Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Rome, Italy, Tuesday, July 31, 2012: A Lot of Rome in a Day

Rome was not built in a day, but it turns out if you work pretty hard, you can see a lot of it in a day. I have 409 photos to prove it. I have posted a few more than normal and hope you don’t mind. We put some miles on the poor feet today and I was grateful for the extra ibuprofen I brought with us. Breakfast begins outside on the plaza next to the Pantheon. It is quite a site and way to begin a morning. By the time we finished, the Pantheon was open and we were able to walk through. It is impressive inside and the open dome interesting. The art and marble work is impressive. It is one of the few examples of a surviving building from Roman times. As we will likely describe elsewhere, much of ancient Rome was used in the construction of the Vatican.
The morning view from our hotel room

Inside the Pantheon

Inside the Pantheon

We are starting to get the impression that Rome is a Catholic city. I cannot believe the number of churches. I used to think there were a lot of Mormon churches in Salt Lake, but that seem nothing compared to here, particularly when you add in the size and grandeur of each. I felt a little bad for Tyler because as we walked if there was anything that looked like a church, we went in. I enjoyed it thoroughly and he got into it as well. Though, he did grown a bit each time I found another. Some allowed pictures, some did not. I gave up trying to keep track of their names and such. In fact, by the time we finished the second day, we had repeated some.

While we walked a lot, the distances really are not that great. Three or four churches later, we arrived at Campo de Fiori which is a plaza with a series of outdoor shops – think Seattle’s Pike Street Market. We then went to another plaza and into another church. It was the Santa Maria Dell’Orazione E Morte and was dedicated October 20, 1737. It was small by Rome standards, but exquisite inside. There as a small nun at the front who was excited we had come in and pointed us to the back and through a small hallway and down some steps. Down the steps we came to a room filled with skulls in shelves, skulls made into a cross and other bones.  A couple of real skull and cross bones also. Tyler thought it was pretty creepy. We may have to make it to the catacombs before we leave. Up the stairs and we looked around at the church for a while. In most we usually come in and simply sit for bit and then walk around. In smaller ones such as this we will leave an offering.

Through the Piazza Navona which has an impressive fountain and, I might mention, an impressive church. It is also filled with street vendors and artists. We pressed on to the Piazza Venezia which houses Italy’s tomb of the unknown soldier. We went up a lot of steps and then took an elevator (10 euros) to get to the top and some amazing views of Rome. Down a few levels and would you belief there was an impressive church. We were trying to press on to the Coliseum, but kept getting side-tracked. We made it to the Coliseum and joined a tour group. The guide was great and we spent a couple of hours with him and then on our own. We joined up again at 3:30 and then went to Palatine Hill which is where the emperors lived. Palatine is the root from which the term palace comes from. There is not a lot left and there was some bitterness in the guide as he explained that we can see it all at the Vatican: the columns, the flours, the sculptures and so on. Some of the marble was ground up and put in the cement used. It was interesting to walk through a garden that was built on the remains of the palace of Nero, which was built (I think) on the remains of the palace of Caligula which was built on the remains of the palace of Octavius (I may have the stack wrong, but you get the idea). And at the bottom of it all is where the cave where Romulus and Remus were. We then wandered through the Roman Forum area and walked where the Caesars walked. We headed back to the hotel and it was a welcome site.

The weather has looked beautiful, but it is HOT. In some ways we are glad that nearly all the white marble from outside and inside the Coliseum was gone. It was like being in a solar oven and wherever there was marble it was warm too hot to the touch. I don’t know how the 80,000 held in it survived a day of spectacles. We have enjoyed the fountains and have trusted the water. They are cool and refreshing. If you hold your finger on the flow of water on the bottom of the pipe it forces water up and out a hole on the top like a traditional drinking fountain. To have some cool water to drink and rub on your arms and face has been most helpful.

A quick stop in the hotel to make sure the air conditioner was on – it wasn’t – and then to the streets and a pasta dinner. As you will see in one of the pictures, we are pretty close to the cars, but they don’t come through that frequently. From there we walked to the Spanish Steps. Along the way, I was tickled to see a sign for McDonald’s as part of the street identification sign with the street being the “Via Di Propaganda” – somehow it just seemed appropriate. We stayed for just a short time on the Spanish Steps and decided we would come again the next day before 8:00 PM so that the churches would be open. We drug ourselves back to the hotel with a quick stop for gelato. We have it down pretty good. We each taste at least one, and then get a small cup with two flavors in it. We walk from there to the hotel eating gelato and enjoying the cooler nights. By the time we get to the hotel/Pantheon plaza the gelato is gone and we are next to a fountain to rinse our mouths wash our hands and arms and get some final refreshment. We then crashed. Tyler said I went to sleep so fast and started snoring that he couldn’t believe it. That’s why you didn’t get an update yesterday. I am starting to feel that way again.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Rome, Italy, Monday Evening, July 30, 2012

We have arrived in Rome. We are in the middle of it in a hotel right across from the Pantheon. It is pretty amazing. Our trip was from St. Petersburg was relatively uneventful so long as you skip that part about our luggage not arriving. We had a short connection in Frankfurt, but as we got on the plane we saw our checked luggage ready to load. Apparently, it was not loaded and will be delivered to us tomorrow. Fortunately, we had one carryon with clothes for both of us. Having our luggage missing delayed us getting through customs as we filled out forms and I was beginning to worry that the driver we hired would not be there.  We made it through customs – the reality was there was nothing for us to do except to walk through. Tyler found a drive holding a sign saying “ANIS”. It was close enough and it turned out to be the right one as he knew that we were going to the Hotel Abruzzi. It was a good thing we communicated that much because he spoke no English in spite of the assurance from the hotel that we would have an English speaking driver. We were to pay him directly in Euros so I needed to get some. This was a test of whether my debit/ATM card was reactivated. We found an ATM machine, put the card in and chose English. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t switch to English. So we tried German, but there seemed a lot more than needed. Next I tried French and it was sufficiently clear that we were able to get the money needed and we were off. As we got closer, the roads narrowed to almost nothing. It was an interesting ride.

I should mention that are flight from Frankfurt to Rome was also interesting; at least the snack/meal. Here is what they served:

Mousse and filet of smoked eel with balsamico cherry tomato
Roasted carrot with breast of guinea fowl confit
Gelled vegetable soup on spicy tomato chutney
Elderflower soup with pink grapefruit and elderflowers

We tasted it all, but must confess as to not cleaning our plates. I ask the flight attendant if she had eaten any of this and she just laughed and said no.

It was a beautiful evening as we arrived and so we spent the next couple of hours walking the area around the hotel and over to Trevi Fountain. Dinner in the plaza and then gelato to finish the evening off. As we got into the hotel room, Tyler even found an Olympic water polo game on and his day was complete. He was pretty excited about Rome. He said it is the first place where he actually knew some of what we would see and had some preconceived notions. He said it was just like he thought it would be.

The Pantheon (built about 125 AD) from our hotel window.

Craig and Tyler on the plaza between our hotel and the Pantheon

Our hotel as see between two Pantheon pillars

Trevi fountain

Tyler and Trevi

We were not the only ones there

Our view sitting outside eating dinner

Our dinner table

Tyler looking out our hotel window