Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Rome - Veni, Vidi, Vici

*****We are already back from our trip but I'm just now able to post this - sorry! However, I did write it while we were traveling! Also, it's really long but we did a lot of stuff!

Rome the "City of Love" – I mean stairs. Man there are a lot of stairs – just ask Bob – he LOVED the stairs! They say Rome was built on 7 Hills and I think we made it to the top of each and THEN to the top of each Castle or Church on the top of each hill! (Well some of us did). As I write this, Bob told us that the only reason he made it up to the top of the stairs at Mussolini’s house (20 stairs) was because the old woman with a CANE beside him did it! I wish she would have followed us for the rest of the trip!

Anyway, we are currently on a train to Florence after 3 wonderful days in Rome! We flew in from Zurich landing around 11 pm and trained into the city. From there we cabbed to our hotel, The Best Western. It was truly - planes, trains and automobiles and the automobile was crazy! I thought we might lose our lives a couple times! As far as I can tell there are no lanes or stop signs. Good times! The Best Western was okay – they had a nice breakfast, the room was clean, and the beds were hard as a rock. It was close to a bus line that would take us to the Flamino (the train station we would become very familiar with!) It would have been nice to be somewhere where we didn’t have to do the bus thing though - it would have been better to be in walking distance of a Metro line. Anyway…..

Day 1:
The first day we started at the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano – the first of many beautiful churches. Nathan and Bob were amazed.......but not at the church at the 25 Ferraris parked out front! Hello Italy! It was a sight to see and all the men were totally drooling!
Inside the Basilica
Across the street from this church was the Santuario della Scala Santa the “Palace of the Holy Steps”. It is alleged that these were the actual steps the Christ climbed when he was brought before Pontius Pilate. (We later learned on our Vatican tour that Constantine’s mother Helen brought these stairs over during one of her many pilgrimages to Jerusalem)
I don't know if you can tell but the people climbing the stairs are on their knees
The one thing I learned about Rome is that they are definitely not above thievery! If they want it – they will take it! We also learned that of the 13 Egyptian obelisks in the world – 9 of them are in Rome! No wonder there are so many pick pockets in Italy – these are their ancestors! They even stole from their own city which is why most of it is in ruins - well at least that is my take on it:)

Rome is such an interesting city with all its debauchery and struggle for power - I really wish I would have paid more attention in European History class! These people put Lindsey Lohan and Britney to shame! We learned a lot about all of the emperors during our tour of the Colosseum and Roman Forum.

I guess we must have looked like tourists (who us?) because right when we got off the metro we were bombarded with a woman who wanted to know if we wanted a tour of the Colosseum in English. It was 25 Euro (instead of the 12 Euro entrance) but we wouldn’t have to wait in the 2 hour line. I am really glad we did it because the tour of the Colosseum was very informative and after that we walked over to the Roman Forum and got a tour of that too. Amazing how all the emperors would spend LOTS of money and years to build (ridiculously) lavish houses and for the next emperor to just tear it down. The Palatine Hill is a hill basically because it consists of ruins!
All those ant looking things are people - so glad we didn't have to stand in those lines!
Inside the Colosseum (obviously:))

Next on to Palantine Hill - that is our tour guide in the blue shirt. In this picture we are standing in the middle of what was a "living room" - I think he said it was bigger than a football field!
I can't remember which emperor it was but he built this "mini" race track inside his house and had midgets or kids ride the chariots!
Mass Chaos - kind of like our life:)
Next we walked to the Trevi Fountain – threw our coins over our left shoulders and are guaranteed to come back to Roma as soon as possible!
I'm not sure, but upon closer look - it seems as if Bob is throwing his coin as far away from the fountain as possible:) I don't think Roma is on his "places to return to" list any time soon:)
Then more walking to the Pantheon - I remember being here before and thinking how amazing the dome was – still the same feeling! How did they engineer that back then? I tried to get a picture of the dome but it was just too massive!

Next? Gelato of course – I can’t believe we held out that long! We went to Giolitti (very close to the Pantheon)– they were like the soup Nazis in there! But it was sooooooooo good – thanks Miriam!

Then MORE walking to the Piazza Navona and saw the Fountain of the Four Rivers.

DINNER – we need DINNER! Did I mention that we walked to all those places….in the heat! Then we pulled out the GPS to get us to the restaurant we had reservations at (which made us walk even further out of the way mind you) to find out that it was probably only 500 feet from where we were! Nathan – I don’t know – may be next time you could put it on the walking setting so it doesn’t take us way out of our way?

So we went to Osteria 180 – O.M.G. – this was a suggestion from a friend (thanks again Miriam) and it was AMAZING!!!! She told us to order the Antipasto (an appetizer) but to wait to order dinner until after they brought it out. I didn’t think much of it until they brought out the first plate, second, third, sixth, tenth…..fifteenth!
This wasn't even everything but we couldn't get all the plates in the picture!
Are you kidding me? All the tables around us were laughing and pointing at us – then of course they all ordered the same thing! Wow! Everything was so amazing from the fresh mozzarella to the eggplant to the veal meatballs – Buonissima! Of course there was NO WAY we could have the main course after this as they had to roll us out of the restaurant as it was! We all HIGHLY recommend this restaurant if you come to Rome! And (back to the 500 feet thing) once we came out of the restaurant we turned left instead of right and ran into the Giolitti place we had just been to and saw how close we were to the Pantheon! So if you come – plan your day to end here – there were a lot of cute places in the Piazza near the Pantheon and of course the Osteria 180!

After dinner we just hung out in the Piazza near the Pantheon and listened to someone play beautiful music on her accordion! Great end to a wonderful day! Now how do we get home?

Day 2
We started day 2 with reservations for a trip to the Vatican. Bonnie booked these trips online before leaving the States with – I thought our tour guide was amazing – so full of knowledge! Way more interesting than if we had just gone by ourselves! Also, we didn’t have to stand in the 3 hour line to get into the Vatican Museums at 9 am! However, as we left our tour (it lasted 3 hours) we noticed that the line for the museums was MUCH shorter (probably only an hour long) so if you don’t want to pay the extra 35 euros for the tour – go in the afternoon! Most of the tour books say to go in the morning (very early) to get your space in line and to avoid the crowds – thus leading to the long lines and the crowds! So if you only take one thing from this blog – make it this!
Nathan looks like Secret Service with the ear piece but we had to wear it to hear our guide.
The museums are massive so I can't show you ALL our pics (waaaaaay too many) but I had to show you this! Probably the largest bathtub in the world! Our tour guide kept mentioning how sexual the ancient romans were.... so I'm guessing this wasn't a bath for just 1 person.... just saying:) I also love how in this picture it looks like all the people in line are in the bath!:)
The ancient Romans were Pagans (as you probably know)... here is a statue of the Goddess of Fertility.... our tour guide told us that the ball looking things near her chest area actually represent Ox Balls b/c if a couple was having a hard time getting pregnant then they would sacrifice an Ox - chop of his nuts and but them over a statue of this Goddess as an offering.... hey I'm just here to relay what I heard.....
After the tour we went to Saint Peter’s Basilica – such an amazing site! Not only the church itself but also the Piazza in front of St. Peter’s. Breathtaking.
The inside of St. Peter's is so huge that I could never do it just with pictures - you will have to go:) But here is a picture of the main alter with the cupola (designed by Michelangelo) in the background.
Bonnie, Nathan and I took the 320 stairs to the top of the Cupola while Bob “cruised chicks”. Amazing view of the entire city – we brought back pics for Bob so he wouldn’t feel bad about not seeing it (not that he felt bad but Bonnie WANTED him to get the FULL experience).
I thought this was a pretty cool picture of St. Peter's Square
From here we took the Metro to the Spanish Stairs – Bonnie, Nathan and I climbed the stairs to the top (are you seeing the pattern here), Bob “cruised chicks”, then we took pictures from the top angle and showed them to him.
That is Nathan laying down - I think that sums up the day!
At this point we were STARVING because we had not eaten all day and it was almost 6 pm. However, the area near the Spanish Stairs is not a good place for dinner – very touristy and expensive. We first came to a restaurant and sat down but when Bonnie and I saw that we couldn’t get a bottle of wine under 30 Euros we said to hell with that so we moved on to try to find another place. The next restaurant we sat down at was in a cute Piazza and we thought we hit the jackpot but when we got our menus I saw that all the food had asterisks next to them. What were the asterisks for I asked myself? So after scrutinizing the menu I saw that in VERY small 4 point font that the asterisk meant that the dish was previously frozen. FROZEN? Oh hell no to that too! I am NOT eating frozen pizza in Italy!

Of course this is where it all went awry. Bob got pissed b/c he was hungry – and rightfully so – we had him out trekking all over the place with no food all day and when we were finally ready to eat we couldn’t find ANYTHING! Nothing! And the day before we had seen a cute delicious smelling place on every corner. So Nathan made an executive decision amongst all the chaos to get a taxi to one of Jamie’s suggestions (thanks Jamie!). On our way to find a taxi I wasn’t looking where I was going and some woman blind sided me with a PUNCH to my stomach! What the hell was that about? I really thought she was going to steal my purse so I grabbed for that instead of punching her back – but I really wish I would have punched her back!
ANYWAY, we ended up at La Villetta. More great food and wine! Bonnie and I both love the “extra thick spaghetti” – I’m not sure what it is really called but I’ve never seen it before in the States – but I wish we had it b/c it is so good!

Day 3
We headed to the Castle D’Angelo – the emperor Hadrian had built it as his final resting place but it was later used as a place for the Popes to escape to when the Vatican was being invaded.
Three of us went up the stairs and into the museum but I won’t mention any names this time!:)
From here we walked around the Villa Borghese (again -some of us:)) before heading back to the hotel to get our bags and head to Florence!
Ewwwww - kissing picture:) But I had to take it - it is the City of Love you know!
The Galleria Borghese
I was very worried about the public transportation with all our stuff but it worked out perfectly! The train ride has been beautiful and we are now HERE! More to follow later….

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