It took me a while to get this post up – this trip was, in many ways, a disappointment for us. The negatives were pretty much user error on our part, I think, so we confirmed some things about ourselves as travelers. Herewith, our journey to Rome:
Sunday – arrival
When we arrived at the Rome airport, we checked into taking a train into the city, but at 18 euro apiece and several metro/bus transfers, we figured we were just as well off with a cab for 48 euro total. So, off we went. It was dark, and we really didn’t get a good look at anything. So we woke up Monday with no real sense of the city.
Not feeling Rome yet. Maybe it was the rain and cold. Maybe it was getting off several bus stops too early returning to the hotel. Maybe it was staying in the ‘burbs rather than in the city center. Maybe it was right after a trip to Barcelona to meet a high school group, with the 5-hour train trip back home before the flight to Rome. In any case, Monday wasn’t our best travel day ever.
We slept in, had breakfast at the hotel, then headed toward the city center. After a false start, we finally figured out the instructions to get to the bus stop: the hard part was getting off the hotel property; from there, it was a matter of just a few blocks. We hoped the rain was over, but it started up again just after we got off the bus at the Piazza Venenzia:
We proceeded with our plan to do the hop-on/hop-off tour bus to get our bearings. And the rain blew in. And it was cold. Even with the awning up and sitting behind the windshield. But we persevered for the whole loop plus another stop. And we got some good pictures:
We managed to have lunch (really good pizza with a restaurant full of American students on spring break – we opted not to speak to them) and do some window shopping with no rain. We wandered for a bit in search of fountains and churches:
We ended up at Piazza Navona, where we got some great pics:
The bus ride back to the hotel was crowded, but the sun was shining.
Another cold, rainy day. Another late start.
We decided to save the Colosseum for later in the week. After picking up our Roma Passes, we headed to the Capitoline Museum, where we spent several hours wandering. We kept finding rooms we hadn’t seen before. Husband focused on faces, feet and hands of statues. Generally, I prefer ceilings.
A magnificent lunch at a beautiful restaurant: Ristorante Vecchia Roma: a lovely red table wine; roasted Jerusalem artichoke; mixed salad with a fabulous simple dressing of lemon, oil, and vinegar; pork chop with rosemary and balsamic vinegar (pork chop doesn’t do it justice); risotto with pistachio and parmesan; crème brulee; and Italian coffee.
A stroll to the Trevi Fountain, where we made our way through the crowd down to the bottom of the fountain area:
Then a taxi ride to St. Patrick’s to pick up our tickets for Wednesday’s papal audience. Between us, we managed to leave a backpack in the taxi. Note to travelers: ALWAYS make note of the taxi number. We’ve since started snapping pics of them. It may help prevent gouging, too.
Then a taxi back to the hotel, where we crashed for the evening and did our research for tomorrow’s visit to the Vatican.
We’re not Catholic, but, man, I love this pope! We were worried about the rain, but it cleared early. We had been advised to get to St. Peter’s Square at least 2 hours early for the 10:00 papal audience, but we didn’t quite make that. Still, we managed to get seats in the first section, maybe 15 rows back. Lots of young kids from all over the world. Francis made his appearance about 9:40 and circled the square several times before approaching the dais. It was like a pep rally: a youth choir singing, band playing, jumbotron focused on the Pope. Lots of joy!
Listening to him speak was like hanging out with a favorite uncle. He joined the crowd in laughing when his cap blew off – that later made the American news. Lots of official translations: English, French, German, and more. He did his own translation into Spanish. Flags everywhere for him to bless. We didn’t even think to take our Texas flag, so it remains unblessed.
We didn’t get to appreciate the Swiss Guard uniforms: they were bundled into coats.
As wonderful as the morning was, the afternoon was the worst travel experience we’ve ever had.
We returned to the Vatican to tour the Vatican Museums. The week before Holy Week, spring break, the day of the papal audience: BIG MISTAKE. It started out crowded, then quickly became unmanageable. Shoulder-to-shoulder and elbow-to-elbow through the whole place, and we could only move forward. No stopping to admire. No moving ahead to the things we really wanted to see. No joy in the Sistine Chapel – guards yelling the whole time to keep moving and no photos – not that we could move our arms to take any had we been so inclined. It soured the whole Rome experience for us. They offer an evening after-hours tour, and if we were to return, I think we would check that out.
3 buses later, we were back at the hotel. At the second bus stop, we ran into a group from Husband’s family’s home area in Kansas. Small world, indeed!
Finally, the Colosseum! It was all that we expected! Truly a marvel… Great views inside and outside, and not as crowded as we had expected.
We took the Metro to the Borghese Museum, but the second metro line was closed, maybe due to a strike? So – so much for that idea! We ended up walking from the bus station to the Borghese. Stopped for pasta on the way, of course.
The Borghese is run like a museum should be – the antithesis of the Vatican Museum! We had a 3:00 admission and got there about 2:00. No early entry, so we wandered the grounds and watched dogs playing in the park area. Limited number of admissions, admitted every 2 hours, half sent to the second floor, half starting on the first floor. No rush, no crowd, plenty of time to admire and take photos. We lingered for an hour and a half or so, and left feeling much better about Rome.
After the metro fiasco, we taxied back to the hotel. The driver fussed about how much it would cost, but we insisted he run the meter. It cost less than half what he had wanted to charge, but we tipped him extra because he had to fight traffic back to the city center. Note to self: we are city center people – no more staying in the suburbs!
With an early evening flight out, we were able to pay 20 euro for a really late checkout. We headed to the Pantheon and window shopped for a bit. Lunch at a fabulous family-run restaurant. A lovely low-key last day in Rome.