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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Rome, Italy: Sono affamato for cappuccino

Synopsis: Stephanie and I decide last minute to take advantage of the 3-day weekend and do a 4-day trip to Rome. Weather will be nice so we will just walk around until we see something cool. She speaks a little Italian and I eat a lot of Italian, so we should have no problems.

Trip Overview:

Day 1: Land at Ciampino in the morning and head to the hotel to check-in. We are staying by Termini station so we have access to every kind of transportation available in the city. Stop for cappuccino. We decide on the 110 Open bus tour. We take the red one around for an hour and a half just to get an overview of the city. Stop for cappuccino. Republicca Fountain is nearby, waiting for a photo op. Head down to Altar of the Fatherland (Altare della Patria, aka The Wedding Cake), which just happens to be near a third of the tourist attractions in Rome: Trajan Forum, Roman Forum, Piazza Campidoglio, and the Flavian Amphitheater (Colosseum) in the near distance.

First day, full of energy, let's walk to Trevi Fountain. Wow, can there be any more people here? We gently blitzkrieg our way to the front for a photo. Alright, that took two minutes, let's go to the Spanish Steps. Oh, the other half of the entire world is here. Stephanie's friend recommended a restaurant near here but we can't seem to find it. Let's check google maps... yeah its on the other side of town. Let's head back to the hotel. Stop for cappuccino.

Night 1: In Italy, they don't eat dinner until very late, so we venture out around 9PM looking for food.  Walk by the Pantheon, but it's closed this late. Continue on to Piazza Navona and check out the Fountain of the Four Rivers and eat at a restaurant.

Thoughts: After navigating Rome by foot and traversing the length of the city twice, we are completely familiar with the layout and quickly get to wherever we want.

Main train station in Rome

The "Wedding Cake" aka Altar of the Fatherland

Riding the hop on/off bus
Having way too much fun at Repubblica Fountain

Trajan Forum, Roman Forum, and Altar of the Fatherland all in one shot, with 4 special guests 
Going up to Piazza Campidoglio

Trevi Fountain

Me doing... something, at the Spanish Steps

Neptune is commanding Stephanie to take an awesome photo

The Pantheon really did not want anyone inside. Those doors are huge!

At the Fountain of the Four Rivers, Piazza Navona

Day 2: Get up early to catch the 110 archeological bus, the green one. Take that tour and realized we have no interest in archeology and we are just going along for the ride, to see new things and hear the prerecording very loudly in one ear and super faintly in the other. Stop for cappuccino. We booked a Vatican tour prior to arriving, so beforehand we walk around the Castello di Saint Angelo and the bridge nearby. Go over to Piazza Cavour for lunch. Stop for cappuccino.

Time for the Vatican tour, as we pass all the unlucky folks who didn't prebook and have to wait in a very long line while street vendors have unlimited access to bother them about a hat or some trinket that will break in four days. We receive radios so that we can hear the guide as she talks. What a novel idea! The Vatican is amazing. Just unbelievably large and ornate and decorated and well-preserved and big. In the Sistine Chapel, they say no photography and no talking, but I look around and see both rampantly. Say 3 Hail Mary's and all is forgiven, I presume. Next, to St. Peter's Basilica, and this thing is equally large and impressive.

Night 2: Go over on the other side of Termini to look for a nice place to eat. Eventually find a nice spot and unwind with some Italian wine and bruschetta.

Thoughts: I would not have stood in line to see the Vatican, so pre-booking was the only option for me. Three of the four tours sold out online before I booked, in just one day's time. So book now!

On top of Castello di St. Angelo, overlooking Vatican City
Bridge of St. Angelo

Handstand with St. Peter's Basilica in the background

In front of the Palace of Justice, contemplating just ice or add grenadine for Italian shaved ice
At the entrance of the Vatican Museum

Bowling granny-style in the Vatican
There was nothing that wasn't decorated or painted or covered with art, inside the Vatican

Altar in St. Peter's Basilica

Showing love to the Swiss Guard

Day 3: Head out to see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. Again, with the small radios. Again, genius idea. Our guide is showing us things that I would never see or look for if I just came on my own. Tour = worth it. Go over to the Roman Forum and then up to Palatino Hill to see where the head honchos lived. Stop for cappuccino.

It's still early, so we will check another place not on the bus route, Piazza del Popolo. A really nice and large square, probably used for concerts. Our Colosseum tour guide says the best gelato in Rome is Giolitti, so we are on a mission to test this claim. We find it, it's good, but we still have hundreds more gelatos to try before we can say its the best. Since we're here, let's go by the Pantheon to see it while it's open. Stop for cappuccino.

Night 3: Not really hungry so let's get some more gelato!

Thoughts: We happen to be doing our tour on the day they host a youth volleyball tournament, so there were hundreds kids and parents blocking the roads. Guided tours are really good because you can ask questions and get elaborations on things that you are actually interested in. A tourist had cardiac failure in the Roman Forum and despite the ambulances and crowds, our guide stayed focus and delivered the info. Kudos to her.

Two gladiators posing before battle
Most of those people were for the volleyball tourney and not the Colosseum

They blocked off the main road to support the volleyballers

Roman Forum, Stephanie is paying good attention while I goof off

Piazza del Popolo

We found it!

Look what's open today, the Pantheon

Day 4: Our flight leaves tonight, so we decide to walk to some places we haven't seen. End up in front of Basilica of St. John Lateran. Amazingly large church, why was this not on the bus route? Guy tries to sell Stephanie a scarf, so I try to sell him my leftover croissant from breakfast. He doesn't bother us anymore. Stop for cappuccino. Head back to Termini to make our connection to the airport.

Thoughts: We walked quite a bit to have only seen two things, but we did get to sit at some cool cafes and people-watch and enjoy not being in a rush.

Basilica of St. John Lateran
Cappuccino #1,047,482,123.66

Final Thoughts:
Using the hop on/off bus as public transport usually serves me well, but in Rome they only seem to have 8 stops to cover this gigantic city with thousands of things to see. I ended up doing quite a bit more walking than I was planning, but the nice weather made it possible. And postcard stamps for the U.S. are 2€ a piece! But, I love my peoples, so I bear the burden to send you a postcard ;-)

It was a good idea to separate the larger monuments into separate days so that we would have time to walk around and see the surrounding monuments and sights that you don't normally get to see. Four days was sufficient to soak in the culture, but not be overwhelmed or feel like I am moving there. I can attribute most of my energy to all the cappuccinos.



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