Rome is a fantastic place - history, scenery and food.

April 27, Friday We landed in Civitavecchia Italy. Previously when Deb had gone to let the ship know what our plans were for leaving they gave her some argument about us taking the train. They wanted us to take a $100+ ride. Rick Steves says the train is ok so we stuck with our plan.
    As I remember there was little fuss getting off the ship, just show our passport. We got on a shuttle bus that takes us to the gate of the port and drops us off. It's about a three block walk to the train station. It's not clearly marked but RS says its to the right. We found the station, got in line and bought tickets for two for 9E. We got them validated in the machine. We had to hike down a tunnel and up the other side to get on the correct platform. Several minutes later the train arrived.

We ended up in a small area with about 20 seats. We crammed in with my suitcase under my legs and Deb's in the aisle our other bags sat on my seat tray and Debs in her lap. Off we went. As we stopped more and more people got on the train until it was fully packed. It was so full nobody could get on anymore.

After about an hour and a half we arrived at Rome's Termini station. We know our way around there so we hiked about a mile to find the Metro B (blue) line. We got a one day pass (5E/ea) and jumped on. Whoops wrong way. Hopped on again and got off at Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). We noticed a great view of some spectacular ruins. We figured out where we were and hiked up to the Aventino Guest House on Viale Aventino where we were to meet the manager at 11am. He didn't show for about a half hour. The place only has four rooms so the manager is only there occasionally and by appointment. We got checked in and got our four keys - one for the front driveway gate, one for the patio entry gate, one for the building door and one for our room.

We were a little hungry so we nipped over across the street and had a beer and wine at a little place. They provided small sandwiches, peanuts and some corn curl things (7E). Then on to the sights.

Classic ancient things in Rome are grouped surprisingly well. You can walk to most things. From the Colosseum the Forum is directly west a couple hundred yards, the Palatine Hill is just south and just south of that is the Circus Maximus. Further west across the river is Trastevere. 

We decided to hike to the Trastevere area and do Rick Steves mp3 hike through the area. Trastevere is the old part of Rome. We walked past Circus Maximus which was very impressive! It could hold 250K people. The Ben Hur chariot race was here. At one time there were two Egyptian obelisks decorating the track. Above it is the Palantine Hill where the emperors lived and the word "palace" came from. Amazing.

I wanted to stop by the Santa Maria in Cosmedin church to see the famous "Bocca della Verita" or "Mouth of Truth" as seen in the movie "Roman Holiday". There were at least 200 Chinese tourists lined up waiting to get in. We decided to do this later. There were some ruins here - The Temple of Hercules. Every place you look is history and scenery.

We crossed the Tiber at Ponte Cestio Fabricio and entered Trastevere. We hiked through very beautiful twisty little streets to find Saint Cecilia church. Unfortunately it was closed until 3:30. So we began hiking to Santa Maria in Trastevere church. We stopped in a little place for a prosecco and Coke light. A sweet little place with a friendly owner. He gave us a little bite to snack on. A very wonderful experience (6E).
   We continued our hike through some touristy areas and finally got to Santa Maria square. The square and fountain are designed for sitting. The church was open (Link). Quite interesting. The columns were partly various old Roman columns but some newer ones added. If you look closely you will see they have various capitals, also the bases are different to compensate for the various column heights. The floors are magnificent tile works. The ceiling is impressive. This poor nutty lady was begging. 
   We hiked back to Saint Cecilia (link). The alter area is quite impressive. There is a nice death statue of Saint Cecilia. She was beheaded by the Romans for being a Christian. There is a crypt below which holds the remains of Cecilia's house. There are other interesting things to see here.

We then hiked back home past an impressive statue of Vasco de Gamma (I guess). We relaxed a bit then walked to the nearby mini-grocery (I'm looking pissed for some reason) and bought some prosecco and vino for the room. Then on to a fancy Mexican food place across the street for a drink and some snacks (16E). Quite a cute place but I wasn't up for Mexican food in Rome so we went up the street to "L'Insalata Ricca" Ristorante for dinner. I had spaghetti carbonara and Deb had pasta gnocchi's. Quite good but a LOT of food, next time I'll have a half order.

Back to our rather noisy room. Outside there are two trolley tracks, several buses and cars on a cobble stone street. The tv connects to a satellite. There must be 400 channels all in Italian. I'm having tv withdrawal and would kill for CNN or anything in English. I did buy an International Harold Tribune for 2.50E. We slept well despite the noise.

This is a holiday weekend. Tuesday is May day, a big holiday in Europe. All the Romans leave town and people stream in from all over Europe and the world. They actually closed the street between the Colosseum metro and the Colosseum because of the mobs of people. They also closed the Metro B line for at least one day for repairs which contributed to more crowding.

Day two, our first full day. Today we bought two three day transit passes (22E total). Then took the metro to Termini and got on bus #92 out to see the catacombs of Priscilla. RS says they are less commercial and more intimate. Everyone on the bus was helpful in getting us off at the right stop. Bus people are usually friendly and helpful including the bus driver if you let him know.
   We hiked around the neighborhood trying to find it. We asked about four people and still walked past it. It's way the heck out past The Borghese Garden near the Ada Gardens. A lady finally led us to the less then well marked door. Sure enough it is very modest. Apparently run by the nuns from the adjoining convent.
   A young nun who spoke interesting English took us on the tour. No pictures allowed! We hiked down in and saw some of the most impressive sights. The catacombs were dug from the second to the fifth centuries. There are about 40K niches here but we only saw a few hundred. There are 17km of tunnels mostly closed to tourists. Only one bone on display. The niches for rich people were usually decorated and sealed with marble. Poor people were sealed with terra cotta. I assume it smelled pretty bad in here at one time.
   When we came out we sat around for a few minutes enjoying the atmosphere of the convent. An American couple arrived for the tour and found they were closed from about 1 to 2:30. I should have taken note of this...

Back to Termini where we stopped into our favorite bar/food place right across the street. We had a ham and cheese sandwich as well as prosecco and beer.

Somehow, probably the metro, we went to the Colosseum area to get our two day tickets for the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the forum. Lines can be killer here which is why we waited until after 2:30 to do this. We bought them at the Palatine Hill entrance (24E total). We toured the Palatine Hill. A lot to see here. We got lost trying to use RS's mp3 tour. We saw a lot but I feel we didn't understand it very well. This is where Romulus (Roma) and Remus were raised by the wolf. It's disappointing to see how ruined it really is. I understand it was used as a quarry for building materials for centuries plus the trees and vegetation did a lot of damage. Still it is an amazing place. The emperors could look down on the Circus Maximus from here. Pretty amazing. (more pictures)

We hiked back to our place to get ready to travel up past Borghese Gardens to the restaurant Pagaroma. Last time in Rome we went to this place three times. We had a little drink and a rest before starting our trek. We have a reservation for 8pm. Because the Metro B-line is down we took a bus to Termini then metro A-line to the Flaminio stop at Piazza del Popolo. We hiked across the piazza and got a taxi to our final destination (6E including tip).
   The place was rather empty. We may have been their first customer. We said hi to the wine steward Sergi. We found the old manager had moved on. I told them I had reviewed them on They looked it up and were quite thrilled. We had a bottle of wine and a very nice dinner Deb had scallops and I had a serving of lamb. They gave us extra desserts and drinks including a special grappa from Sardinia. We had a great time (100E).
   They called us a taxi which we took back to Piazza del Popolo then metroed and bussed home.

The Aventino Guest House is a bed and serve it yourself breakfast. The coffee was tricky but quite good. They had many breakfast things to eat.
Sunday we decided to do RS night time hike across Rome during the day. We got to Termini and got on an extremely crowded bus #40. We were trying to get as close to Campo di Fiori as possible. We got off at some miscellaneous place within view of the Victor Emmanuel Monument (actually nearly everything is within view of VE). Of course more ruins. There is a cat hospice near here. After some misfires a tobacchi guy indicated we were on the correct street. We stopped for pizza. We got the "surprise" toppings. Then on to the Campo di Fiori. It's called the "Field of Fire" because Giordano Bruno, a philosopher-priest and heretic was put to death by fire here. It's mostly a flower market today. We ran across a place with the same name as our favorite restaurant in San Jose.
   The crowds are excessive. We crossed the street to Piazza Navona. It was also packed. We looked at all three Bernini fountains then continued past the Pantheon. It appeared to be closed. I've never seen such crowds in my life. We continued past the parliament building through Piazza Colonna, through a department store and on to Trevi Fountain. Oh My God the crowd here was almost as interesting as the magnificent fountain. It was uncomfortably crowded. We snapped a few pictures and beat it out of there. 
   Somehow we got back to Colosseo to do the tour. Because we already had our ticket we skipped the line and went directly in. The Colosseum was at least as good as expected. An amazing sight. They had put in part of a floor to represent how the original forum floor looked - a wooden platform over it all then covered with sand. We pretty much saw everything we could see here. We also met a couple from San Jose! Here is a view of the arch of Constantine.
   The plan was to also do the Forum but it got too late and we couldn't get in. Next time...

Back to the room for a break then off to
"L'Insalata Ricca" for dinner. Then an enjoyable evening on the patio.

Monday the plan is to do a bunch of churches. We started by taking the metro to Termini and walking to Santa Maria Maggiore (Link). We've been there before. It's one of the major churches of Rome. Many beautiful things here. I wanted to get a good look at parts of Jesus' crib but the inset thing was closed. Darn. The sculpture Bernini is buried here as is his family.
   We walked over to Santa Prassede (Link) to look at some mosaics. When Rome was in the dark ages around 900 the eastern church was doing ok. The eastern pope donated this church to Rome and sent the best mosaic artists to do the work.
   We stopped for lunch at an expensive tourist place and had too much food (24E). We bought an umbrella from a street vendor for E4.

   We then hiked up Via Torino to "Santa Maria della Vittorio" to see Bernini's "Santa Teresa in Ecstacy". Unfortunately it was closed until 3:30. We missed it! I looked at all the other churches and found they were also closed until 3:30. Damn! We then hiked all the way home up some stairs, past the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and Circus Maximus!

We took a break then crammed onto the Metro got off at Cavor and hiked back to the church "Saint Peter in Chains". An interesting hike including a large staircase. We were there to see Michelangelo's Moses. It was supposed to be pope Clement II's tomb created by Michelangelo himself and destined for Saint Peters Basilica . He worked on it off and on for thirty years thinking it would be his greatest project. The plan was to have like 30 full sized statues. He kept getting interrupted to do other projects like the Sistine Chapel and never got it finished. When the pope died the money dried up so Michelangelo's students moved the project to this church.
   The church also possesses two sets of chains. One set was used on Saint Peter when he was arrested by Herod in Jerusalem the other from when he was held prisoner in Rome and God removed his chains.

On our trip back to our room we stopped at a little bar near our place for our last sidewalk drink. Much fun. We rested then went looking for a restaurant. Most were closed. We hiked down to the pyramid and gate. Finally we discovered a place that had been there since the forties. We had a nice but expensive meal. My pasta was very el-dente like they serve it in Roma. 
   Then back to our place where we enjoyed the patio one last time.

Our taxi was waiting at 6am to take us to the airport. An uneventful ride unlike last time. The flight was 13 hours of boredom then a two hour layover at LAX then a 50 minute flight to SFO and a shuttle ride home that took over an hour. We were up over 24 hours. We always have second thoughts after the trip home but usually get over it in a few days.

Comments -
- I realize that I'm not much for cruising. I would have rather zipped over to someplace and spent time doing interesting things rather then luxuriating and eating for nearly two weeks. Oh well, it was an experience I'm happy I did.

- Next time we may go someplace like Paris and just sit for two weeks then go someplace else and sit for a couple weeks and work out from there.

- Obviously we still have a few things left to do in Rome but I don't see us going back there any time soon. The crowds in Rome were pretty bad. I suspect the holiday contributed to the crowds. I also think part of it was having the Metro down for at least one day plus I think they were running a holiday schedule for both the Metro and buses.