyone had to have an appointment).
Around 10, the Italian guard opened the gate for me. I went through security, setting off the alarms with my metal hip, of course, and climbed a million stairs (no elevator) to the American Resident Services Department on the first floor (the second floor in the US), where I was the only person waiting! What? I walked up to a window. An Italian woman who spoke flawless English spent about seven minutes processing my old passport and the renewal form. She sent me to the cashier to pay the fees ($110 or €88—I paid in euros). The cashier told me to wait to be paged by the man at window 5. I waited about two seconds. The man at window 5 told me my application was in order, told me how to pick up my new passport in two weeks (no appointment necessary, but I must show a special entry form), asked me if I wanted to register to vote (no, thank you, I’m already registered), and wished me a nice day. He returned my old passport so I’d have it if necessary during the next two weeks. I was back on Via Veneto at 10:15 wondering what had just happened! I’m still in shock! Such simplicity! Such efficiency! Such utter joy!
Via Veneto may be my favorite street in Rome. It’s a beautiful, wide boulevard that winds to and fro up the hill from Piazza Barberini to the Borghese Gardens, and it’s lined with old sycamore trees, expensive shops, and pricey hotels. Although I’ve never eaten in one, I particularly like the little glass-enclosed restaurants perched on the edges of the sidewalks, which remind me of similar restaurants in Madrid and Paris.
To recover from the shock of my morning’s ordeal, I decided to have a coffee at one of the little restaurants. But no. They’re open only for lunch or dinner. I had to make do with a sidewalk café that served a passable cappuccino and the best cornetto (like a croissant) that I’ve had in Rome. The cornetti always look great, but they’ve never tasted great until today. I haven’t liked any morning pastries in Rome, so I was once again shocked!
For me the best way to recover from so many shocks in one morning is to walk them off. Fortunately, today is gorgeous in Rome—sunny and in the 70s—so it wasn’t much of a hardship. I first climbed up the hill (not the steps) to the top of the Spanish Steps, which have been planted with hundreds of brilliant pink azaleas for spring. Spectacular! I took some photos and then walked down the steps. You’ll see my photos below, but my all-time favorite photo of the Spanish Steps is one our daughter Kate took in the rain in November, which I’ve also included below.
I then decided to walk home (about two miles from the consulate), stopping for a reverse lunch on the way. My first stop was for dessert at our new favorite gelateria, Grom. Michael discovered one branch of the gelateria on Via della Maddalena near the Pantheon while I was recovering from surgery. I had stracciatella—vanilla gelato with fine bits of chocolate. Yum!
Having decided to eat lunch at my home piazza (Campo de’ Fiori), I made my way to Marigold at the south end and had a caprese salad (tomato, mozzarella, and basil)—my first of the season. The tomatoes are sublime right now, so I was in heaven.
So that’s my traumatic day. And here’s my advice to you: If you need to renew your passport, come to Rome. You’ll have to stay for two weeks, alas! Don’t forget to make your appointment online.