Sunday, March 22, 2015

Rome Day 1

Ok, I'm going to skip ahead a little to bring the blog to the present. I'll go back to the last few days in London and Ireland a bit later, when we slow down some and there won't be so much to write about. There's a lot to talk about, particularly in Ireland, where every single thing we did was so enjoyable - from Blarney Castle to Dublin Castle. But Martha and I met back up in Cork and we're in Rome now, where there's every bit as much to cover.
Full disclosure: Martha and I didn't even plan on coming to Rome when we planned this trip. We'd been here before, together, and didn't really feel the need to return. The only reason we even came is because it was easier, and cheaper to get to Greece. But, boy, did we get lucky.
We had booked a room in an apartment through Airbnb just a few days before our arrival, taking a chance on a place that had no reviews. Not only is it a lovely, quiet place, but the hosts are absolute darlings. We've fallen in love with the whole family: Anna, Luigi and their son, Fabio.
Anna doesn't have much English, Fabio is quite fluent and Luigi is fluent enough but doesn't have the confidence about it that Fabio does. We'd arrived a bit late because our plane didn't even land until after 8:30 pm. Our first inkling that we'd stumbled onto something special was the gorgeous entrance hall.
The second clue was the little "snack" our hosts had prepared for our arrival.
The bathroom could easily be found in a five star hotel.
Breakfast this morning was fabulous, as well. Technically a continental breakfast, it was filling enough to last for hours. Croissants, fruit, yogurt and more. We ate it up before I remembered I hadn't photograped it.
Still, the best part is the hosts we are lucky enough to have. We really only have 2 full days in Rome, tomorrow is the second one. But we have three nights and couldn't have asked for a better place to spend them. There is a chance that we will need lodging in Rome twice more on this trip, and we will be very happy to return here.
Although we hadn't planned to visit Rome, our visit happened to land on a Sunday and the Pope is in town. So we went to watch him speak, and planned to make a mass then go to the Sistine Chapel. He spoke from a window far away, but there was a large screen where we could see him very well. For some reason, though, it didn't photograph well.
The crowds were so huge after the Pope's speech, the lines were still enormous for mass and the museums are closed. At the end of the day, we turned up at the Colosseum to find out it was closed, as well.

We found a great little cafeteria right near the Vatican, and stopped for a bite to eat. We should have been suspicious because there were no prices listed, and we knew it would be overpriced because it was so close to such a major tourist attraction. But we were still surprised when two plain entrees and a couple of drinks plus dessert came to more than $75.
Martha had a small bowl of spaghetti with mussels and a glass of wine. I had chicken with just tomatoes and a latte. And a cannoli. $75? Really?
Even though the cannoli was huge, I didn't know it was going to come with all those extras.


At the end of our sightseeing, we stopped in a neighborhood cafe a couple of blocks from our apartment. Both of us had full meals - mine was lemon sole with eggplant and zucchini, Martha's was lasagna with eggplant and zucchini. We each had a glass of wine. $20 for the two of us, service included.
Ok, enough about food. Let's talk about sightseeing. We weren't going to make ourselves crazy looking at everything in this city, there's just too much of it. So we decided on the biggest stuff only: Vatican, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon and Colosseum. Since the Vatican museums were closed, we rescheduled those for tomorrow and hit the rest this afternoon.
As I mentioned above, the Colosseum was closed, as well. This was a huge disappointment, since I'd arranged another Google Hangout with the kids back home. Still, they got to see the outside and I will send them photos and videos of the inside, later. Lots of construction going on there, restoration in progress.
That was also the case at the Trevi Fountain. Man, if I hadn't already been there, this would have been another enormous disappointment.
Though they did leave a little bit of water for tourists to throw coins in.
At the Spanish Steps, I was reminded that I should at least do a cursory search about a place before I visit. I completely forgot about that beautiful church at the top of the Steps, and managed to take a photo that doesn't show a bit of it. Here is what the postcard looks like:
And this is what I got. Steps. Although I did get some more of the fish fountain, but nothing nice as the postcard.
The Pantheon was bigger and more dramatic than I'd remembered. We came out of an alleyway and, from the side, it was like a big hulking monster. From the front, though, it was amazing as ever.
And so was the inside.
Still, out of the whole day, the most incredible sights we came across were completely by accident and entirely unknown to us. There were two churches, a tiny one and a gigantic one, both decorated inside to make you swoon.
We saw the tiny one first, but a random wrong turn took us to the next one. The exterior of the building was impressive.
And when we saw that it was named after the Jesuit priest Loyola, just like our alma mater in New Orleans, Martha just had to have a look. I waited outside, until she came back out and said, "You have got to come in and see this."
Well...talk about breathtaking.
Just the size of the place induced jaw dropping. But the entire church was lined with alcoves, each decorated more lavishly than the next.
It truly was one of the most incredible things I've ever seen.
We got around most of the places on foot, walked over six miles today. But we also took the metro a couple of times. We were totally clueless the first time, but it was easy to pick up and we breezed back on the return. The metro isn't nearly as bright and clean as the Underground in London, it's pretty dark and grim.
Fortunately, it's only the Vatican that we need to use it for, so it works out just fine. But holy cow, look at how steep those escalators are.
Anyway, we packed a lot in today, and saw way more than I've even touched upon here. But, in addition to the sights, we also keep seeing evidence that this city is about style and design as much historical landmarks.
And we're just fine with that.



























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