A Travellerspoint blog


Day 31, Rome

sunny 24 °C

We got up early this morning, with intents to be at St Peter’s Basilica long before the crowds but waves of nausea delayed us. When we did leave we drank our espresso and set off. We reached St. Peter’s at 7:45 and stood to go through security for only 5 minutes. The earlier you are there the better. Even as we left the line was longer.
The cathedral shocked us. It’s grandeur immense. I had only seen the church in the movie Angels and Demons and had no concept whatsoever of it’s scale. It overwhelmed me. We plugged in our Rick Steves’ audio-tour and listened in awe for 45 minutes. From where we stood at the back the front of the church was two football fields away. The main alter stands seven stories tall and the lettering around the top seven feet high. None of this could we tell upon entering, the space, though it holds up to 60 000 people feels much smaller. I’m very glad we decided to go, even though I was feeling very sick. It would have been a shame to miss.
We took the metro a few stops back close to the Tervi fountain. We were looking for one of the best gelato places in Rome. It was closed so we drank espresso at a table on the road as the shops were opening around us. We walked to the Borghesse gardens a few minutes away. I don’t know about you, but when I visit gardens I always do so to escape noise and traffic and enjoy nature. Romans don’t. The park was very loud, traffic all over and construction taking place in a multitude of places. The grass was sparse and dry. I was hungary, we tried to find something to eat. We found nothing except bottles of pop for 3.50 euros and bags of chips with the same price.
We had ticket reservations for the Borghesse Gallery with an admission time of 1300. We gathered ourselves, our tickets and our grumbling stomachs bought an audio guide to share. I had reservations about the museum, I wasn’t sure if it was just another thing everyone had to do, a tourist trap, a waste of money. Thankfully it wasn’t and we loved it! The museum was absolutely amazing, full of beautiful frescos gorgeous paintings and breath-taking sculptures. We spent our maximum 2 hours drinking it all in. With the audio guide I would not have loved the museum. It was because the guide explained the good pieces, their origins, their meaning and a bit about the artist I feel we really enjoyed it. I hadn’t understood sculpture before yesterday, Bernini changed my mind. His Appolo chasing Daphne had us both speechless.
Unfortunately cameras were not even allowed in the museum, so I have no pictures to show. It’s a shame really, but I understand. We took the metro to Termini station. We had planned to walk from our room to Termini station at 0300 the following morning. We decided to try out the walk out to make sure we knew the route. I am so glad we did! I went through a super shaddy part of town, with drug dealers and crackheads watching us from the corners of their eyes. The walk took about 20 minutes and by the end of it we both knew it would be a bad move to do that in the middle of the night. We found a night bus that would do the same thing but in a much safer way. We were still starving so we jumped into the next pizza place we saw. We didn’t love it, but it was food.
When we got home we packed and showered and got directions to the hostel. I also managed to book the last few accommodations we needed. Now we only have 4 nights total that aren’t booked, hopefully those go well. We had a lot to do but made it into bed by 2130. Except that I couldn’t fall asleep, every time I started thinking about what would happen at 0200 my stomach lurched.

Posted by s-a 08:08 Archived in Italy Tagged rome Comments (6)

Day 30, Rome

sunny 25 °C

We really slept in today, I was to busy being stressed out last night to sleep. Accommodations are biting me in the butt. We took the busy metro to the Vactican. We zipped right up to the museum through security and purchased our tickets. We beat out 6 groups of school children (what would a group of 9 year olds get out of the Vatican museum anyways?) to the top of the stairs. The museum was absolutely jammed full of people. It was not very pleasant.
The museum itself was pretty nice. The tapestries depicting the life of Jesus were my favourite part, mostly because I found the three pieces named, massacre of the innocents, so touching. I might even suggest that the 12 euro price tag and billions of people are worth braving just to see it. At the end of the maze there was a prize, the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel was smaller than I thought it would be, and it must have had 1000 people in it. We got some seats on the benches at the sides of the room and plugged in our Rick Steve’s audio guide. 26 minutes later I left feeling very pleased with what I saw above me. The tour was again, very enlightening.
We escaped the mobs of people and the Vatican itself. We were in search of pizza. We would find what we were looking for, Pizzarium, about a 10 minute walk away. This was an interesting place. Things are hectic and frantic and the crush of people behind you frightening, but the people behind the counter, intense as they might be, are very nice. You tell them the types of pizza you want and they snip if off the pan with scissors. They weigh your slice and fire it in the oven. You walk over the the cash register with your bill in hand (grabbing a beer along the way) and pay the man. Then you slither back through the crowd to wait for the counter guy to chop up each slice into 4 pieces and stick it on a wooden board. Now all you need to do is find a surface to put you paddle on and dig in. Bon Appetit.

I had forgotten to write down the address to the ice cream place I wanted to try. I only remembered it was called Fatamorgana. Shane used his magical ipod powers to find the place and we went. We tried a flavour called Kentucky. It’s chocolate and tobacco. Yes, it’s as weird as it sounds.
We were going to go into St. Peter’s Basillica but the lines were wrapped around the whole entire ring. In my most conservative estimate I think the line was 2 hours long, it might have been up to 4 hours. Either way there was no way I would stand in that line for any church. We left, trying to walk to a park we saw on the map we had.
All parks in Europe seemed to be fenced (not just fences, they’ve usually got walls built around them) and this one was no different. We tried for a good 15 minutes and got frustrated. We chose to hop on the bus home. The bus got fuller and fuller and traffic got slower and slower. 45 minutes later we reached the main train station and unfolded our neaseous selves from the sardine tin. We got on the metro and rode the two stops home.
What a relief it was to be back in our room. I got to work on the computer booking almost all of our remaining accommodations. (I’ve only got to book one night in Basel and our stay in Belgium.) At 2000 we left for dinner. My heart was set on La Mani in Pasta in the Trastevere neighborhood so we braved the bus to get there. It was worth the effort. We enjoyed a wonderful plate of antipasto and an amazing piece of buffalo mozzarella (I finally get what all the hype is about!) Shane ordered a plate of carbonara and I was going to order something different, but our server told me not to, convinced that their carbonara was the best in the city. When an old man tells you to get the pasta, you get it. And after one bite I would agree with him, it was the best carbonara I will ever eat.

Posted by s-a 11:29 Archived in Italy Tagged rome Comments (3)

Day 29, Rome

sunny 26 °C

Our morning was quite productive. We printed our boarding passes for our remaining flights and paid the balance on our room here (Barbara let us off the hook for that extra night I had booked.) We had our breakfast, cappuccinos and nutella croissants. We walked into town. Our only goal for the day was to see Rome.
see the dude in the top left. not happy.
We started out with the Capitol building. It’s located behind the Roman Forum and we couldn’t get to it the day before. I sat on the steps right away as Shane took a picture, suddenly there were whistles blowing and shouting from overhead, apparently I missed the “no sitting on the steps” sign. The building is very grand and inside is located a (very boring) museum. We skipped out after a few minutes.
From the capitol building we walked in the direction of the Trevi fountain. We got side tracked by a church we peaked into. We love old churches. They all look the same from the outside here in Rome, but the insides are 100% different every time. Some are understated, some are very ornate with lots of woodwork and gold and others still just wow you with their paintings, frescos and marble.
trevi fountain
From the church we went to the Trevi fountain which we thought would be less busy in the day than the night before. No. Not at all, it was busier. We didn’t even stay, we headed for lunch, to spaghetteria we were at the night before. This time we sat on the patio (technically on the street) and had much better service. The food was still dynamite and after lingering over a bottle of wine we ran off in search of the Pantheon. We were smart this time, knowing we wanted to go back, so we downloaded a Rick Steve’s podcast for it. That is a move I would recommend, he was both informative and entertaining, again so much would have been lost just looking at the pieces.
We also went back to our favourite church here, Sant’Ignazio and spent the better part of an hour thoroughly exploring and enjoying every part of it.
Across the square we stopped in at Tazzo D’oro, a coffeehouse. We paid for our two coffee granitas and elbowed our way to the counter, to have our tickets filled. Holy cow! x100! They were nothing like anything I’d ever eaten in my life. Icy, bitter coffee shards offset by thick, creamy and sweet cream pilled high. I will never be able to recreate this. Ever. And it makes me sad.
We wanted to get to the Capuchin Crypt across town and got lost twice. Not really lost, we never do, we just go the wrong way really far before realizing our mistakes. We checked out another church before we made it there. When we arrived we dropped 5 euros in the donation basket and a woman told me that my “hot-pants” weren’t appropriate and to cover my legs. Jeeze! The crypt was sweet. Bone art is creepy. Period. And I’m sorry but we have no pictures of the crypt, it was forbidden.
We walked to the Trastevere neighborhood and got some more biscotti from Biscotti Artigiano. We took those cookies next door to a local coffee shop and drank down iced cappuccinos. 1.10 each, best deal yet.
We had a Rick Steve’s tour we followed through the neighborhood, which was again, very interesting. When all our touring for the day was finally over we made our way to Nuovo Mondo, a pizzeria across the river. Thank goodness for us it was open this time. We had fried mozzarella balls and a bottle of wine. We ordered a pizza. And then when that was gone we ordered another. They came to us in all their thin-crusted glory, the best margherita pizza to ever make my taste buds sing. Of course we finished up with gelato, what is a day in Italy without?

Posted by s-a 13:46 Archived in Italy Tagged rome Comments (6)

Day 28, Rome

sunny 23 °C

Nutella doughnuts for breakfast

I awoke with the cold this morning. The curtains dancing in the wind. I got up to close the window and grabbed the computer on the way back. It was 0630 but I was awake. I was checking and rechecking the flights and bookings we have when I noticed I made a mistake with the days I had booked here in Rome and in Athens. We were booked here a night we would be in Athens and were missing a night in Athens. I panicked a little wondering what Shane would think of his absent minded wife. I guess I was bound to make that mistake because we have been booking so fast that the numbers all run together. I sent off an email to our Athens hostel right away hoping they could accommodate us an extra night and then woke Shane up begging for forgiveness.
First glimpse of the Colosseum

We sorted through a few emails and sent one to Barbara asking if she could PLEASE not charge us for the night we wouldn’t be here. We then left for breakfast. Breakfast is included in our stay here at the cafe beside the building. A cappuccino and a pastry. I don’t understand how Italians eat so little in the morning. Maybe that explains their crankiness...or maybe they are still full from all the pasta the night before! We ate our breakfast while a gentleman played the slot machines beside us at 0830.
We decided on walking to Palatine hill and the Roman Forum to get a sense of direction in this city. Our first sighting of the colosseum, only a 10 minute walk from our front door, took our breath away. We were giddy with excitement. We bought out joint tickets (Roman Forum, Palatine Hill and the Colosseum for 12 euros each) and an audio guide to share. We spent 3.5 hours trying to understand and navigate our way around the Roman Forum and the Hill. It was very interesting, but kept us wondering what things actually were. If ever you visit the Forum or the Hill I highly recommend you skip the audio guide because it is not very informative and instead download a free (or paid) podcast for your ipod and take it around, I’m sure it would be much more useful than the guide we had.
We were getting very hungary around 1230, so we left the park. We walked to a pizzeria we had high hopes for, that was about a 20 minute walk away from where we were. When we made it there we saw that it was closed. Bummer!!! We walked over the bridge into the Trastevere neighborhood, which is a lovely place to be. It’s awfully historical with twisted streets and an old church in every piazza. We ate lunch at a restaurant we chose on a whim (always sketchy.) We chose it because we saw the forno (wood burning oven) through it’s windows. We each had a pizza, of course, which turned out to be a very good decision. It was delicious!
We kept on walking towards a place we had in mind, Biscotti Artigiano Innocenti. We had heard reviews of gruff service and were feeling rather unpleasant about it. The experience turned out to be a very good one and we left with a little bag full of cookies for 2.40 euros. What a steal, we plan to return.
when "when in rome" does not apply
the circus maximus used to be here
Our sightseeing for the day was far from over, so on our way back we walked by the Circus Maximus, where they used to hold chariot races, it’s little else but a valley now, nothing of the grand stadium which held 350 000 people, that it used to be. We walked until we reached the Colosseum, which after lunch was full with mobs of tourists. Thankfully however the cruise ship tours had left, those are the worst kind of tour groups. We skipped all the lines because we had tickets already and walked right inside. It was a sight to behold. My words will never come close to describing what you see. It was far bigger than it looked from the outside. To imagine what it looked like 2000 years ago was incredible. Where rough staircases are you can imagine 5 levels of seating above. Where the floor is open to the basement you can imagine an elaborate set above and 100s or 1000s of wild (or tame) animals below. Where there is only words to describe you can imagine the torture and pain inflicted on the unfortunate.
is this really worth keeping?
We spent well over an hour combing through the many piece of information before our eyes. We decided we were getting tired so we took the metro a few stops, until we got to the Spanish steps. We found a place to get some coffee, it was 1630. The place we walked into was overwhelmingly busy. We stood right in the center by a wall reading the menu. In two columns there are two prices (which we are used to). One for the bar and one for a table. We were VERY glad we read it before we sat down and ordered our standard two espressos. At the bar we would pay .80 a shot, at the table...2.50 per espresso!!! The two iced cappuccinos we ordered at the bar for 3.60 (for both) were at the table, double in price. Needless to say we enjoyed our refreshments standing.
We sat people watching for 45 minutes until 1730 when we started along with a huge group of people for a free walking tour of Rome. The tour was amazing. Super amazing! Andrea was our guide and he was super funny and informative. We were a little leery of going on a free tour, as you might be, but it was well worth the 10 euro tip we gave him. He took us in two churches we would otherwise not have seen. One, our favourite, was called the Sant’Ignazio. It had the most beautiful frescos we’ve ever seen. When you stand underneath the ceiling in the center looking up, the painting creates an optical illusion that the roof opens right up into the heavens. Our guide told us it was painted by Andrea Pozzo a Italian Jesuit brother and mathematician in the 1650s. We hope we get to see more of his work.
our favourite ceiling ever
The highlight of our trip was the Pantheon. We had been only following the tour, having no understanding of where we were exactly and suddenly we were inside. It’s unmistakable with the paneled roof and large gaping hole in the center. Andrea told us that the Romans used arches in much of their building including this one, which was built in 8 years, 126 years after Christ’s death. How could you not be in awe of that? Such a large building, built in the shape of a sphere in only 8 years without the use of modern technology. The Romans were brilliant.
When the tour finished we took our guide’s suggestion and had dinner at a spaghetteria close to the Tervi fountain. The service we had was atrocious, only scowls all of dinner, in fact our server did not say one word to us the entire time, only grunts! But the food was fantastic value. We had a 1/2 bottle of house wine, bruschetta to start, lemon veal and an amazing plate of spaghetti for 30 euros. Awesome! We found the gelato place Andrea recommended for dessert and polished our ice cream off quickly because we had a metro to catch and it was due to close at 2230.
at the Trevi fountian

When we got to the station at 2215 we found that the metro closed at 2100 for most of the stops on the line we needed due to construction. We were forced to take the most dangerous bus I’ve ever been rattled to death in, which tossed us around as it sped around corners and slammed on brakes, thankfully it dropped us off in front of our door.
All in all we spent our day doing the most touristy activities possible, but loved every second of it. There is a reason so many people come to Rome, and it isn’t the service, it’s because of the surprise and history hidden around every corner!

Posted by s-a 15:22 Archived in Italy Tagged rome Comments (5)

Day 27, Cinque Terre to Rome

storm 16 °C

We woke up bright an early this one, well I did. It was dark and windy and the shutters on the outside of the room were crashing and banging against the side of the house. I had left laundry out overnight to dry, so I ran out to grab it. It had also rained that night and I woke Shane up right away. By 0645 we were walking down slowly towards town, pausing at all the view points to look at the ocean along the way. We had breakfast at 0700 in our coffee shop. No tourist were out this early, only locals. They were very lively and animated with one another while sipping their early morning espressos. In such a small town they all knew each other well. We walked down to the marina and stood watching the waves crash on the rocks for quite some time.

After we satisfied ourselves we went back up to the room to pack. We lazed around until 1045 when we shouldered our packs and made our last decent down the hill. We tried to buy some lunch, but were unsuccessful, there was nothing worth buying so close to the station. Our train to La Spezia left at 1123. As soon as we got off the train we bought some lunch and by lunch I mean junk food, as our only other option was McDonalds. The train departed for Rome at 1205 and after some minor confusion about our seats we were settled. We watched a few episodes of the Tudors and acknowledged the cloudy day continuing into Rome.

We found our way to our B&B by 1630. We rang the doorbell and waited. No one came so we rang again. We had told her our arrival time to be 1800 so we wrote down the phone number. We walked down the street and found a pay phone. It was out of service. We were tired from carrying our packs through transit and were getting frustrated by our lack of knowledge of how to use the pay phones in Europe. They don’t take change. You either need a calling card, which you can only by country by country or a credit card, which we have yet to try. On our way past the B&B again we rang the bell. This time someone answered, it was another guest staying there. We came on in and walked up the stairs. They were Dutch visitors that spoke better English than us (I think they have such cute accents!) They tried to help us call Barbara the host. We tried 3 different numbers and none of them worked. So we picked up our packs and left the apartment, there was no where to wait inside.
We sat just inside the doors of the building where the rain hadn't reached. We waited until 1800 before we tried ringing the bell again. She still wasn’t there. While I was outside the front doors ringing the bell I saw a big woman with a shaved head coming down the street. Her walk was rather paculiar so I looked a little close. She wasn’t wearing pants. No pants. No underpants. Nothing, Just a shirt and a sweater. I called Shane quickly and told him to look out the door to the left. Then I laughed at his reaction. When “when in Rome” doesn’t apply. We tried looking for Barbara. Finally at 1810 we met her. She showed us to our room, recommended some things to see and gave us a map.

We dropped our bags right away and went to find some dinner. We wandered around quite a bit, weaving in and out of the old Roman walls. We ended up at a restaurant with perfect homemade pasta. We say perfect because it tasted exactly like ours! It was really nice and the wine paired well. On our way home we found a 5 euro bill on the ground, we were both hesitant to pick it up. I said to Shane “this reminds me off the comics you read where it’s attached to a string!” We took that 5 euros around the corner and spent it quickly on gelato to make sure it wasn’t fake. When we got home I FINALLY got to update the blog, it took a few hours.

After we were showered and adequately tired we tried to fall asleep. At just that time a thunderstorm rolled in and the rain came down in sheets. I was very happy for a warm bed while the cold swept through the open window. The roaring thunder deafened us a few times while it filled the room, sleep was almost instantaneous.

Posted by s-a 12:13 Archived in Italy Tagged rome terre cinque Comments (0)

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