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Eternal Rome - Trip Report

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We (husband and I, celebrating 10th wedding anniversary) spent 5 nights in Rome this past September, following a 4 night stay in Sorrento(trip report in an earlier post).

ACCOMMODATIONS

We stayed at Hotel d'Inghilterra. Our room was comfortable and tastefully furnished with antiques; separate sleeping and sitting areas, lots of windows that opened and a lovely, though very compact marble bathroom. Our buffet breakfast of hot and cold foods was included, and served inside or out in the main dining room. Tickets to the Borghese Gallery were also included in our package, and our visit to the park and museum was one of the highlights of our stay in Rome. Each afternoon we found a different edible treat on our coffee table, and each evening chocolates and the next day's weather report on our pillow. The front desk staff and concierges could not have been nicer. They treated us like old friends. The hotel is small and cozy, and was an oasis of calm at the end of each busy day. We liked its location, in the heart of Rome's upscale shopping district, a few minutes walk to Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps, close to the Trevi Fountain, walking distance to so many other sites.

RESTAURANTS

Cafe Romano: the main dining room at Hotel d'Inghilterra. Good pastas. Don't recall hubby's main course; mine was a nice sliced filet.

Nino's on Via Borgognona: very close to our hotel, and recommended by Carlo, our driver from Sorrento to Rome. Very good food. My chicken stew with peppers and tomatoes was a standout. Good service.

Da Baffetto, Via del Governo Vecchio, 114, near Piazza Navona: we walked past this tiny place a couple of times before noticing the sign above. Sat at a long table outside. Two British women on holiday sat next to us. At the next long table was a group of older Americans who had escaped their guided tour. Our pizzas were quite good; the company was delightful. No reservations, so best to arrive early. After dinner, we took our British friends to Piazza Navona to sample the tartufo at Tre Scalini.

Giggetto, Via Portico d'Ottavia 21a, in the Jewish Ghetto: we liked the carciofi alla guidia (fried artichokes), potato croquettes, fried rice/cheese/tomato balls(whose name temporarily escapes me). We liked the pastas - cacio e pepe (noodles with pepper and cheese) and fettucine with artichokes. My husband's "lamb cacciattore" frightened us! Unidentifiable (and scary)parts of the lamb mixed with vaguely familiar(and thus scarier) parts. He sent it back for safer - and very identifiable - lamb chops.

Tullio, Via S. Nicola da Tolentino, 26: a wonderful restaurant serving Tuscan influenced fare. Great service. We loved the delicious and delicately flavored bean soup, pasta tubes with beef and cheese, filet and veal.

La Piazzetta, Vicolo del Buon Consiglio, 23a, near the Forum: recommended by Daniella, our tour guide for the Roman Forum and Colosseum; we treated her for lunch here after our tour. Delicious antipasto buffet, breads, pastas and complimentary dessert.

Rosati's, Piazza del Popolo: Had lunch outside; ok food and great people watching.

Don't let anyone tell you you can't get a bad meal in Rome. We are living proof that you can, indeed. We arrived early at Trattoria da Paolo across from the entrance to the Vatican Museums, where we were to meet our Context Rome tour guide, and decided to have a light lunch. Our pizza Margherita tasted like cardboard with canned toppings that had been heated in a microwave. Served with a smile.

Daily gelato is, of course, a must. We particularly enjoyed Giolitti, Gelateria della Palma, Il Gelato di San Crispino(the honey gelato was terrific), Tre Scalini, where the tartufo is a must for lovers of chocolate. My husband, a renowned chocoholic, gave it his seal of approval.

SHOPPING

I had purchased some lovely stationery and picture frames at Il Papiro in Florence last year, and was happy to run across an outlet in Rome at Via Del Pantheon 50.

Ai Monasteri, Corso Rinascimento, 72, across from Piazza Navona: this shop sells soaps, perfumes, jellies and jams, liquers made in local monasteries.

I bought a couple of inexpensive prints of the Piazza di Spagna and Colosseum from an artist at the top of the Spanish Steps.

SITES AND HIGHLIGHTS

We hired Daniella Hunt of Mirabilia Urbis Tours, www.rome-tours.com to take us on a private, 4 hour tour of the Roman Forum and Colosseum. She was wonderful, highly knowledgeable, passionate, fun; she made ancient Rome and its people come alive for us.

We took the Arte Vaticana Tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter's offered by Context Rome. Michael Herrman, an architect, was our guide. There were 6 in our group, and we greatly enjoyed this tour. The Sistine Chapel was stunning,
as was Michelangelo's Last Judgment, and the wall frescoes by Botticelli and other Renaissance masters. Seeing that fulfilled a lifelong dream. The Raphael tapestries were exquisite, and we loved Raphael's paintings. Hubby enjoyed the map room. St. Peter's with its dome and interior is beyond words. Another lifelong dream had been to see the Pieta, incredibly moving even behind glass. The crowds were oppressive.

The Pantheon with its dome and oculus, and the Piazza della Rotunda surrounding it.

Piazza Navona with its fountains, particularly Bernini's Fountain of the Four Rivers: a lovely baroque piazza and my favorite square.

Piazza del Popolo: another lovely square with its twin churches. Scaffolding covered the Egyptian obelisk, alas.

Piazza di Spagna and the Spanish Steps: very vibrant, always bustling. There was scaffolding on Trinita dei Monti Church.
Fun to climb the stairs; there is an elevator to the top.


Trevi Fountain: you round a corner and there it is, larger than life. I threw in the obligatory coin.

The Palatine Hill and Michelangelo's lovely Campidoglio. Hot, weary, overstimulated from all the sights, we skipped the Capitoline Museums.

The opulent and grand Vittorio Emanuele Monument.

The lesser known and unknown churches, still lovely inside.

Villa Borghese: expansive and beautiful grounds. And the Galleria Borghese. A small and very opulent building, almost over the top with all its decoration. It houses paintings by Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, the Canova Pauline Bonaparte statue. A revelation for us were Bernini's statues. I could almost feel the laurel leaves stretching out from Daphne's fingers at the touch of Apollo. I stared and stared at the Rape of Persephone, at Hades' fingers pushing into Persephone's flesh, at her fingers stretching the skin on his face.
A luxury to view these treasures without the pressing crowds of the Vatican Museums.
Advance reservations are required here, and viewing is in 2 hour increments.

The warm and proud Romans. The food. The gelato.

Even with 4 full days, we barely skimmed the surface of Rome's gifts. The Campo dei Fiori market, Capitoline Museums, Trastevere, the ghetto in daylight, San Clemente and San Pietro in Vincoli and so many other sites will have to wait for future trips.

IMPRESSIONS

Venice was serene, like a fading Grande Dame aware she still captivates. Florence was compact and vibrant, brimming with art and architecture, buzzing with scooters. I found Rome big and brash and in your face, with the more frenzied pace of modern American cities. Walkable, despite its size. A living, breathing museum, generously exposing its layers of history to its many visitors. I fell under its spell. My husband preferred Venice and Florence to Rome. I loved them all.

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