Herr, his parents, and I went on a two week vacation in Italy and along the Dalmatian Coast, primarily by ship. The weather held to mostly sunny and pleasantly warm, and the cruise was onboard the Windstar line’s WindSurf, the largest sailing yacht with a capacity of 370 passengers. We spent three days around Rome before boarding with stops at Capri, Italy; Messina/Taormina, Sicily; Kotor, Montenegro; Dubrovnik, Croatia; Hvar, Croatia; and ending in Venice, where we stayed for two nights followed by one night in Verona.
This is our story.
Rome Day 1
Our flight out of Frankfurt was delayed for a half an hour, and upon landing in Rome we found out potentially why when we heard a crazy noise repeatedly coming from the landing gear. After a sporty van ride through some crazy Roman traffic, picking up the keys to our apartment, and picking up some lunch, we went our separate ways for the rest of the day. Herr and I went northeast to the Borghese park and rented a riscio (two person quadracycle with electric assist). Our goal was to see the Galleria Borghese, but it was sold out until Monday. So instead we cruised around the gardens. The pedal carriage was a lot of fun!
We made a quick stop by the Hard Rock Cafe, which was only a block from the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini church that houses the Capuchin Crypt. The crypt was interesting enough with only a euro donation, but no pictures makes for sad tourists. The crypts are decorated with a wide variety of human bones, unlike the Paris Catacombs that display mostly femurs and crania. It makes me all the more curious to see the bone church in the Czech Republic.
The church isn’t far from Trevi Fountain, but we just jumped the metro to the Roman Forums instead. We heard later from Herr’s parents that Trevi was intensely busy, so I’m a bit glad we didn’t go by, even if it has one of the best gelato shops. At the forum, we sat down and enjoyed the atmosphere much more than last time (three years ago). We had spent most of our time on Palatine Hill then, so we skipped that and hung out among the ruins. It was great to take it easy, and it allowed us to appreciate it much more.
We left a little after 6 p.m. and grabbed some sandwiches from a street vendor (overpriced, but it is a tourist-y area). As we ate, we watched other tourists around the Colosseum, which was entertaining enough. By then, though, we were quite exhausted with the early wake up (3:30 a.m.) and made our way back for an early night.
Our final day in Rome was dedicated to the ruins. Our first stop: the colosseum. Beautiful weather, and hardly anyone around! We passed Constantine’s Arch on our way to Palatine Hill, part of the Roman Forums. Absolutely beautiful, and we were able to see the interior of an ancient Roman house (parts of it were preserved, so they let small handfuls of people in at a time).
We made our way down the hill after a breathtaking overhead view of the ancient forum, then went to mingle with the ruins. At this point, a tour guide would have been a great idea. There was so much that looked interesting, I should have read up on it! On the other side is a war memorial that towers over the ruins, so I caught some dramatic shots with the storm clouds rolling in. Trajan’s Column was across the street, with the marketplace ruins beneath it.
At this point we were uncertain what to do, so Circus Maximus came up. The weather was turning, but we even found the Boca de la Veritas (mouth of truth) church that was made famous by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday. Circus Maximus was sadly disappointing… it really is just a flat patch of dirt. With it finally raining, we went towards Termini station where we would depart for the airport. Along the way we found the best restaurant, just a block south of the station, called Pastarito (Pizzarito). We had sooo much pasta we all hurt, and it was cheap! All we could do at that point was drag ourselves around the train station for a few hours (our feet hurt too) before heading out.
The only points of interest I would have liked to visit (aside from more shopping) are some of the catacombs and the Baths of Caracalla. Keeping a note of that if I ever find myself in Rome. 😉
More photos here:
Saturday was for the Vatican. We arrived little after 9 a.m. and booked it straight to the Cistine Chapel. Sadly, no photography was allowed (although several people were sneaking shots), but the color was vibrant after its recent restoration. From there we walked the long halls of the Vatican Library (all the books are in cabinets though) before retracing our steps back through the museum. We saw tons of statues, the Egyptian collection, the medieval collection, the Etruscan collection, and others before taking a quick lunch break at the Vatican cafeteria. We realized we missed the Raphael rooms but weren’t up to walking through the museums again. 😛
Around the other side is St. Peter’s Basilika. It has a huge plaza surrounded by a circular colonnade. The timing was perfect with light streaming in through all the windows with amazing clarity. It is huge! We opted for the dome instead of the crypt, which Rie was not too fond of. We did pay to take the elevator partway but had to walk the stairs the last third. We went up ramps, cramped back and forth stairs, tight narrow angled stairs (the dome was closing in!), and supremely tight spiral “staircase” with only a rope down the middle to hold on to. The view was worth it. 😀
Once back down, we had some gelato on the road that connects the basilika with Castel Sant’Angelo. The castle was, I think, the biggest let down of the trip. It had a modern art exhibit full of junk, and nothing about the castle itself. It was right on the river, but otherwise not interesting (at least to me).
We decided to get a sneak peak of the colosseum at night, but when we arrived, we found ourselves in the midst of a huge protest! Scary!! We booked it and hid in a restaurant (overpriced) until the coast was clear before going back for photos and gelato. Gelato! Yummy. 😀
Leaving at 3:30 a.m., we arrived in Rome after diverting to a nearby airport around 10:30 a.m. It took that long because the cab driver could not find the first group’s hotel, so we got a whirlwind “tour” of the city. The hotel, Hotel Porta Maggiore, was a labyrinth, but decent for the price. We spent a lot of time walking the streets of Rome looking for the Spanish Steps, which was fine by me with the sunny mid 50s weather.
We made it to the top fo the Spanish Steps for a great view of the city then made our way to Trevi Fountain. Herr was surprised that the fountain was at street level (actually below), but as we saw with all ruins, the ancient city sat at least fifteen feet below current street level. At Trevi we enjoyed our first gelato – heaven! – before leaving for the Pantheon.
Along the way is a row of marble columns now fixated to the side of a modern building. Something to take note of is how the modern city grew around and into the ancient city. The Pantheon opens up to a small plaza with a fountain surrounded by lots and lots of tourists. Despite it being just one big room with a big hole in the roof (ocolus), it was by far the coolest site of the day. The domed roof is one of earliest examples of concrete, and an impressive one at that. It made me so happy I had to hug the giant doors. Twice. 😀
We attempted to locate the Diocletian Baths near Termini (main train station), and discovered the large open area was still in tact and converted to a church. Afterwards we wandered around until we found the Hard Rock for some dinner. I had some lasagna (I thought it fitting) that was actually quite tasty.