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    by mkataoka Fodor's Editor | Posted on Nov 28, 16 at 01:31 PM
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Trip Report Finally in Italy for the holidays - installment report

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I've been planning this trip for what seems like forever, and I thought it would be a nice thing to try to give a report regarding each day that would be informative and a journal of sorts for us. I'm already behind. We've been gone from home for 2 days.

to set the scene, we are parents of 2 daughters - 12 and 17. We are traveling to Rome first for a week, then a quick visit to Pompeii, another week in Montepulciano and flying out of Milan.

So the trip over on lufthansa was interesting - my 12 year old was amazed with the in flight enterrtainment system -- "you mean I can watch all these movies for free?" as a result, she stayed up most of the flight - I slept for a few hours as did the rest of the family. It was an 8 hour flight. She was a bit tired - to say the least. We had a layover in Dusseldorf before our final flight to Rome. After arriving in Dusseldorf, there was a bit of confusion on the plane - clearly someeone was ill - we had arrived at the gate, but the flight crew called for a doctor to the front of the plane and all passengers were kept on board for about 15 minutes. Eventually, the exodus began and what a rush of people!

In my haste and fatigue, I forgot to check under the seat to make sure i had everything. About an our later, when I asked my husband for my new Nikon Dslr camera that had been my birthday gift - he said "I gave it to you." Oh no...it had been left on the plane. I honestly thought I'd be sick I had such a lump in my stomach. And we only had 40 minutes until our next flight - I first tried to get back to the plane gate - no luck - no valid ticket anymore. Then to baggage claim. I spoke with a woman behind the desk who seemed nice and she called her friend who works in maintenance and had him check the plane. No camera. I started to cry - did I mention I was tired? She smiled sympathically and said I should check back with her on my return flight. I told her I wouldn't return through Dusseldorf and she smiled another sympathic smile. I apologized for losing my cool and breaking down and she said if anything turned up she'd bring it to the gate - I rushed back through security and made it to the gate. I cried a bit more as I saw the hopeful looks of my family dashed as they saw my empty hands.

Our flight was delayed by a half hour or so and I thought that maybe there was a lost and found - could it be there? so I went up to the counter to ask. As the gate attendant was calling lost and found - the original woman came into view -- yes, carrying my camera case!!! I couldn't believe it - I hugged her right then and there - twice! Of course, "do you have the camera" has become the running joke for the trip. But a sincere thank you to that attendant!
We arrived in Rome around 3:30 and made it into our apartment. We have rented an apartment very near the Campo dei Fiori.

I will write more about our trip thus far later - because, it is now nearly midnight!

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    So, I tried to sleep - too much on my mind I guess. So I'll write some more. That first day is a bit of a blur. The plan was to meet the caretaker of the apartment and he would call the landlord to go over everything. We met him, he was fine, but he left within 5 minutes. So I guess I am to call the landlord - but really? I just got to Rome - on a gorgeous sunny warm day. Rather than call the landlord, we departed immediately to wander. We popped in to a restaurant for a quick snack of a shared pizza and then we wandered toward the Vittorio Emmanuelle and then to the Pantheon. We dropped in on St Ignatious church and another church - but fot he life of me I can't remember which. In our lack of sleep dazed wander, we decided to head back to the apartment to research dinner options.

    Once we arrived back at our place, we were all exhausted. I just couldn't see the hassle of going out to eat - could I even read and understand a menu at this point? So we went to the co op and we bought some pasta and (horrors!) jarred sauce. My 17 yo did the honors of boiling the pasta and heating the sauce in the microwave - and presto - dinner. For dessert we had picked up ice cream treats at the store. Yes, I rrealize how utterly crazy it is to be in a great food location like Rome eating jar sauce and manufactured pasta sauce, but for us, at that moment - it was exactly what we needed. We all hit the sack by 9.

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    Today was an early start - we had booked a tour with Daniella Hunt at Mirabilia Urbis tours. She was to guide us through the Forum and the Colosseum. We met her at 9 sharp at the entrance. Precious few people were there at that time, perhaps particularly because it was a cloudy, cool start to the day. Daniella jumped right in. My oldest daughter is fascinated by the ancients and as parents, the bulk of our fun today was watching our girls - especially the older, take it all in. My youngest, who was cold because she had underestimated the weather, every so often would complain, but not obnoxiously so - though Daniela picked up on it and after we finished our tour of the Forum, she took us for some hot chocolate. That did the trick.

    Both kids were engaged at the colosseum - Daniella did a wonderful job of helping us to use our imaginations. She also answered so many questions and gave us help understanding things - this was my third trip to the Forum and my first time understanding it! She also gave valuable insight into the Colosseum that I had never understood before. While a private guide is not cheap - for us, with our kids at this age - it was so, so worth it.

    We said our goodbyes to Daniella around 1:15 and began to make our way home for our youngest to put on a heavier jacket - it was sprinkling for part of the day, and certainly cool. On the way home we decided to give a neighborhood restaurant a try. We stopped at Pizzaria and cucina Emma. There we enjoyed a complettely delicious and restorative lunch. Between us we had 2 glasses of wine, 2 calzones, 1 order of meatballs (6) and I had carbonara. We topped it off with 2 espresso - all for 66 euro. For the quality of food and the ease to our apartment, we thought that was a bargain - at about $16 a person. We'll be going back maybe more than once.

    After lunch we headed back to the Capitoline museum. In my previous ttrips to Rome, I had never visited - yes, a crime. All I can say is "wow" what an amazing evening we had. We got there around 3:30 and a bit later I began to notice dusk coming on as I walked past a window - and what views from those windows! We made our way around the galleries to the cafe and its outside balcony. It was sunset now, and just so amazingly beautiful. I became trigger happy on my camera and I'm sure I took far too many photos of the view over Rome. We pulled ourselves back inside to finish viewing. On our way out I thought we'd swing just down the hill behind the museum and take a different view of the Forum. I'm glad we did - my kids where transfixed. The columns looked amazing in the shroud of darkness with a bit of light shining on them.

    Back up to the campidoglio and we happened upon a wedding. I can't imagine a more stunning spot for a wedding - surrounded by such history and beauty. But by now our stomachs were telling us it is time to go eat! My brother in law had previously recommended a restaurant, grotto di teatro pompei - it was close to home so we gave it a shot. The people were friendly, we liked our food and the price was good. We really had a good time there - the server seemed to genuinely enjoy having us there - what a difference that can make for a weary traveler at the end of the day.

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    The phrase for the day? NO, I do not want a selfie stick!

    In every place where tourists tend to gather, you will find several men stepping in front of you offering these metal sticks with which to attach a cell phone and take your own picture in front of - the you name it attraction. Naturally, since we are tourists in Rome we encountered these guys pretty much everywhere we went today!

    In spite of the onslaught, it was a great day. We woke much later than expected. We sent the kids down for cornetti at Roscioli bakery - about 100 feet away, while we finished getting ready to go. At about 10:00 we bounced out the door headed for the Borghese Gallery. we are staying very near the campo dei fiori. I had planned about 30 minutes maximum to get there - it didn't quite work out that way. Boy these Rome streets can wind around on you. we walked like crazy, making several wrong turns. Every time I asked my DH to stop and take a look at the map, he indicated he knew where we were - very grumpy - but usually he did know where we were. Which personally, drives me crazy. But, we did end up taking a wrong turn from the Spanish steps and we went all the way through the park - ugh! We arrived at the gallery 9 minutes prior to our scheduled ticket time. I was very frustrated! But great art has a way of calming even the most savage beast. I've been there 3 times now and each time I see something new that is wonderful and beautiful, and again all is well with the world.

    We left the gallery and made our way back down to the Spanish steps. It was mobbed! Where did all of these people come from? But the sun was high, it was warm enough for short sleeves in the sun, and we took in everything around us. Of paticular note were the doctors dressed like Santa Claus on roller blades and roller skates - what a riot. they came down the via condotti, turned at the steps, and went back down. It was a sight to behold. I also noticed the Italian boy and his friend staring at my 17 yo. Really, I'm her mom - yes, standing right here! But it was very cute - because she noticed too.

    But really the place was jam packed. By this time our stomachs were telling us to take a break. I downloaded 2 apps for food for this trip - Elizabeth Minchilli's Eat Rome and Parla's Rome. Eat Rome recommened a place just off tthe Piazza on a side street Borgonona - Nino's. So after a spin at Sephora to get my tweenager hair conditioner (yes, the choices are SO different here - holy cow!) we were off to Nino's. Old school, white coated waiters seated us. I am really trying on my Italian, but to be honest, I'm just terrible. They were very kind here. We were seated in a back room - the only english speakers in the whole area - yes, this would be good. And it did not disappoint. We had between us: tortellini in cream (the best!), a chicken dish, spaghetti w/ tomato and i had an artichoke pasta - we also had 2 glasses of wine - all was very good. The only misstep was I ordered my daughter a hot chocolate - this was clearly outside of their "wheelhouse" they brought what seemed to be heated up chocolate sauce - she couldn't bear it. But I give them kudos forr trying. the bill came to 105.

    Refreshed from lunch we decided to skip the museum - my 12 yo had enough - and we hit churches instead. She likes the precepe in the various churches. At the Borghese, I saw Carravaggio - and I'm sorry, I didn't want to stop - so a church "crawl" it is! First up was S. Luigi dei Francesi.I filled more of my Carravaggio fix with the panels there - I think I could have stared forever. but alas, my family kept my going.

    Next was S. Maria Sopra Minerva - and of course Michelangelo. It was also here that i had an interesting experience. There is a statue there - nothing particularly noteworthy, but a beautiful statute of Mary of the Rosary. I sat down in one of the few pews in front of me. there was an older woman there, next to the statue. From her mannerisms, I knew she had been there many times before. I just silently watched her. She did something by the statue, perhaps left a token, and then she gathered a few candles to light. she quietly went about her business. After lighting the candles, she sat down next to me and began to pray. Meanwhile, the rest of the world revolved around us. Sometimes, we forget that these spaces are true worship spaces that are very meaningful - and not just for their masterpieces. I sat in silence with my anonymous companion, contemplating the day.

    My peaceful state was broken when I was joined by my 12 yo - who had the hiccups. No kidding. Here was this faithful woman sitting next to me and my kid is practically burping up lunch next to us. Mortified does not begin to describe it. But she tried to control it - actually, now, several hours later, it can even be thought funny.

    So from there we grabbed a cab and headed up to Santa Maria del Popolo. You guessed it - more Carravaggio's!! On the way, we passed by the Ara Pacis - one of our actual planned destinations for the day that we scrapped. Since the traffic was so bad, we were stuck just outside and we peered through the windows. Can we say we saw it now? I think so! We arrived at the church and went in - really, can I just say Carravaggio is my favorite? because he is. We decided to save the cab fare and walk home down the Via del Corso. It started out so well.

    We were having such a good time watching the street performers, the Italians talking animatedly, the groups of kids being kids, and so on. But then, my husband needed to use the restroom. What was once a leisurely - albeit crowded stroll, now became the passegiatta from hell and he weaved in and around nearly everyone in our path. I totally understood, I think we all can, but it was just crazy. It was so crowded it was tough to make our way through - but we did and we got back home.

    after a brief respite at home - it was dinner time again, We decided to go back to Pizzaria Emma. it is about 3 minutes away and this time we sat inside the dining room - a very modern area with a glass ceiling. I must say, I feel so pathetic - this is the second time that we were the first to be seated for dinner. But, I suppose someone has to be first, right? We had fun watching dishes being prepared in their open salumi area - there was a mix of tourists and locals - mostly locals - and a very hip but accomodating vibe. Our waitress was great and attentive. Our food was good - we had: Cacio e pepe, rigatoni with tomato and basil; grilled organic chicken and again my 12 yo had the calzone. We also splurged with desserts. the total bill came to about 115. including a bottle of wine. We are over the budget for the day, with these 2 big meal bills. Tomorrow we'll cut back and have pizza or panini and perhaps dinner in - but we'll see!

    On the agenda for tomorrow is the Doria Pamphijli gallery and the Scavi at St. Peter's

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    I am looking forward to hearing the rest of the story and maybe seeing some of your pictures taken with that fabulous camera! (Sorry about the double post. For some reason my computer was stuck on the first one and then submitted before I could fix it.)

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    JUJUBEAN, I enjoy tour reports and also follow along. Haven't seen Rome since 2008, so might be its massive changes there. One request from me, please upload some snap from your own camera to enjoy Rome very closely!

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    Please, please give us our Christmas gift by keeping up this journal.

    You have a real knack for making me see Rome through the eyes of a mother looking at Rome through the eyes of her daughters, if that it is not too meta-analytic.

    Anyway, it is tefrrific!

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    Back up to the campidoglio and we happened upon a wedding. I can't imagine a more stunning spot for a wedding - surrounded by such history and beauty>>

    I've shared here before, juju, the story of the time we saw a bride half way up the steps of the campodoglio shouting at someone down her mobile phone - we assumed that the object of her ire was the idiot who'd suggested that the wedding happened at the church at the top!

    The galleria Doria Pamphilij is one of my Rome favourites - I hope you enjoy it. Do use the [free] audio guide - the narrator's wonderful english accent is well worth listening to. Presepi are also great things to see this time of year - there is a long tradition of them going back to St Francis at least and we found some lovely ones, though like you I am unable to name the churches where were saw them.

    I felt for you with the camera - our DS lost his phone on a flight to Iceland. when we realised, we phoned it, [luckily before the battery ran out] and it was answered by someone in the airline offices in Denmark. By the time we got home, it was waiting for us. DS was VERY lucky.

    keep it coming!

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    Thanks everybody! Im very glad that I can be entertaining/instructive - it really does make me happy.

    So today, the day began with me grudgingly getting up at 7:30 ish to go to the Campo dei Fiori for some fruit and maybe some veg. Neither my 12 yo nor my DH seemed as if they gave a rat's behind, so my 17 yo and I went out. It was chilly, I was very glad that i wore my heavy winter coat and gloves. I brought 2 coats - one is a winter coat (boiled wool) the other is a thin quilted coat that I wear in the fall back home. Today, the winter coat was welcome. Of course, once at tthe market, you have to check out every stall, circling around as if there is actually any difference between the oranges sold at this stall versus that - I never notice any difference at least. We ended up buying from an older, deeply wrinkled lady at the foot of the statue of Bruno - I figured she probably has earned that spot over the years. We bought cherries, strawberries, tangerines and apples - not nearly enough to justify the 19.50E price tag. (ouch) but we returned home with our fruit and hopefully some good photos.

    that reminds me - I am trying to upload some photos of these first few days - will get it done asap!

    After a breakfast at home (remember that budget?) we took off for the Doria Pamphilji gallery.

    So, there's this illness that develops after a few days of 24/7 togetherness. I think it's called -"do you really have to walk that close to me?' syndrome. The illness begins with a general grumpiness, and develops into a feeling that you'd do just about anything to get a few minutes alone. It is exacerbated by 4 people in a 1 bedroom apartment that has only one bathroom and doing everything together! We had some flare-ups today, but so far - no full cases have been reported but it's close. We'll have to figure out some treatment options soon, or I think we all may go bonkers.

    Back to our day. The gallery is wonderful. I really enjoyed the audioguide. It's free and so interesting. It doesn't go into great detail, but it adds a certain something. The rooms of the Palazzo where wonderful, but of course, what we went for was - you guessed it - the Carravaggio's!! We did not get there early - around 10. but we were some of just the few people there. Later a couple of school groups showed up, but for the majority off our time there we were some of just a few visitors - it is a Monday I suppose. So we moved along, my dh and kids going faster - because i listen to every aspect of the audio guide.

    I get to the room with the Carravaggio's and I look around. It's just me and them. No one else is in the room. I know it sounds goofy, but it was really something to be there, by myself contemplating a great artists' work. Shivers...And plus, how often are you alone in Rome - like never! There's always somebody around - even if it is not someone related to you. So to be alone like that, well, just wow. I exited the gallery to find my husband and 12 yo sitting in a couplle chairs, he with his legs stretched out like he's watching a football game and she is sprawled across his lap. Yep, that's us, keeping it classy.

    After the gallery we headed back to the apartment. we had decided earlier in the morrning to try pizza from Roscioli for lunch and it is about spitting distance from our apartment. We made a pit stop - filled up on water, had some expensive fruit from the morning and headed out for our pizza. I have genuinely tried to learn some conversational Italian, so why do I feel so incredibly ridiculous when trying to order anything? I really want to practice the language, but I feel as if it is mean to torture their language. thankfully, the man behind the counter was merciful - he used brroken english to my broken italian - it was nice of him. We took the pizza to go as we needed to be at St Peter's within 60 minutes and we decided to walk it. what an amazing lunch. This pizza was really, really good. we each got a nice portion size and the bill came to just over 13 E with 2 sodas thrown in. For the money - totally a good deal. I have to have that pizza again.

    We got to St P in plenty of time. So much so that the Swiss Guards told us to come back in a half hour. So we sent a couple of postcards to grandma and grandpa back home and my 12 yo did something interesting. She had her Christmas list and wrote it on a post card to St Nick - she explained that it couldn't be to Santa because, well, we're at the Vatican and St Nick is the Santa here. priceless. Now, I don't think that she still 'believes". Maybe she does, but I think it has more to do with the fact that her sister told her that when she stopped believeing in Santa, the quality of the gifts went down - thanks kid. But, it may be possible that she does still, in a little corner of her heart believe, and she is testing the whole deal. She has kept the list very, very secret. She covered her writing as she went along. Why do I feel like this is a test? Well, I got her sister involved and later in the day, I'm proud to say my 17 yo actually dug in the trash to get that damn list out. I'll have to see if Santa decides to be generous this year.... Once those cards were done, it was time for our Scavi tour.

    Our tour was led by a nice young seminarian from Kansas City in the US. This was my second time taking the tour, my 17 yo first time going. I figured with her interests, it would be a perfect match and it was. However, it left me wanting. Here's why - first let me say I am Catholic. I went to a parochial grade school and a Catholic college - but the Scavi tour was just too focused on the whole St Peter's grave thing. I know, I know, that's what I should expect, I'm in the Vatican for God's sake. But I was disappointed that the whole focus was on the grave deal. For example, there is this little window in an alcove that looks into a chamber - in that chamber is an amazing fresco on a red background of a woman's head. but he made no mention of it. I even felt as if when I was looking and I was falling a tad behind that I would be scolded like I was by Sr. Margaret in the 5th grade. I suppose it is because it didn't fit the agenda for the tour, but still, there is so much intersting stuff down there, it could be so much better. But, I kept my thoughts to myself and my daughter was fascinated. She read the Latin inscriptions, she touched the sarcophogi and just generally was enthralled by the whole deal. At the end, we went into St P's and she just could not grasp the immensity of it. We are going there again on the 24th, so she'll be able to absorb more then.

    We met my dh and our 12yo by the right fountain in the square and it was at that momentt that I heard the funniest sentence of the day. While explaining to my kids what they where looking at, my 12 yo said, in an exasperated voice, "seriously another Bernini?" as if she was just sick to death of him. Pish-posh. Gosh how lucky they (and we) are to be seeing all of this.

    We grabbed a taxi and headed to the Scala Santa. I had missed seeing them on my last trip and wanted to this trip. Well, once we got in there my 12 yo took the whole climbing up on our knees thing as a challenge. To which she challenged me. Now mind you - as I stated above, I'm Catholic, but, well, let's just say there are millions of Catholics more pious than I am. One of whom is my 12 yo daughter. But I rose to her challenge and dropped to my knees. By the third step I thought, "what have I done?" and all I was praying for was a way out, by the sixth step i was counting how many were left, and by the tenth step my knees were killing me and I was totally cheating by putting my toes down. I think I did the climb in record time. Meanwhile, my daughter was still taking it slowly. My 17 yo didn't even think for one second about doing it. We finally finished and headed over to St john lateran. My knees are still sore. that wood is much harder than it looks - must have been compressed over the centuries, becuase i am pretty sure that the marrble would have been softer.

    I know it's a bit off the beaten path, but this church is worth a visit. Our prrimary purpose was to see the doors. The center doors of the church are the original doors from the Senate building at the Forum. My 17 yo hopes to study ancient Rome and for her to realize that these doors exist was fun to behold. She couldn't stop staring at them, thinking of all of the historical figures that passed through them. She went outside to get a good look at the decorations, and I caught her leaning her head into a door, her eyes closed, just contemplating that they still exist. (if I am wrong about this history - please don't tell me - it was a great moment). It was dark now and we decided to start walking back toward the colosseum. of course once there, we decided to walk all the way back to the apartment.

    At home, when I get home from work, I almost always have a drink. Sometimes, it's a fizzy water, sometimes a beer or wine. So we've carried that habit here - but it's always wine. We bought a little cured meat at the grocery store, along with a bottle of red and some crackers, so we had a little party before dinner. It was nice - and budget friendly.

    We had reserved at Renato e Luisa, so we headed there at 8. And we were not the first people there! we were the second. if you have tthe chance to come to Rome, this place is worth the effort. And if you come here, eat the meat dish. Doesn't matter what it is - the meat dish is best. I did not order the meat dish. I ordered a truffle dish. i have never had truffles before, and I really wanted to have some this trip. So when he said that one of the specials of the day was a truffle pasta, I took it. While it was very good, I must say, I'm not a big truffle fan. But i've scratched that itch. it was very good, but not great. We had: zuchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and baked and a prune, provolone appetizer, my 17 yo had matriciana, my 12 yo had oxtail sauce over pasta, I had a truffle gnochi and my dh had a truffle pasta and a slow cooked beef dish (it was sublime) we had a bottle of the house red too - all for exactly 100E. So our expenditures for the day, including the taxi ride (but not accomodation) was 177E or 44.25 per person - below our set budget. We did not finish all of the fruit, so I didn't count all of it for today.

    We came home well satisfied and hopefully will be ready for another full day in Rome tomorrow. It is off to Trastevere first thing in the morning. I am starting to worrry though about where we will eat for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I enjoy cooking, but haven't much so far - maybe it'll be time.

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    When traveling iwth others - even with our DDs or by B and SIL, DH and I always plan some alone time - and sometimes we break up into boys and girls to do things of different interests.

    A 17 year old can go out in the evening to student cafes or clubs (we did this when DDs were 17 and 14) - but 12 is too young. I would look for some pair or solo things to do.

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    We did not get there early - around 10. but we were some of just the few people there. Later a couple of school groups showed up, but for the majority off our time there we were some of just a few visitors - it is a Monday I suppose.>>

    juju - I've been to the Doria Pamphilij several times now [where else can you see what a wonderful art collection without being swamped by other bodies?] and I've never encountered a crowd.

    I'm seriously impressed by your climbing the stairs on your knees - it's not something I would do myself but I do admire you just for attempting it, let alone succeeding. your reaction to the Scavi tour is interesting too - as an atheist I was not expecting to be moved by it at all, but in fact as we arrived in the chapel below the main altar and the singing of the noon mass commenced, I started to weep. perhaps it's something to do with the guide you get - I think that some are better than others.

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    Your live, ongoing trip report is wonderful! I also love Caravaggio and will print this out and take it along on our upcoming return trip to Rome. Lots of good meals and sites for us to consider. Thanks for ylur effort and Merry Christmas wishes to you and your family. Can't wait to read about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day!

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    This is a great trip report, and I don't say that lightly.

    The guides at the Vatican Necropolis are sometimes very good, sometimes not. I've been there twice, and once we had an excellent guide and once a mediocre guide. Both were women, so I suppose they weren't seminarians. The excellent guide stuck to historical facts and even admitted that there is no proof that the remains found there are those of St. Peter. It's known that his remains were removed to the catacomb of San Sebastiano during one of the many invasions in the early middle ages; there is some evidence they were later brought back and placed in a different niche a little distance from the original grave, which is, in fact, empty. All that can be said for sure is that the remains found in the other niche, which are presumed to be those of St Peter, are of the right time period and are of a middle-aged man.

    The building on the Campidoglio where the weddings take place is the Rome City Hall, also referred to as the Campidoglio. So those are civil weddings. The other two buildings are the Capitoline Museums, which I think your 17-year-old would love. It has one of the world's greatest collections of Roman sculpture, plus some other amazing and rare artifacts. You can see the foundations of the ancient Temple of Jupiter inside. One of the things that really impressed me was part of the ancient Annals of Rome, carved in stone. Here is a photo of a little piece, which amused me because it seemed to have the word "K-Mart" carved in the stone.

    https://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/uTWxB6zIZ2fqXysUA49u7NMTjNZETYmyPJy0liipFm0?feat=directlink

    The National Roman Museums are another must-see for an Ancient Rome buff, or at least the two locations near Termini station, Palazzo Massimo alle Terme and the Museo delle Terme di Diocleziano. The first has a superb collection of Roman sculpture, mosaics, jewelry, household items (including rare glassware) and even Roman wall frescoes (from the villa of Livia, the wife of the Emperor Ausustus). The Museo delle Terme has a very intact hall from the ancient bath complex (to your left as you enter), inside which you can see two ancient Roman painted tombs. You can no longer go inside them, which is too bad, but some bad tourist behavior must be at fault. The main part of this museum has an interesting display about the development of the written Latin language, including fascinating examples of what ancient Romans wrote about when this was a cutting edge technology.

    The Basilica of Santa Sabina on the Palatine Hill has carved wooden doors (not at the main entrance, but around at the side) from the 5th century, very rare surviving examples of Roman wood carving. The doors illustrate Biblical scenes, including the earliest known representation of the crucifixion.

    I really hope you get a chance to go to Ostia Antica with your daughter.

    There are Caravaggios in a number of other museums in Rome, including the Capitoline Museums (mentioned above), the Vatican Museums, the Borghese Gallery, the Corsini Gallery, and the Barberini Gallery. The last two are real bargains: you can get a joint ticket to both for €12, and kids under 18 enter free. I admire Caravaggio myself, but I don't really care much for Bernini, so I can sympathize with your daughter.

    Most Italians only buy fruit that's in season, and would never buy cherries and strawberries in December. They cost a lot, but even if they didn't, very few Italians would buy them out of season. Clementines (which is probably what you thought were tangerines) and apples are not much more than €1 a kilo right now. If you stick with those, you'd need a wheelbarrow to carry home €19 worth. There are also some excellent pears being sold right now, and there are always grapes around Christmas, even if these are also out of season and expensive, because they're thought to bring good luck for the new year. Lentils are also bearers of good fortune and wealth in the new year.

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    Thanks for the kind comments! I must share with you that we really are working on getting photos up - but it takes time and whenever we are at the apartment, my daughter is using her computer for homework - and my ipad doesn't have a usb port....I think our first upload will happen tomorrow. Sorry for the delay.

    Our day today started just after midnight. I had just finished my previous entry and then settled in to go to sleep. BANG - a huge explosion! car alarms sounded and people started yelling, but no sound of sirens for the police. I mean this was seriously loud! My DH got up to see what he could see - it sounded like it was just outside the window! but he saw nothing. Eventually all the car alarms stopped. What the hell? We decided it must just be some Romans blowing off steam with an M80 or larger. But holy cow - how unsettling! But eventually, fatigue took us again and we slept soundly.

    We met Daniella our tour guide at 9 just across the Tiber over the Ponte Sisto. Along the way to the Villa Farnesina she explained the history of the area as 'the other side of the tracks" that eventually gentrified into the playground for some of the wildly wealthy. I instantly loved Trastevere. In some way it seemed cozier that the other side. There is more green - plants in pots, vines, trees. I like that. It also seemed more compact and easier to manage than our centro storico neighborhood (that I love).

    The Villa Farnesina was great - my 17 yo loves all things Classical - as has always had a particularly deep interest in mythology. This is why we chose to have Daniella guide us there. The frescoes are truly amazing. we easily spent an hour looking at the frescoes in the entryway alone. Daniella loves this place and you could tell. I liked it, but became a bit bored - but my 17 yo truly loved every moment, and since she was paying for the tour - yes, we actually made her spring for this one - we left the tour choice to her. She chose well. What was particularly interesting to me was the astrological signs in the one room - the fact that Chigi had his own start chart aligned - very interesting. Also interesting was to compare the good painting present there with some of the really, really bad ones. The upstairs banquet room is a true study in perspective - which happens to be just what my 12 yo is studying in art right now. She bought a postcard to give to her art teacher.

    We parted ways with Daniella and took off for Santa Maria in Trastevere. This is worth a stop. The mosaics are truly stunning. It reminded me of St. Mark's in Venice - so brilliant are those gold tiles! We generally always sit in churches to appreciate tthe art for a while. We did here as well. The only thing that I wish were different is the whole put money in the box to get the lights on the art thing. For those who don't know, most churches tthat have particularly noteworthy art have a light system that turns off automatically and turns on for a few minutes when you deposit Euro into the pay box - then viola, the lights come on and you can see the art. When you are contemplating things and the lights go off, it is disconcerting a bit sometimes. But we loved this church and highly recommend it.

    It was time for lunch so we headed back to a pizza place Daniella recommended, Dar Poeta. It was very good - we each had our own pizzas - though we could have easily ordered only 2 for the 4 of us. They were very large pizzas. The kids each had the Margherita at 8E, I had the Amatriciana at 8.50 and my dh had a sausage at 9e. We also had the house wine - a mezzo at 4E. Not cheap, but not bad for the value. I also felt that we timed this lunch well. I found that on previous days we had lunch later and then it seemed like none of the day was left. today we ate at 12:30 and were done an hour later. Plenty of time to wander.

    After lunch we headed to Santa Cecilia - I was particulary excited about this church. As we wound our way around I realized that the streets really are just so pretty. We easily found the Basilica - that was closed. To see it we would have to wait over 2 hours. Not something we were willing to do. So disappointing - perhaps we can go back Christmas day, we'll see. So we decided to head back over the Tiber to see the Circus Maximus - another item on our 17 yo hit list. We had a great time! The kids blew off steam by having a stone throwing contest and then ran around the track pretending to be chariots. It was fun to see our late teenager letting her kid show through and her imagination go.

    At this point we decided to split up. The 17 yo had her mind set on the baths of Caracalla and the Appian way and the 12 yo was whining about seeing yet another "old thing." So my dh and 17 yo took off to see the baths. They planned to go there first, then see if they could hit the Palatine and then head home. Our 12 yo and I would get a jump on Christmas shopping - we would reconvene at the apartment around 5.

    Daniella had told us about a shop that sells SPQR (teh Roma motto/identifier) t-shirts just off Via Plebescito. So my 12 yo and I went in search. She wanted to get her sister something really special that she would love. We had a long walk. It was so interesting, but within 10 minutes, she said she wished we would have stayed together as a family and that maybe we should turn back and find the others. They were long gone, so we walked on. We stopped at several places to look at things as we came up the back of Capitoline hill. I had looked at a map and determined that we neede to go past the VE monument and hang a right. On the way we climbed up to see the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli. It was nice, but man those are lots of stairs to climb to get there. Good thing it leads right into the viewing deck of the VE. Also, for those of you visiting Rome soon - they have an elevator on the Forum side of VE - for a price you can go to the top and I'm sure the view is amazing. We didn't because we had to find that shop. But if you have room in your budget it would probably be a great view from up there.

    It was onward in search of Archeos Nuevo. I had a terrbile time finding this place. First, we turned where I thought it should be - and later found out that if we had gone about 300 yards further we would have been there. However, as my 12 yo and I walked, we were approached by an older man - he looked dishevelled from a distance and as we got closer, I could see that his pants were open - as could my 12 yo. When I say open, I mean he had on underpants, but they were fully exposed from upper thigh to upper thigh. he had a cup and was mumbling something. I took my daughter's arm and steered her away quickly. While unsettling, it was a good opportunity to talk about some things with my daughter. You never know what teaching opportunities will present themselves during travel.

    After wandering around aimlessly for another 20 minutes, we finally stopped to ask for help. That's when we discovered how close we had been before we discovered the older man and turned away. In hindsight, I regret the way I acted in quickly turning away. There was no need to, I could've just walked with her on past. I think I was just so surprised. At any rate we finally found the shop and we bought a few things for Christmas. We then went down Via del Corso and got a nice sweater for my husband. I know they say the sales don't start until January, but I got a very nice sweater for 19E.

    By this point we were both on sore feet and it was nearly 5, we headed home. On the way, we stopped at our favorite gelaterria - Carapina. We love this place. What i especially like is that you can buy 'premade' gelato cookie sandwiches and put them in the freezer for later - so convenient and so good. We beat the other 2, so I opened a bottle (mini) of prosecco and she had some water and we both enjoyed a little appretivo of cappicola. We also picked up the place a bit, we lit the evergreen scented candle I brought from home and listened to Christmas music. Then the rest of the crew arrived.

    I had been to the baths of Caracalla back in the 1980's - it was amazing then - and it amazed my daughter today. My dh said that she just couldnt get over the immensity of it and beauty of the remaining mosaics. it was a true highlight for both of them.

    Once all of us were home we took turns going out to shop for gifts. First the girls went for about an hour together - yes, I felt very safe lettting them go. They both had gottten us back to our apartment prreviously and I made sure that each had our apartment number and the phone here. With those 2 prrecautions, i felt very comfortable lettting them venture/explore out on their own-together. When they got back, my dh and I went out. First stop for us was Santa Maria Novella for some face cream. My sister raved about their face cream. But once I saw the prices, I decided on a few nice bars of soap and a small lip balm. We then looked a bit more but couldn't find quite what we needed for the kids. We plan to go out to the market at the Campo in the morning to get a couple touristy type things that we think the girls will like. Italia t-shirts and a scarf or 2.

    Then we headed of for dinner - we are such creatures of habit! We went back again to Renato e Luisa. This time we changed it up a bit. We made our reservation for 8 and when we showed up it was after 8 and the door was closed - but at about 10 after the hour they opened. We had the same waiter. Mateo (I hope that's how it is spelled) anyway, he is just wonderful. We had the best meal of the trip thus far. I had the Saltimbocca and my husband had the filet with a red wine prune sauce - it was absolutely sublime. He also had as a prrimi their carbonara, which was delicious. My 12 yo had the octopus pasta special - she loved it and my 17 yo had the old picky eater standby - pasta with butter and parmesan. with a bottle of the house red it came to 90E.

    It was a good day. But I have learned a few 'truths' so far. They are:
    1. no matter how comfortable your shoes are, you will have tired, sore feet after walking on Rome's cobblestones all day.
    2. you can not see everything. Once you have a plan, it has to flex to allow for things like strange closure times.
    3. no matter how you want to dress to fit in and not look like a tourist, the Italians will know you're not one of them. I've been mistaken now twice for being French - but never italian. I could dress in the most Italian clothes out there and I still would not have that certain something that these women have.
    4. Embrace the (nice) tourist in yourself. Since I clearly stand out as "not" Italian, I've decided to embrace the tourist/traveller in myself. no I don't live here, yes I respect you and your country - thanks for sharing it with me.

    So that was our day today! Tomorrow the Vatican and last miniute Christmas preparations.

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    In my opinion, the thing that most sets Italian women apart is the hair style, and also the color. Italian women usually have more "sculptured" hair than American or Northern European women, and they're much more likely to dye it colors that don't exist in nature.

    I don't know why people want to "fit in". I've been living here for over 16 years, and I've never tried to fit in. I have my own taste in clothing, and it hasn't changed much since I've been here. A lot of things I like just aren't sold. Fortunately, in Italy you can have your clothing made to order at a much more reasonable price than you can in the US, so I have a lot of things made by a dressmaker, especially slacks (with pockets!)

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    buon natale a Roma, juju e famiglia!

    there are lots of things going on in the museums of Rome over Christmas - you may know all about them, but in case you don't, [or need to check some opening hours] here's the link:

    http://www.museiincomuneroma.it

    [there is an english part to the website, but a lot of the links revert to italian].

    Tanti auguri a tutti!

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    Buon Natale everyone!

    Sorry I didn't write yesterday. I just didn't have time - well I could've, but I chose to nap instead. Just for an hour.

    So to catch up - Christmas Eve:

    I had reserved tickets online for the Vatican Museums. If you are going to Rome and will visit you MUST do this. It is easy - just go to the Vatican Museum website and reserve your tickets. We reserved ours a few weeks ago. That morning we woke early as our reservations were at 9 and I wanted to arrive well in advance.

    Now one of the things that I had hoped to appreciate about renting an apartment for the week was the ability to have breakfasts here - each day we have done just that. Mind you, we have also gone down to a bakery - Roscioli - and many days have picked up whatever looks good to us that morning, but I love having the apartment to have yogurt, fruit and eggs each morning along with our bakery find. Even cereal and milk is nice to have for the kids. But in particular, the ability to cook an egg or two with toast has been a Godsend -we find we are not hungry so quickly and have more stamina. I would recommend renting an apartment any day.

    When it makes sense i like using public transport, but I also use cabs strategically to get us places fast at busy times of day. Our apartment is by Largo dei Argentina. There, (and any area where tourists will be) any time of day you will always find a line of cabs with a group of guys standing around talking, we approched them and one of them took us off to the Vatican Museums, dropping us just at the door at 8:30. By that time, the line to buy regular (non-reserved) tickets was around the corner of the building - hundreds of people were waiting. We walked right through the door, upstairs, got our audio guides and where on our way to the Pinoteca to see....many things, but of course another Carravaggio. The audio guide was good but the one at the Doria Pamphilji was so much better - but the VM guide was worth the cost to me. (26E for 4)

    Though we arrived at the door a good 20 minutes before opening time, the guard at the Pinoteca let us through - but then stopped some people just behind us - hmmm. Nice. Again, we found ourselves alone with some amazing art - if only for a few minutes. Soon we were joined by a few others, but not many. What a lovely time we had looking there. And then, we went toward the other side - to take a look at some ancient Greek and Roman art. Things had changed in the rest of the museum while we were enjoying our Pinoteca.

    Let me tell you, I have taken my kids to Disneyworld on New Year's Eve, when the park has closed at noon because it is too crowded to take any more people. Compared to the remainder of the museum that day - I would take the Disneyworld crowds again in a heartbeat. It was ridiculous. The Vatican should have the crowd control folks from Disney come over to teach them a thing or two. We had the ubiquitous selfie sticks flying around everywhere - watch your head! We had people shoving by us to see what we had waited 10 minutes just to get close enough to see - but the worst was the tour groups. We'd be moving along - at a snails pace, but at least moving, when suddenly a group of 20-30 people would just stop in a glob in front of us. Screeching halt. It was always behind or around a guide holding a metal 'antenna" with some type of bow or scarf tied around the tip. I'll tell you what, there were a few times I would've liked to take that metal stick and flog its carrier with it. The group would stop all forward movement - as a result, shoving and squeezing would then commence around the edges with all the rest of the crowd that is not in a tour group struggling to get past. It was truly extraordinarily unpleasant.

    Also disappointing was the fact that a few of the exhibit areas we were most looking forward to were closed. No warning or comment. Damn. But I'm guessing that "Bvlenci" will tell us that this happens in Rome. Perhaps on a regular basis. So we peeked in as best we could and lamented that we'd catch it next time. We moved along. I don't want to be negative - because we visited on perhaps one of the most crowded days of the year - plus we did enjoy seeing some truly wonderful things. The Etruscan exhibit was not crowded and simply fascinating - especially the jewelry. It was easy to see that what was most crowded was the route to the Sistine chapel. Duh. If you go - be sure to get off of that beaten path and explore areas that may not be the most popular. you will find rare treats there.

    So in my irritation, another thing just got to me, the fig leaf phenomenon. How sad that ugly fig/grape leaves were used to "cover" nudity on so many statues. (in the 1500's these were added to the original works) It became a running joke among my girls to find the statue at the Vatican without the fig leaf, at which moment my 12 yo would giggle. We didn't get many giggles at the Vatican museums. However, as you might imagine, both kids were overwhelmed by the Sistine. Then we went into the basilica. My 12 yo was just overcome by the enormity of it. She became engaged - really engaged - especially by the visible 'dead' Popes. She particularly liked John XXIII. But she had some intersting questions - "is that really him?" why are some gray and others 'flesh' colored?" I don't know - we'll have to research why. The preparations for Mass had already been completed when we visited at 1:00. This stung a little bit. -

    Now I have to share with you - back in June both of my girls wrote a letter to our Bishop asking for his help in gettting tickets to midnight mass at St Peter's. In October we got a phone call from a Priest who is an assistant to our Bishop telling us that he had made a request for us. YAY!!! At any rate, we got the email from the nuns telling us where to pick up our tickets and when. Cool. Then about 3 weeks ago we got an email from those same nuns saying - oops, sorry, no tickets. WHAT?! We let our Bishop know, but it was too late for him to coordinate tickets via his connections in Rome. what a complete bummer, but I'm sure this happens to many, many people.

    So back to our day - we loved touring St Peter's - but the whole area around the altar had been closed off in preparations for Mass - though seeing that was interesting in it's own right. The Presepe had also been set up so we had a great time just checking it out - amazing - they have one inside and out. The inside one moves! My 12 yo was transfixed. We stayed for a short while longer then left to go back to our apartment. We had decided to go back, have lunch and then decide the afternoon activities from there.

    One of the treats of our apartment location is the fact that it is about a 30 second walk to a bakery called Roscioli.They have the best pizza. The guy hammers off a hunk from the long slab of pizza as if he's cutting the head off of a chicken. He cuts it in half again, weighs it, prints out your ticket and you're good to go pay and enjoy your hunk of pizza. That day, the place was mobbed. Every day around lunch it is very busy but it was double if not triple the volume we've seen other days. Having just perfected my elbowing skills at the Vatican, and using what my family calls the "Italian weave", I moved to the front - but I lost out to an Italian calling from behind me. Suddenly others were forcing their way through - I called for reinforcements - I had my husband cover my right flank and I situated myself so that my left was also mostly blocked -- success! I placed my order - sent my husband to pay and collected my bag of well wrapped pizza slices. My dh had picked up a couple of beers and we went back to the apartment to eat.

    Going back to the apartment almost proved fatal for the rest of the days' adventures. Rome had caught up with us - particularly my dh. His knee was sore and swollen. But it was 2:00 Christmas eve and we needed to finish shopping. The girls and I set out. My 17 yo directed us on our journey. Big mistake. Why didn't I remember that she couldn't find her way out of a barrel? We meant to go to the Via del Corso - we ended up at the Tiber. I'm telling you now, some days, when you are just tired enough, maps in Rome are useless. Just politely ask and continue asking until you get to where you need to be. We were all so tired we decided to head home and scrap the whole thing. We went shopping in our neighborhood, which is better anyway. On our way home we stopped at a grocery, picked up some prosecco and supplies for a couple of dinners and fresh eggs.

    We had dinner in tonight - many restaurants were closed. The ones that were open were those closer to main tourist areas and close to hotels. For example, a restaurant very close to us, Taverna Modern has been open yesterday and today - they have 3 hotels within a 3 minute walk. Others, particularly the 'mom and pop' type places are closed until the 27th. At any rate, I had picked up some sort of little fresh stuffed pasta. I made a cream sauce for it and it was delicious. I was so happy we stayed in for two reasons - 1. it was relaxing and 2. it caught us up a bit on our budget to stay in.

    At around 7:30, my protestant husband announced that he didn't care if we didn't have tickets to go inside St Peter's, he wanted to go see what it would be like. My daughters actually protested a bit. We had decided earlier in the week to go to the Pantheon for midnight Mass and the 17 yo was worried that even though the Vatican started at 9:30 we wouldn't make it back in time. We went anyway. We arrived to the square about 20 minutes prior to the mass starting and there was so much room! Where were all the people we had seen earlier in the day?

    We set up near the jumbo-tron to the left and watched as all manner of people began streaming in. It was surprising the number of priests and nuns that came around us. We saw a couple of Swiss Guards off to the left dressed in their finery - they look great all the time, but this time they had special hats on with a red flounce at the top. It was such a festive atmosphere. Then Mass started. Note to self - when standing in front of giant - truly giant - speakers that are meant to shoot sound over vast spaces - bring some earplugs.

    Other than having to plug my ears every now and then, it was really something. There were all sorts of people. We had a group of what had to be young seminarians behind us, couples and families around us and no one in front of us --- until the last 30 minutes or so when a group of 3 young women came and sat in front of us. What a trip they were - one just kept taking selfie after selfie of her profile watching the huge tv screen. In each photo she would try out a different look - sometimes reverent, sometimes pouty, other times smiling. But for the most part, my family, and everybody else there in the square treated it like a regular mass. we stood or we sat on the ground - as one would at the normal times of the Mass - I even saw one guy kneeling (on that cobblestone-ouch!).

    At the appropriate time of the Mass we saw on the jumbotron a row of countless priests headed down the aisle inside with the Eucharist cup full of wafers - wait? they've passed where they should've stopped - they're coming outside!! So, not missing a beat, I grab my 12 yo's hand and say "let's go" - my dh and 17 yo stayed in our spot while she and I went to see if we could get Communion. Along the way we met up with a young woman we saw earlier in the day, a gal in the US Navy, who helped us see where we needed to go - and we made it - we got Communion from a priest right there in the square. How about that? And what are the chances - with all of those people of being next to the same person hours later? Funny how things happen sometimes....Even though we had decided to go to the Pantheon, none of us wanted to leave early from the square.

    Mass finsihed and we still had time to maybe make it to the Pantheon. We rushed back to the apartment, the girls changed into their dresses for church - they had brought them just in case, and off we went. We got to the Pantheon with 5 minutes to spare. We saw Daniella, our guide from earlier in the week and went to give our Christmas hellos - we were happy to see her! at 12 sharp, the doors opened and in we went - a rush to the seats and there we were sitting at midnight in the Pantheon. Phew, what a night. Just after the first hymn, the lights on the inside came up and interestingly, after a short while, people started to leave...what was going on? It was getting colder - there was an amazing rush of air coming down through that oculus and through the open doors. But it was remarkably empty and it was just so neat to be there for this event. But I'm sad to say, that soon we too gave in - it was cold - particularly for the girls in their dresses - a woman across the aisle from us had been wise - she brought a blanket to wrap around her shoulders. I was a little sad to leave, but it was the right thing to do. It was now after 1:00, so I suppose we did Christmas Eve well.

    I'll finish cathcing up with Christmas tomorrow! In the morning we leave Rome and are off to Paestum.

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    what a wonderful day, juju. I'm sure that those memories will live with you and your girls long after they are grown up and moved away.

    I should mention something about the VM that you missed [and may be glad you did!] There is a whole room dedicated to the groin area of males statutes, senza the fig leaves. we came across it by accident when we went to the museums with our kids then ages about 18 & 15 [girl/boy] and we all pretended to be very mature about the whole thing, then burst into fits of childish giggles when we got outside.

    I have only been to the VM in February and April - April was pretty crowded and February was definitely better. I can't imagine what it must have been like at Christmas!

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    Now I'm even further behind! But I'll keeep working on catching up as I can. Tomorrow we'll have plenty of car time - so I'll draft then! Sorry - we've just been running around so much lately!

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    I'm not going to say that always happens in Rome. I think museums have closed exhibits at times in any part of the world. I'm curious, which exhibits were closed?

    I agree that the Etruscan collection is wonderful. It had been partially closed for restructuring not long ago, but parts of it were kept open. I'm wondering if it's now entirely open.

    Did you see the Egyptian collection? I think that's even more spectacular than the Etruscan collection.

    The next time I'm there, I want to see the groin collection. Where was that, Annhig?

    I have always found the main corridor of the Vatican Museum to be insanely crowded. The last time I was there, it was March, but it was a Saturday, and maybe that was our mistake. The next time I go, it will be a Thursday afternoon in late January. My husband says he'll never go there again.

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    The next time I'm there, I want to see the groin collection. Where was that, Annhig?>

    ah, there's the rub [so to speak]. i think that it is somewhere near the greek vases but don't hold me to that.

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    Ok, finally a bit of downtime. I'm sorry to say that I have come down with a terrible cold, so I am taking it easy and thought it the perfect time to catch up a bit.

    Christmas day was quiet. Sice we had been up until after 2 the night before, understandably the idea was to sleep in - but damn - I forgot to wrap the presents for the kids! So I left the alarm set to 6:30 and got up - wrapped the presents on the bed, dh put them under the little travel tree we take every Christmas wherever we are, and having our Santa duties done, we both promptly fell back to sleep. I was awaked by church bells clanging - one of the joys of Italy at Christmas - I took a look at the time - 10:00!! What?! My 12yo wanted to catch the Pope's traditional address at noon on Christmas day. She wanted to see him in person "for real". We'd have to hustle if we planned to open gifts, have breakfast, get presentable for public and make it to St Peter's Square. So we woke the kids and got going. For gifts we usually bring one very small gift from home and then buy smaller gifts wherever we find ourselves - it's fun to see what each of us finds. I got some soap, a pen and a scarf - nice.

    We decided to walk to the vatican because it was such a gorgeous day - clear, sunny skies. We made it to the square with a few minutes to spare and while there was a crowd, it wasn't bad. we made our way toward the front that was set up with wooden gates, we got behind a few people shorter than us and waited. The crowd was electric. A group would shout something and waves flags, then another group would do the same - when the pope came out everyone cheered and clapped. as he gave his speech for the most parrt the crowd was quiet. We learned later that a woman staged a topless protest at the presepe in the square - we saw nothing of the tustle. After the speech, the band that plays the salute prior to the speech does a bit of a parade for a couple of blocks - we happened upon them by mistake and were glad we did - though we wished we had been closer. It would have been fun to be right there to see them in all of their regalia. To take advantage of it - cut in one street from the Tiber on the way to C. St. Angelo. After spending a few minutes watching, we made our way slowly across the "Angels" bridge and walked toward home.

    We hadn't yet decided how we would spend our last few hours in Rome, so we decided to talk about it over lunch. We went to a neighborhood place - Taverna Modern. We wished that we would have tried it sooner - it was good. My dh had the seafood pasta, my daughters had amatriciana and I had pasta with sausage that was very good. With a mezzo litre of wine and 2 cafe's lunch came to 68E. Over lunch we decided to head up to Santa Maria Maggiore. up is what it was! It is a climb. But what a beautiful church.

    My 12yo was interested in the fact that the church was lined with confessionals - each with their respective language posted above. The priest goes in, turns on the little red light to signify that he is available for confessions and waits for the penitent person. Well, my 12 yo thought it would be good to go to confession on Christmas. But she didn't want to go first - I don't know what was wrong with me that day, let's call it Christmas spirit, but I soon found myself kneeling (again) and saying "forgive me Father it has been 10 years since my last confession..." Of course, when I went back to my daughter and said, "ok, now your turn" - she wanted nothing to do with it. Feeling newly "holy", I suggested that we visit a couple more churches.

    My 17 yo really had no desire to church-hop, she wanted one last look at the Forum, etc. So we split up with my 12yo and I going to St Peter in Chains and my dh and 17yo headed to the ancients. We decided to meet up at the apartment around 5 to think about dinner and packing. St Peter is a lovely church and very interesting - and again, the materpiece - in this church Michelangelo's Moses - had to be lit up using 1E coins. But it was worth it. She and I sat on the side of the altar steps and just quietly contemplated things. After we left, we decided to head down the the forum ourselves. Just be sure to have coins on hand at all times when visiting churches!

    Things were hoping by the Forum. It seemed like more than the usual amount of hawkers selling their wares. And by a true coincidence as we were crossing the street to get next to the Forum we saw my husband and other daughter. In her excitement, my daughter ran to catch up to her sister. Being the 12 yo that she is, and I not realizing what she was doing, she stepped on a few prints that a seller had laying on the sidewalk - he reprimanded her with a sharp "guarda!" - she felt just terrible (as did I), but we apologized, she caused no damage and he shook it off - but it is something to be aware of in places like that. Objects can reach several feet into the sidewalk and often they are not on tables, but are just on a sheet on the walkway.
    Subdued, we slowly made our way back to the apartment walking along the edge of the Forum to see it just one last time. We had dinner in the apartment to try to use up some of our remaining food. We packed and readied ourselves for an early morning.

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    We departed Rome, all of us were silent. I'm not sure if it was because we were all so tired or sad to be leaving - maybe a little bit of both. Since it was a holiday, there were very few cars on the road and it was fairly easy using our gps to find the A! and get out of town.

    The plan was to go to our hotel in Pompeii, check in, drop our bags, get a bite to eat for the road and then head down to Paestum. But due to our delay in getting out of the apartment and the time it took to pick up the car, we decided that we didn't have the time to drop off and wee had better just head straight to Paestum. I am so glad we did.

    Getting there was easy we did a combination of following signs and the gps - one important note here - if the signs and the gps disagree - follow the signage on the road. A couple of times we have followed the gps over the road signs to our own detriment. The town of Paestum is tiny and very easy to navigate. We parked for free in a well marked parking lot made our way to the museum that is just across the street and a little down the road from the entrance. You have to buy your tickets here first. You don't have to visit the museum to understand the site, but it sure helped us to understand it much better. It is a smaller museum that was easy to see in about 45 minutes - yes you could spend much more time there, but we were burning daylight and the kids caught a glimpse of one of the temples on the way in and really, who wants to look at stuff in a museum when you can go look at the main event outside?

    So outside we went. It was a miserable day, drizzly rain clouds and a fierce wind. My husband commented that it felt a bit like we were on the British Isles rather than south of Naples. The wind swept around, but the drizzling lightened and eventually bits of sunshine peeked through, until just near closing time the sun burst out in earnest. This place is remarkable. The temples are fascinating in their own right, but the town surrounding it is equally astounding. But, while we continued on our way, each of us marveled at how much more needs to be done to protect it. there are mosaics in the ground that are very nice, but they are not protected in any way. It is in serious need of some major exploration and development. In the end we had to be chased out by the caretaker telling us to go.

    Did I mention my dh is a glutton for punishment? Or perhaps he's a romantic. 10 years ago we went to the Amalfi Coast, he loved it and he wanted to show it to our kids. Yes, he decided that we would drive the entire Amalfi Coast to get from Paestum to Pompeii. It was fine, as hair raising at times as I remember, but mostly just boring, After about the first 30 minutes, it became pitch black for the most part.

    Coincidentally, it made driving easier because the headlights forecast oncoming traffic sooner than you could see them. But it was not something to be done in the dark because the level of progress is so slow. you can't see the coast, so you don't have the good sense to be scared and it eventually just became a super winding slow going road - without any of the lovely views. Moreover, it is lined with small towns - and we were traveling on a holiday. Hardly any restaurants were open and usually we saw them as we drove by - you know, that "oh wait that one we just passed by is open" and on you go. We were all starving as we had skipped lunch to run down to Paestum so our kids scavenged some of the food that we brought from the apartment. we had no utensils so they were dipping, really scooping, the nutella with chunks of bread. Once the nutella and bread were gone, they dug into the remaining banana and clementines. we were still very hungry.

    On to Pompeii. I made reservations at the Forum hotel there. I had read that to see Pompeii, it is best to stay in Sorrento - some of the reviews are quite negative for staying in Pompeii. While I have driven through Sorrento twice, and I'm sure it is very nice, we were very satisfied with using Pompeii as our home base. Yes, it is touristy - but in all we had a good time there and I'd stay there again. The hotel itself was just great. We had a junior suite. It had a king bed, a large fixed couch and a trundle bed underneath that was easily pulled out so each daughter had her own bed. The bathroom was roomy too, They also had a great breakfast spread. It had everything from yogurt and granola to hot eggs and sausage. I couldn't remember what price I had it booked at since I booked it very early - I was very pleased when it came to 118E per night - totally worth it - and the staff was very helpful too. And I forgot to mention, there was no charge for parking our car there for the 2 days.

    That first night we were tired after our journey from Rome and Paestum, so we stayed close and went to a place called pizza & pasta. I know. But it was fine, and the staff there was very sincere and kind. It sufficiently filled our tummies and the price was fine too at about 60E. We went back to the hotel afterwards to get an early start the next day for Naples.

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    in the circumstances, your decision to stay near Pompeii looks like a winner. I'm glad in a way that we're not the only ones who drive on and on missing perfectly good places because we're past them before we know.

    I know what you mean about the way in which the italians seem to neglect their treasures. Their problem is that they have so many of them, that to protect and restore them all is impossible. In fact my italian teacher in Tuscany told me that they gave up putting guards around the sites nearby to where she lives because they lost more things to theft and damage with the guards in situ than when they took them away.

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