Rome for a Weekend…
No wi fi connections so we’re downloading the blogs to a jump drive and will send them by way of an Internet Shop….photos will be added tomorrow evening after we arrive in Sorrento; God willin’ and the wi fi access is as promised. The Traveling Twins M&M
Thursday, March 26, 2009 Travel Day to Rome
I took a tumble on the steps this morning and pulled some muscles; but not too bad.
So on with the move to Rome; moving a bit slower but moving!
Our train platform came up and we struggled with our luggage but managed to get everything to the train. Mary was definitely pulling her own luggage today! Got aboard and found that we were in little compartments. We had an Australian lady named Kayla with us who is a cardiac nurse and two French gentlemen from Morocco who spoke no English. We had a wonderful three hour trip after we finally got started; the train was half an hour late getting started. At the French/Italy border the police came on the train and everyone had to get out their passports and soon after we arrived at Genova.
The train from Genova to Roma was nearly empty and everyone was very friendly. At one point three conductors came together to talk to us and verify that we were twins and they were amazed when we told them we were seventy years old. During the first part of the trip we used my IPod to watch the movie “Something’s Gotta Give” that I had downloaded from ITunes before leaving home. It was a five hour trip from Genova to Roma and we arrived after dark. We didn’t cross the street soon enough and ended up walking an extra two blocks to find our lodging for the next four nights.
We’re in a B&B called the Moretti House that we’d arranged through Cross Pollination, a rental agency connected with the Beehive Hostel that we’re staying at for Easter Week. We’re right across the street from the Termini Train Station. We were met at the apartment by an agent, a young girl, who spoke no English but got us into the building and took our fees. We then went walking to see if McDonalds…they are everywhere and one only a block away…had wifi. No such luck; looks like we’ll have to use the Internet Shop this weekend. Had a bite to eat; walked around the Termini Station for Mary to see how large it is; she was amazed. She said it was like a city unto itself; Rome never sleeps.
Friday, March 27, 2009 First Day in Rome; Scavi Tour
We had an early breakfast in the room that we prepared ourselves and then ate it sitting in our bed before going to an Internet Shop to check email. We found Bus # 40 for the ride over to the Vatican. Arrived about 10 am and found that the line to get through security for entrance to St. Peter’s Basilica stretched nearly all the way around the plaza in front of the church. But we got in line and so enjoyed the young people in front of us. It was a group of students from Sorrento and by the time we’d reached the security checkpoint we had exchanged blogspot information with several of the students and taken lots of photos. Their teacher even took photos of us with the students.
We had several hours to visit St. Peters so we also ended up taking the elevator to the first level of the Bell Tower Climb and Mary was able to walk around the inside of the Dome and view the interior of the Basilica from above. I gave her the option of climbing further up to the Cupola but she very wisely declined and we took the elevator back down after taking lots of photos. We saw the Jubilee Door that is only unlocked every twenty five years. We bucked the crowds in front of the Pieta to take photos and checked out the markings down the center aisle that show the length of other churches around the world in relationship to St. Peter’s, the largest. I remembered that I’d downloaded a podcast from Rick Steves on various sites in Rome into my IPod before leaving including one on the Vatican. I got it out and Mary enjoyed learning even more about St. Peter’s from the master tour director: Rick Steves.
Finally it was 1:20 pm; our designated time to walk past the Swiss Guards into the area that the public is excluded from entering. We were headed for the Scavi Tour Office with our precious tickets that my daughter Mary had been able to arrange at the last minute for us so that we could take the very unusual and very hard to obtain Scavi Tour. They only allow two hundred and fifty people per day. This is one of the reasons that we changed our travel plans and came into Rome for this weekend. We’d not been able to obtain tickets during the week before Easter; yes we will be back in Rome for Easter.
We walked in with our paperwork and twenty euros; and the gentleman at the desk said, “These tickets were canceled because you did not make your payment!” At that time his telephone rang and while he was on the phone he continued to work at his computer. When he got off the telephone his entire attitude had changed and he very politely said that they’d had to move us to the next tour at 1:45 pm and if we’d be so kind as to wait another fifteen minutes we’d be on that tour. We think that he finally noticed that the tickets had been arranged only last week by the office of one the cardinals in Rome and there wasn’t time for any payment to have been made.
Had a wonderful tour with a small group; the 1:30 pm group was twice the size so it was great that they moved us. The tour takes you through the excavations that the church began in 1940 and continued for ten years to discover the actual tomb of St. Peter. They had always known from history that the altar in St. Peter’s is built over the tomb but now they actually believe that they have not only discovered the tomb but the skeletal remains that were found intact within the site. Most of the tour deals with a cemetery that dates back to the time before Constantine built the first church on this site after he leveled the top of the hill and filled in the tombs with dirt. At the end of the tour we saw the tomb and a small portion of the bones that are now in a glass case in the original place that they were discovered. Leaving that site we entered into the area where all of the Popes are buried right at John Paul’s burial site before exiting the area. The tour last for an hour and a half and was very informative.
After returning to the B&B for a rest we started walking afterwards towards Trevi Fountain as the night arrived; by the time we arrived it was dark and the crowds were thick around the fountain. But, we each managed to get close enough to toss our coin in the fountain to ensure that we return again to Rome in the future. Then, to follow tradition, we purchased Italian ice cream on the corner to eat on our walk to Spanish Steps. Again, very crowded but we still climbed about half way up for photos before starting back towards the area with buses. There are no buses that go to either Trevi Fountain or the Spanish Steps so Mary was a good sport and had walked with me. Finally found a bus stop and the driver assured us that his bus would go to Termini Station. We had to stand most of the way but within minutes after we finally got a seat to share we were at the Station and after picking up some fresh fruit from a stand near our building, we were home and it was only 8:00 pm.
Saturday, March 28, 2009 Touring Rome on foot
Ate our breakfast on trays again this morning but not in bed; we sat in chairs at the foot of our bed. Fresh bananas and strawberries along with the bread and jams made for a delicious breakfast before heading out to the Internet Shop to check on emails.
Had planned to take the Hop on/off bus all day but discovered that it is only running half a day today because of a planned demonstration in the center of the city. So, we purchased an all day bus pass instead. Rode the bus to the Victor Emmanual Monument and started our walk from there. We first viewed the Trajans Column; approximately one hundred forty feet in height it is a base relief that spirals up the column depicting the story of this particular Emperor reign.
Then we continued to walk towards the Roman Colosseo (Coliseum) along the railings that allowed us to overlook the expanse of the Roman Forum below. An overview was agreed upon as neither one of us wanted to spend that much time in one place. The lines are long today as its Saturday and we decided to avoid the crowds as much as possible.
Since we’re going to be attending a Good Friday service in the Coliseum we also stopped for photos there and then continued to walk past the Palatine Hill area that was popular with wealthy Romans during the time of Caesar and is now another tourist attraction to view different types of ruins right after we passed by the Arch of Constantine. During Roman times there was also a beautiful fountain near the arch that was used by the gladiators to wash the blood off after a match in the nearby Colosseo.
We’re really doing some serious walking today as we then strolled around the Circus Maximus that is now a grassy arena where it appears they are starting some restoration work to create another tourist attraction!
Our ultimate goal this morning was to reach the church of St. Sabina that sits at the top of a hill; the park attached to the church has one of the best views of Rome that I’ve seen. You overlook the Tiber River and all of ancient Rome including the Vatican. This area is on the edge of the Trastevere area; a colorful and very old section of the city that can get a bit “edgy” at night. Just past the church you will find the Knights of Malta building that has a garden with the same views as the park. Being a private garden one generally doesn’t have access to the garden but if you can find the green gate there is a key hole that perfectly frames the view of St. Peter’s Dome in the arch of a perfectly cut hedge. It’s difficult to actually get the photo to show what the eye can see; but the crowds are continuing to grow at this door with a view; one of Rome’s best kept secrets. If you look at the slideshow you’ll see the dome from the park; visualize that in the center of the hedge that you see in the key hole photo…that’s the view we had.
We walked back down the hill towards the Tiber River and looked for a bus to give our feet a rest. We finally found one but it only took us to the Victor Emmanuel Monument and then we walked from there to the Pantheon that has recently been renovated on the inside. It still has the hole in the roof and the church inside in one of the niches looked updated; the year 2009 celebrates fourteen hundred years as a church for this building.
We were both getting pretty tired by this point but I promised Mary that it was just a bit further to the Piazza Navona where we would have a meal and find bathrooms! We soon arrived at one of my favorite places in Rome and I have always had a meal in the Piazza Navona while enjoying the festive atmosphere that reminds me of St. Mark’s Square in Venice. Pigeons, artists, people, music, fountains and lots of outdoor restaurants fill the square with delightful sounds. I generally have pizza and beer when I’m here but today we ordered lasagna and a glass of white wine. It’s a cool day but no rain and we enjoyed our meal before taking more photos of Bernini’s most famous fountain of the Four Rivers; one of three fountains in the piazza that still retains the oval shape of the racetrack from Roman times.
We walked back towards the Tiber River to take photos of the Castel S. Angelo and the Angels on the bridge that crosses over to the Castel. Mary didn’t realize that we could tour this building and was delighted to find that it was open for tours and not crowded. It was a long uphill walk but lots of history that goes back to when it was originally built as a tomb for Hadrian and beautiful paintings on the walls made for a good tour. She enjoyed looking down on the walkway atop the wall that stretches from the Vatican to S. Angelo where the popes would take refuge when under attack from their enemies.
We finally caught another bus and headed back towards our B&B near Termini Station. We found a grocery store in the station and picked up some supplies for tonight and breakfast tomorrow. Had some light sprinkles as we walked the last block but that was all the rain we had today as we arrived home about 5 pm.
Tomorrow, Sunday will be our last day before we leave for Sorrento on Monday morning.