(Read at your own risk of boredom)
Started out at International Terminal – wow! Totally incredible. It is Concourse “F” and is connected all the way to “A”. We sat in Concourse F until 3pm…wondering why no one else was there. Lisa checked gate assignment to confirm. Finally, we decided to check again and it was actually Concourse “E”. They were already boarding a full load when we got there. Oops. Nearly 10 hr flight time + 1 hour standing in airport waiting on luggage. We were dragging – Lisa got ZERO sleep / I got a few winks. The flight seemed to last forever.
The ATM did not work in English. Lisa figured out how to read Italian when under pressure!
Crazy negotiations for a taxi. First one was 80€ and not in taxi line. 2nd was 50€ and we shared with 2 other fares. Took an hour to get to hotel, but saw some great sights (eg Colosseum). No room at 9:30am. Had to check bags at hotel. Began to walk. Found “Route 66 Cafe” and had delicious chocolate croissant and cappuccino.
Walked to Piazza del Popolo. Next up was Pincio Gardens. Then walked to the Spanish Steps (Piazza di Spagna). All was crazy Beautiful! Lunch at a pizzeria. Walked back to hotel at 1:30. We were both exhausted.
Hotel is surprisingly spacious – king size bed and a bidet. (How do you use a bidet????) Was showered and asleep by 2:45. Woke at 6pm. Showered and went to dinner at a local place
Alarm set for 7, but didn’t get up until 8:30a. Breakfast in hotel – crazy hectic fight for food. Quite funny watching people and “free food”. Walked to train station (Lepante). Rode to Bararini station.
Walked to museum of ancient art
Walked to Fountain of Tritorri (one of our favorites. Remember the vias of cafe’s leading to it!)
We toured the church across from the fountain. Stopped and prayed for forgiveness for how we view sacredness and worship.
Began tour (remember the flight attendants we met – Diane & Vicki, and Vicki’s sister Dawn)
Began at the Catacombs – an underground burial site for early Christians. All had been looted. No remains left there. 17 km of tunnels in 4 levels in this location before they hit the water table. Ground type was unique from local volcanos.
Then, Basillica (church) of San Cemente – he was an orator for the Emporer who got saved. Church has 3 levels. Top is 16th century. Lower is 3rd. Lowest is 1st. Red marble is more priceless than gold.
Ended with Crypts of the Capachini’s (an order of the Franciscan’s). Crazy decoration using bones. Clocks with wings. Sickle of death (we are cut down like grass). Flowers.
Started the day with an attempt to master the bus system. Took it in the wrong direction. Finally made it to the Argentina area. Then walked in wrong direction. But, the payoff was there when we walked by ruins on the way to the Pantheon. The Pantheon was my favorite place on the entire trip (so far). The tour guide (Jill) was from Philadelphia and she provided a wealth of information.
The barbarians stripped all the marble off the outside edge. Plus they took the bronze to make an alter in the Vatican. There was over 20′ of layered silt in Rome due to flooding of the Tiber. Minor temple to “all of the gods” vs. other temples to a specific god. It was located outside the main drag of the Roman areas.
Walked to Colosseum. Crazy hot. We were out of gas when the 4 hour “insider tour” began. Francesca was our guide and she was terrific. She was an archaeologist. Told us so much history that I cannot remember enough to begin typing. Toured Roman Forum. Palestine Hill where Romulus (brother = Remus) birthed the city on April 21, 753BC. 3 periods (7? Kings, Emperors, Republic). Burned in 64 during Nero. Fell in 563 to marauders. Cesar Augustus was nephew of Julius Cesar.
Etruscan’s originally settled here in 800BC.
Train to Termini to walk to Ciciro for dinner. Those guys had a gift of sarcasm that we didn’t like but grew accustomed to. Fantastic dinner. I have never been so tired as I am walking into our hotel room.
Friday – Vatican
Walked to front of the Vatican. Tour guide was Francesca (different from yesterday). Exhausting tour of art, art, and more art.
Got separated just before the Sistine chapel. I thought Lisa was in bathroom and she was with the group. Faced with choice, she stayed with group. We finished the last hour separated, but I found her right outside St Peter Basillica. Sistine Chapel wasn’t so much fun for either of us, worried about the other. St Peters Basillica was amazing.
We had lunch nearby. Thought our Scalvi Tour (underground) was at 3:30 but it was 3:15 so we missed it. But, they let us go on the 3:45 tour. Crazy hot and humid – and little difference from the catacombs. I could have done without this part. We dragged ourselves back to the hotel at 5:30 and collapsed.
Went to dinner at Trattoria Palazzaccio. Met John and Sandra from Scotland. Married 47 yrs. They own a large farm. Raise prized cattle. He was in Parliament. He helped Newt Gingrich election in 80’s. Here in Rome attending a conference on 3rd world resources ($2B lost in 15 years).
Began Bus tour to Tuscany – and our friends Vicki, Dawn, and Diane came too!
We stopped and walked through Montepulcianno – which will be one of the most memorable places. A large town (18,000?) on top of a mountain with many shops and local artisans. We were rushed through the tour – my greatest disappointment so far. I would like to visit here.
We stopped at a monastery and listened to 4 monks sing their pre-lunch blessing.
There was a lot of discussion about wine – and it was all Greek to me. The guide assumed that we had some knowledge already.
At lunch, Chris sat beside Alister and his wife (Beverly) from Melbourne, Australia. He is 67, has 2 kids, and both of them worked for NCR! They are on a 6 week vacation, including a cruise of the Greek Isles. He suggested a book “Agony and ecstasy” by Irving Stone for fictional history interpretation of Michelangelo.
The lunch was actually quite good. A gorgeous view of the Tuscan area. Stopped at Puciano on the way back and had one hour to wander. Not nearly enough – still felt rushed.
Returned at 8pm. Walked around until we picked a restaurant with tables on the sidewalk very good food and enjoyed eating outside. We both realized that there have been no disappointing meals – they are all good!
Slept late and slow to start. We’re soooo tired! Didn’t leave the room for breakfast until 11:30. The hotel had disassembled breakfast buffet and we were among several unhappy campers who were told it lasted till noon.
Walked to San Angelo Castle. Toured the entire castle and enjoyed the art and history. It is another building that was stripped of marble and defaced. Our favorite room was the reception room that had the archangel Michael, Alexander the Great, and the guy in the “suit” that we thought was added later (LOL). The views from the top terrace were spectacular!
Walked across the beautiful Ponte Sant’ Angelo (Bridge of Hadrian) with sculptures of the crucifixion. Found another pizzeria and enjoyed a long lunch outside in the rain under an umbrella. Walked back to hotel by 5:45 and were both soaked.
Went to dinner at Raf and had one of the best meals of the trip! We packed for Venice when we got to the hotel.
Got up crazy early to catch the train. Found out that the breakfast is at 7 (not 6 as we were told). But, it gave us the opportunity to grab one last chocolate croissant at Rt 66 Cafe before we left. Metro Train ride was smooth – we even worked the Italian auto-ticket-dispenser when the manned counter was closed.
Got to Termini and never found the place to stamp the tickets. Got in line at the ticket counter and they looked at us like we were nuts. So, we got on the train and everything proceeded as normal. The train was very nice. 1st class leather seats. Very comfortable. could not tell the train was moving. Went non-stop to Milan.
Milan was dirty and run down. So was the 2nd train. It rode very rough. We sat on the train forever and it left 40 minutes late. That train stopped every 15 minutes or so and drove us nuts. We were 1.5 hrs late getting to Venice. But we walked out of the train station to “total Venice”. The Grand Canal was right there. The hotel was just a few steps to the left.
We were not happy with the room. Long story. Walked around. Texted Donna to make her jealous. Found our way back to the room. That isn’t easy in Venice. The maps have many unpredictable dead-ends.
When I woke, Judy had emailed some hotel suggestions. One was the Hotel Principe, which was right down the street. We had passed it last night walking around and both had commented that it looked very nice. I consider it to be an answer to prayer, since I had privately asked God to give us a room there. They had one room left, but it would not be ready for two hours. We had to check out and move our bags without seeing the room. Trusting that anything would be better, we did that and headed for our 9am tour at St Mark’s square.
Ate breakfast at a very little shop nearby – with a little old man proprietor. Cost us a ridiculous amount of money for breakfast (28€).
The tour was good – I finally understood how Venice was formed (and not from being a city that sank into the sea). The local people would seek refuge in these islands when barbarians invaded from the north. Eventually, they began to settle on the islands. Over time, they continued building all the way to the edge. Venetians were seafaring people. They conquered many of the nearby lands in Aegean Sea. They were very rich. Marco Polo was a merchant family from Venice, and was the first Englishman to write about Chinese culture.
There was a 3 hour break for lunch. We wanders around window shopping till we found a small square that we liked during the tour. Had lunch at “Al Million”. The German family that sat with us was very friendly.
When we returned for the 4:30 water tour, we found that they put us on the 5:30 tour. We were tired and unwilling to wait. Fortunately, they had extra room for us. It turned out to be a private taxi ride around the island.
We walked back to the hotel and discovered the best room in the world. Very large and directly on the canal. Two balconies. It was an unbelievable gift from God.
Walked back to find a pizzeria for dinner. It was the least favorite meal of the trip, but still very good.
I woke up exhausted. Don’t know why – we slept with the exterior doors open and enjoyed the sounds of the canal all night. Breakfast was included in the room. Good, but long lines for the food. Found out that the A/C is shut down across the entire town on October 1 every year (no matter what is happening with the weather).
There was also a “free” glass-blowing tour on Murano Island that was include in the room. We were escorted to the canal right outside the hotel and given a private water taxi to the island. Wow. Then we got a private tour through a glass-blowing factory. Saw an elaborate mask being made. Then, we were escorted to the “private” shop with hundreds of expensive pieces of glassware. That is when I realized that we just experienced the Italian version of a “time-share sales pitch”. Once they realized that we weren’t buying, they moved us into the cheap room and left us.
(we both did fall in love with a two-cup set of coffee cups and saucer. Light purple glass with gold overlay and elaborate decorations. Only 450€)
Spent a couple of hours walking around that island and shopped for the kids. There were literally hundreds of glass-making factories and stores. I was running on empty the entire time…just exhausted from all the walking I guess. Didn’t get much sleep the night before.
Then, we realized that we were stranded. I guess the paying customers get a taxi ride back…and everyone else has to take the public shuttle. I was getting pretty irritated until we figured out that the public shuttle was free. They must do that to everybody.
Came back to the hotel and took a nap. It’s wonderful listening to the canal traffic. Walked to dinner. We both had Spaghetti and meat sauce.
Got up early to take the public water taxi/shuttle to San Marco square for our tour of Doge Palace. This tour totally surprised us – the secret passages were amazing. Discovered the areas where Casanova was imprisoned. Saw many incredible paintings. Remember the wooden timber roof behind the armory room – it was over the great hallway with massive paintings.
Walked back to the hotel through the middle of the island. Lisa ran out of steam (like I did at Murano) and we had to make a quick stop for lunch near Rialto Bridge. Two mediocre pizzas. Made it back to the room without finding what we were looking for.
After resting, I went to find the bus station and buy tickets to the airport for in the morning. When I got back, Lisa went back out shopping. She was very frustrated in not being able to find what she was looking for.
So, I decided to make the last night memorable. I secured us a gondola ride – picked us up right at our hotel and took us around the canals…mostly the small, quiet, narrow ones. It was awesome!
The “gondola guy” recommended a restaurant nearby and we went there for dinner. Not the best, but near the top. Beautiful, quiet garden next to the canal. Then, we sat on the terrace by the bar outside our hotel until we just had to go get sleep. A great ending to the trip!
(we finally figured out how to use the bidet on the last night)
Got up early and walked to the bus station. Short trip (25 min) to the airport. Interesting that no one checked tickets again. At first, we were concerned because the Delta counter was closed and would not one until 10am (our flight time). But we figured out that we were on Air France and everything went smooth from there.
Unusually cheap breakfast in the airport compared to Venice. Exactly the same items for 6 Euros. (Compared to 28).