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Trip to Rome, Italy (May 15-22)

May 15th:
The train from Naples was pretty uneventful, and the countryside is beautiful.

Raining in Rome, cab to hotel was cramped, but only 25 Euros including our bags. Wait a second, for the less than 1 mile trip, that’s pretty extortionate pricing… but it was raining…

Hotel Solis is quaint… meaning 1968 called and wants our room back. At least it is clean and the A/C works. We are a short walk from the Colosseum. Sill no laundry service at the hotel (!?) and Wi-Fi is an extortionate 7 Euros for only 3 hours. Ouch!

First views of the Coloseum

Erci’s dad and his wife were initially given the wrong room, and they had to move and re-unpack. They lucked out though, their new room is next to ours and was redecorated in the early 1990s; a vast improvement in lighting and fixtures.

We had a quick bite at the Enotecha across the street, and a walk to Colosseum to see the metro stop in daylight and experience traffic free Sunday a little; people watching was fantastic. We found the metro stop, scored week-long all-you-can-ride public transport passes and then we walked back to the hotel, and then went out for our first non-Italian food of the trip, Chinese at Citta in Fiore, and it was excellent, and very, very busy. Standing room only to get in, and the line kept growing and growing.

May 16th: Vatican Museum

Hotel Solis breakfast is very continental; meaning you should find your own breakfast somewhere else to augment the scone, cereal and coffee they provide.

Metro from Colosseo to Termini then from Termini to Cipro and walk to Vatican Museum.

Guided tours pretty much all suck. The guide may be wonderful, but you will be rushed by things you want to spend more time on and waste precious time waiting for long explanations of things you don’t care about; and waste time for groups to gather and be herded about. We spent 5 hours in the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and Saint Peter’s Basilica; and yet I feel both rushed and exhausted… only 10 minutes of that was in the Sistine Chapel itself and the crowds were intolerable throughout. When finished with the tour, our guide said good-bye and collected the radios outside St Peter’s Basilica; and the museums in Rome do not accept re-entry; effectively forcing us to pay a second time if we wanted to examine anything in the museum at our own pace afterwards. Frankly, for me, because of the crowds, the Vatican Museum was a ripoff; though there are wondrous things to be seen there if you could ever figure out how to see them with no crowds.

Flattened Panorama of St Peter's Basilica

Walk from St Peter’s Square to lunch at random place with seats, shade, and water; then on to Ottaviano/San Pietro to Metro to Spagna where we got out and walked around looking for the Mandarina Duck store Sutragirl wants to shop at. Rode Metro again to Repubblica and got out to get sprayed by the fountain of the Naiads. Got back on to exit at Cavour for gelato and back to the hotel for a siesta.

One Naiad at the Fountain in Piazza Repubblica

Dinner next to our hotel at Enoteca Cavour 313, was spectacular. Tapas style items on the menu were delicious and allowed us to taste many things, and the wine selection was heavenly. We learned that a proper Cannoli is really good and not overly sweet like in the States.

May 17th:
We supplemented the parsimonious hotel breakfast with yogurt from a grocer a few doors up the street, then went over to the Forum to explore. We found ourselves at the Capitoline Hill end of the Forum as noon approached, and decided to exit to examine the Capitoline Museum and get lunch. Capitoline is nice and cool with ambient music in most rooms, and we went to Bar Rudy for lunch, it being pretty much the only choice close to the hill, and it was less than thrilling. We walked back to the hotel via the monument to Victor Emmanuel and Trajan’s Column and market. Then the exhaustion caught up with us and we napped until dinner time approached.

Arch of Septimius Severus and Temple of Saturn at the Roman Forum

Temple of Saturn from the Capitoline Museum

Capitoline Venus

A second right hand of Constantine?

I could exhaust my entire lexicon of superlatives to describe the dinner we had at Il Pagliaccio on Via dei Banchi Vecchi in Rome, but I will skip that and just say that it was the most expensive meal I have ever eaten, and it was worth every penny. Fantastic. Rob picked excellent wines, we have amazing service, and epicurean delights.

May 18th:

The Forum tickets we had, supposedly good for two days would not let us re-enter the forum to finish the tour. Moral of the story; to get your money’s worth out of Rome’s expensive museums; do NOT leave until you are done with everything you want to see. That means planning ahead for marathon sessions in some of them and ignoring pushing museum people and tour guides who try to trick you into leaving early.

So we went to the overcrowded Colosseum to get some value out of our combo tickets.

Colosseum from the upper level

Arch of Constantine from the Colosseum upper level

To try to minimize walking (one member of our group has bad knees) we took the metro to Barberini, then caught the Electric Bus #116 to Piazza Farnese. We stopped for a tasty lunch at Hosteria Farnese, then walked through Campo de Fiore, browsing the open market, and walked back to the spectacular Pantheon.

The dome of the Pantheon An arch inside the Pantheon

The Pantheon, used continuously since the 2nd century is very impressive. I did not cry like I did at Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, but one does get filled with a sense of awe at the engineering marvel that makes a building last so long. We spent a good deal of time here and I made another PhotoSynth panorama with my iPhone while inside.

We proceeded to Trevi Fountain and then to Spagna to let Erci and her father shop at Mandarina Duck.

Trevi Fountain

We rested our feet and had a little wine at L’EnotecAntica where I wish we had more time to sample the many wines they have by the glass. From there it was a short walk back to Metro at Spagna and a quick ride to the hotel for a nap and a shower.

We stayed local for dinner, walking only two doors from our hotel to enjoy Restorante Argentino Baires for some fantastic Argentine food and a Malbec of course.

May 19th:

We are starting to figure out the bus system, and took bus 84 to Piazza Venetia and then split our group. Erci and the others went to some Capitoline churches and a second Forum visit. I got onto bus 46 to Lago Argentino and then street car 8 to Trastevere to explore. Trastevere, is more lived in than the areas of Rome we have been seeing; the neighborhood is alive and thriving. I found Glass Hosteria, where we will be dining Friday night. I got addressed by a man in rags and debated Christianity and Buddhism with him for some time on the banks of the Tiber near the Sisto Bridge.

Tiber River from Sisto Bridge

I crossed the river and wandered through Campo de Fiore again and found Salumeria Roscioli, where we will have dinner tonight. Then I walked to Santa Maria sopra Minerva and enjoyed the statue of Christ Bearing the Cross by Michelangelo.

Santa Maria sopra Minerva Christ Bearing the Cross at Santa Maria Sopra Minerva

After cooling off in the church for a bit and enjoying the gothic architecture I walked to Piazzo Navona to see the Four Rivers fountain and grabbed lunch at Tucci Ristorante; and had spectacular Insalada de Mare and mixed grilled fish.

Four Rivers Fountain in Piazzo Navona

After lunch I walked towards Trevi fountain and found a store with some gifts of Murano glass. Then I caught the 117 bus back to Via Cavour and the hotel for a shower and a nap. It’s hot here in Rome, at least when walking briskly.

Salumeria Roscioli was fantastic for dinner, excellent black ham, cheese, beer, and some of the best lamb I have ever had. I feel we may have missed out on Rome’s best carbonara spaghetti as well… I could very easily go back to this place again. Yum!

May 20th:

We decided to visit Ara Pacis, which is a very modern museum with the reconstructed arch pf peace. The day was getting pretty hot and we enjoyed the air conditioning, before walking to Campo de Fiori for shopping and lunch at Fratelli la Bufalata (which is quite good for pizza). We had very bad luck trying to catch a bus back and got seriously overheated.

Glass Hosteria for dinner was spectacular; each dish more amazing than the one before. Excellent wines, and even the pettifores got devoured, where usually we skip them.

Trastevere is alive with magic and romance on Friday night; a several blocks of street party. Sadly, Erci, has definitely caught some bug and is not up for an evening of fun. I definitely want to come back to Trastevere.

May 21st:

Our last full day in Rome and in Italy; I have finished re-reading The Diamond Age and enjoyed it very much, even the second time around. I am almost out of clean clothing, and I miss my friends, my cats, my own pillow, my own shower, and unlimited internet of a decent speed. Erci has filled the 4GB flash card in the big camera, and we’ve started on an older 2GB card. I have had to delete a movie from my laptop to make room for all the iPhone photos we are collecting.

Erci is definitely ill, so we are staying near facilities. We went to the National Museum of Rome and thoroughly enjoyed the sculptures, frescoes, and mosaics. The coin collection would impress even Les.

Lunch was at Argentina Baires and was good again.

Dinner was at Enoteca Cavour 313 again because it was so very, very good. The pistachio gelato with black pepper was simply divine.

We have begun the mad packing session for the trip home.

May 22nd:

There is now a 2 Euro/day/person Rome city tourist tax at hotel, in cash only.

Airport Limo picked up two other couples and delivered us to Rome’s Fiumicino Airport efficiently.
Nothing in the airport was open and edible, so we missed breakfast.

Heathrow Security is annoying and oppressive and panicky for no obvious security features I feel harassed and abused, not secure and we barely made it to the gate before the end of boarding out connecting flight.

BA 747 was packed, over-warm, and rank; we all stank by the time we arrive at Dulles 7 hours and 20 minutes later.

We did not know it at the time, but the extra length of flight time might have been dodging a new volcanic eruption in Iceland.

I watched “No Strings Attached”, “The Tourist”, and could not finish “I am Number Four” because the flight crew kept interrupting the show. It looked pretty horrible anyway.

Dave picked us up and dropped us off at cars; barely made it home awake; but it is good to be home to do
loads of laundry, shower, give/get lots of cat affection, and house recovery.

We are trying to stay awake to shift to Eastern Time.

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