Europe Forums

Start a new topic Change Forum
Advanced search

Trip Report Lions and Tigers and Bees OH MY…..The Draeger’s do Rome 2012

Jump to last reply

Well, slacker that I am, finally I’m buckling down and compiling the notes from our fabulous journey to Rome in September of 2012, arriving Thursday September 6 and leaving Sunday September 23 in to a trip report. A few brief thoughts before I go in to the very detailed aspects of our wonderful trip.

We flew AA because we had some compensation from last year’s flight cancellation. I must be fair here. Last year’s (2011) flight was the Worst ever and I wailed about to anyone that would listen. This year (2012) our entire experience with AA was spectacular, from getting the compensation to the going there and coming home process. The crew we had heading out were efficient, friendly and clearly loved the job they were doing and did it very well. The pilots made some adjustments during the flight-informed and updated us via announcements-and our ride was virtually turbulence free. And how lucky can you get…we had almost the same crew flying home. This crew does not deserve to be lumped in with some of the other crews, that’s for sure.

Our driver(s), arranged through SleepinItaly, were wonderful and we highly recommend this service. Such a nice way to enter and exit this frenzied metropolis!

We stayed at the same place we rented last year. The landlord Roberto was there to meet us with coffee, milk and water in the fridge and extra paper towels and TP in hand for us. He hooked up the WiFi and refreshed us on the nearby train and a few other sites in our area. It was the same as last year, nice and clean and everything in fine working order. I might add he called us every few days to be sure all was okay and of course we had his cell number.

Transportation was so easy. We did buy the 7 day pass in addition to getting 10 individual one at a time tickets at the little shops that sell them. Bus stop right up the block, taxi stand a few blocks and train station to Vatican also just a half mile away. We took two train trips out of town and did have to take a taxi one day when for whatever reason our bus never showed up and we had a tour to get to. (We chalked that up to just being in Rome :))

Highlights-Almost too many to mention just a few….Awesome guide for Coliseum, day trip to Fara Sabina area for the Johnny Madge Olive Oil Tour and summer night at Castel Sant’ Angelo.

Lowlights-credit card being scammed at Antica Trattoria "da Carlone, della luce 5, in Trastevere at the beginning of our trip.

We did carry on and still had more clothing than needed……loved our little iPod speakers for the balcony….carried our umbrellas a few times but didn’t really have to open them….fell deeper in love with Rome…

We had quite an itinerary prepared, with 7 reservations etched in stone prior to leaving the US. It is what works for us. We hit an amazing number of those itinerary items too! And for those we didn’t get to we are hopeful those coins tossed in the Trevi before we left will indeed insure a return trip to our favorite city in Europe.

And now to the daily reports…..caution….long report; feel free to contact us with any specific questions.

Wednesday, September 5/Thursday, September 6

“There is no moment of delight in any pilgrimage like the beginning of it.”
~Charles Dudley Warner

We begin our trips by being dropped at the CoachUSA bus stop (just a few miles from our home) and boarding a bus that whisks us to Chicago O’Hare (in roughly 2 ½ hours). No worries about parking our car or driving in miserable traffic. We opted to pay a few bucks more for early boarding of the plane and would do that again in a heartbeat. While the flight was delayed about an hour, since it was a direct flight and the driver picking us up was monitoring our flight, we were not concerned at all. Luggage stowed, seats okay, great crew and a timely arrival even though we got off the ground a little late, all was good.

It is wonderful to just exit the plane and see your driver waiting there holding up your name! Our driver sped us to our place, as these Roman drivers do, and there was our landlord waiting for us. He had a few fresh essentials in the fridge and also left some additional paper goods which was very nice. Got the WiFi hooked, said our goodbyes and then took a little breather.

Once we splashed some water on our faces, brushed our teeth and changed our clothes we were ready to head over to the grocery store to get some wine, beer, cheese & crackers and then over to the kiosk for some bus tickets. We traveled with Euros this year since we were staying at the same place the entire trip and Hubs didn’t want the burden of counting on the ATM’s for all the cash needed at the beginning. Good thing too since the first ATM we went to, a few blocks away, stressed us out because it took us 3 tries to get it correct. We stopped for a drink and a few appetizers and did a little people watching for a bit. On the way back to our place we lamented the place we had eaten at last year appeared to be closed. Bummer, we had hoped that would be where we would dine that evening.

After a nap we headed out (about 8ish) and low and behold, there is our restaurant, lively as ever. We did forget how permanently closed up things seem during the day. The owner found us a nice place outside and we savored our first evening in Rome.

There is just something so romantic about drinking wine and dining outdoors with your main squeeze! We had a bottle of wine, 2 bottles of water (one gas, one no gas), bruschetta to share, hubs had fettuccine with mushrooms and gnocchi for me as well as a grilled scampi to share. All yummy but we had no room for dessert. Made the 3 block toddle home and slept like little babes.

Friday, September 7

Draw them to the Tiber banks, and weep your tears into the channel……
~ William Shakespeare

Today was going to be the Tiber walk from Eyewitness. We started at Basilica Di S. Bartolomeo All’isola (Tiber Island), founded at the end of the 10th century, then to the Basilica di Santa Maria in Cosedin (we skipped the mouth of Truth……no underlying reason ;)), then on to the Basilica s. Nicola in Carcere-this church was rebuilt in 1599, with a new facade by Giacomo della Porta. Here we also did the underground-quite interesting, then to S. Maria in Portico, a church dedicated to the Virgin Mary on the Piazza di Campitelli, ending our “tour” at the Church of S. Angelo in Pescheria, a church that dates from the 8th century.

All that walking and fabulous art always makes us thirsty so we took a little wine/beer break and then headed back home to rest up for dinner. Our balcony is wonderful for relaxing and the apartment is well situated so that with the ceiling fan and louvered doors closed a nice, cool nap is easy to catch.

Our dinner plans were for a place we ate at last year and really loved, Antico Carlone in Trastevere. A short bus ride and walk and we were there. Our reservation was for a table outside and they had a nice table on the end for us-no being jostled around. We had a very nice waiter, as it turned out he must be the son of the owners. We had our bottle of wine, 2 waters, a white pizza and ham and buffalo mozzarella plate for our appetizers. Hubs the carbonara and me noodles with walnut sauce. All delicious. My dessert on the other hand was simply miserable. It was supposedly a homemade (by his mother he said) plum cake. Maybe two weeks ago! It was dry and uneatable to me. I think hubs had some kind of chocolate dessert and enjoyed his. Our waiter was shocked I didn’t care for it, did take it away and off the bill. He did bring out some cookies which he certainly didn’t have to do. At this point we felt we would certainly return here as service and the meal were very good and they took credit cards. Meal cost was $87.66

Home to a night cap on the balcony and then fast asleep. Tomorrow we are going to browse the lovely Camp Di Forio market.

Saturday, September 8

“The best journeys are not always in straight lines….”

Today we lollygag a bit with our coffee on the balcony and then head out to Piazza di Campo De Forio to explore the market. I noted that I did not have my little light jacket I had taken along last night for dinner. Darn, took it along and didn’t need it so I was sure it had to be on the back of the chair I sat at for dinner. We made a mental note to stop by and see if it was indeed there.

An easy bus ride, a peek at the cat sanctuary and then to De Forio. The market was lively with the various stands of fruits, vegetables, goods and flowers, a treat for the eyes for sure. We snapped our pics and looked over the wears. While much looks good one does have to have a way to carry it home….either to our apartment or over the pond, so we kept our shopping to a minimum. I am very sorry I didn’t purchase the great little hat I tried on though. Hubs snapped a photo and now that I see it on, Adorable. Oh well.

We began wandering the little side streets, peeking in to the shops, reading menus and watching the families with their strollers. We decided to stop at a little place for quick drink and potty stop. Our waiter was so engaging we decided to take a look at the menu and did opt for a lunch. Hubs had spaghetti with crab and I had risotto with saffron, apple and cabasrese cheese, both dishes wonderful! The homemade bread was to die for and then a finish of nice little cookies. The place was called “Percento” and was right in the Campo area. Highly recommend. I lost the receipt so don’t remember the cost, it was reasonable though.

A little more wandering around, back streets, little nooks. It was here I got a shot I just loved that is now on my Capital One card! (Repurposed bicycle into a lovely “garden vignette”.) A quick check of the kitty-cats at the cat sanctuary again and then back home for siesta. The days are warm and it is nice to get out of the sun mid day. I jumped online to check email and lo and behold, there is a message from Tom’s credit card company…..suspicious activity on his card. Since we did have a telephone with us he called right away and sure enough, the card had been compromised! Well it was only used at one place and that was the restaurant we ate at the night before. Quite disappointing. We okayed the charge for our dinner, declined the other two charges and canceled the card. A pain but we are prepared for this type of thing with our back up cards.

We stopped back at the restaurant and he seemed shocked and didn’t really quite get that we were telling him someone or somehow our card was compromised at his establishment. My jacket was there so at least I got that back. This did sour us on this place and we did not return to have another dinner.

Our plan for the evening is a trip to Castel Sant’Angelo for the night tour. We errantly thought there was a concert here tonight but alas, that was on Friday night :(. At least there was an English tour offered.

We entered about 8:30pm and the English tour was at 10:45pm. We enjoyed the castle, awesome views, cannon balls, massive staircases, narrow passageways…everything a good castle should have! An animated guide always enhances a tour! We stopped at the little café they have there and had a wine and lemonade. This was a very enjoyable evening. I mean a night at a castle! Hard to top.

We strolled back through Vatican Square to the train station and caught the train back home. Walking in this area and our neighborhood gave us no pause at all. Weather was perfect for walking too.

Sunday, September 9

“All roads lead to Rome….”

This morning we headed out to the Porta Portese market. Sort of the mother of all flea markets. Fun to browse but of course we didn’t really plan on buying anything…..well okay, a few table clothes did tempt me. What I ended up buying were some cheap sunglasses and when I went to put them on after we left the market I found they were cracked under the “sticker” that was on the lens. Caveat emptor. However the hawkers were fun to watch and families were in abundance here.

We stopped for a few drinks and then decided it would make sense to head home and stay out of the sun for high noon and then just head out to the Appian Way a bit later in the day.

We took the bus out to the Catacombe DI S. Callisto and were lucky enough to get an English tour shortly after we got there. A very entertaining tour it was too, an animated Priest as our guide and interesting nooks and crannies way underground. This really is a lovely area. We walk a bit and then grab the bus back home. For some reason we seem to have problems with the return buses and this is a longer ride home that it actually needed to be.

Our supper tonight is at our little place a few blocks away. We feel like locals when we eat here. The hustle and bustle and how they get everyone in is such fun to watch. Again we dine outdoors and tonight we have wine, water, appetizers, each a pizza and Tom Crema & Berries and I have flan. Complimentary Lemonchello rounds out the meal. 39E

Monday, September 10, 2012

If you come to a fork in the road, take it.
~Yogi Berra

Today we have a lazy start. My internet search tells me our Packers lost to the 49’ers :(. Ugh. Whatever, we enjoy our coffee on the balcony before we head out to pick up a few essentials....toothpaste, laundry detergent, crackers to go with our cheese and wine and of course, Italian cookies from a luscious bakery several blocks from our place. My word we could get used to life like this.

Back home we throw in a load of wash and just chill for a bit. A little reading and a short nap before we ready ourselves to head out for our Eyewitness self-tour, Bernini's Rome. We take the bus(es) and enjoy the walk. There was a huge police presence in Piazza Barberini (something political going on), so much so we didn't see the side fountain, Fontana delle Api..... The book says this is a 2 hour walk, for us, no way. Naturally it is mobbed at the Trevi, no coin toss this time, we continued on.

On our way to Piazza Scanderbeg we watch some military presentation/parade of sorts, with the military bands. We get to the Column of Marcus Aurelius, the ancient equivalent of the modern generals autobiography of achievements, then to the Pantheon.

Can't say much that hasn't already been said about the Pantheon. The square is lively and the structure itself, simply astounding. We join the crowds inside for awhile and then sit at the fountain and people watch before we head back home to rest up for dinner.

On the ride home we had our tickets checked, the one and only time on the bus system we were checked (the train is another story…). Luckily we are not scoundrels :) so they were properly validated.

We had dinner reservations at Trattoria Settimio, a Fodors recommendation, at 8pm. We had no trouble finding the place, tucked off the main road. You ring the bell for entry, very unassuming place. We were the first ones there and not much English was spoken. A bottle of house wine, beer for Tom, water, meat plate appetizer, yummy bread, a pasta for each of us and polpettoni, grilled meatballs for hubs and involtini, rolled meat with stuffing (carrots/celery) for me, also swiss chard and potato to share, 64,50E.

People began filtering in-each ringing the bell, being greeted in Italian, by Mamma in her house dress. The son must speak English pretty well (he took our reservation) but he left as we began to eat. Overall a very enjoyable evening and not a speck of room left for a dessert.

Slow walked to the bus stop and made it home (few connections) with no trouble at all. As always a nightcap on the balcony as we decide what time to leave tomorrow for our Scavi tour. We listen to neighborhood sounds and then tuck ourselves in. Love my Nook…read a few chapters each night…

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it.
~ Gospel of St. Matthew 16:18

We have our Scavi tour this morning at 9am. We did this tour several years ago but felt we wanted to revisit and were glad we did. You gleam more with each visit. Surely this is not the tour for the claustrophobic but this was the perfect time of the day. I think we had the same guide as before as well, again a wonderfully engaging and animated guide! They really take this serious and it shows. Several other Americans were on this tour and all taking it were very respectful.

After the down, down, down you get back up and are perfectly positioned to go right in to the Basilica so that is what we did. Talk about the riches of Rome, oh my. Way too much to take in at one time. The Pieta, awe inspiring, sad it has to be behind bullet proof glass….. opulence, opulence, opulence everywhere. We walked around inside for a bit but it is a mob scene for sure. We do have a Vatican tour scheduled on Thursday so we will not be deprived of religious art on this trip.

Our train ride back to our place is easy. The walk home has us passing the various markets we wanted to hit and when we got home we had a delightful lunch on the balcony before we had our siesta.

Once the weather is a bit cooler we head out towards Piazza San Cosimato in Trastevere. First stop Stanta Cecilia in Trastevere, then a peek in to San Benedetto in Piscinul, San Crisogono and of course Santa Maria in Trastevere.

We were ultimately headed to Capo de Fero for dinner. We had a wonderful table outside and an extremely attentive and entertaining waiter (I think he may have been one of the owners). Wine, 2 waters, one antipasto of salami’s, cheese, olives, artichokes, two entrée’s-hubs the specialty, Rigatoni Democratici and me the specialty of the day, ravioli stuffed with spinach & cheese and red sauce, one side of green beans with sliced potatoes, bread and two desserts-gelato and chocolate torte, 58,50E. My notes do say Delish & Awesome service!

This place was rocking too, just about all the outdoor tables were filled and pretty much the inside that we could see was occupied. All the while we were dining we were trying to figure out who the waiter reminded us of as he was so darn familiar. LOL, we finally figured out it was Arty from the Soprano’s.

A slow stroll in the area and then the bus ride back home. We are having no problems at all with the buses. Our place could not be more convenient for taking the bus. Night cap on the balcony and then we crash. We can sleep in tomorrow if we want. We are planning a Walk from Eyewitness in the morning and then have a Palazzo Farnese tour reserved for 5pm.

As always on this somber day we count our blessings and say a prayer for the families touched by the terrorist attacks of 9/11. We also say a prayer for the brave young men and women that are serving. We can disagree politically all we want but the service of those young people deserve undying respect and should never be a pawn in the war talks. I say an extra thank you prayer for my best friend whose son has returned safely home from his tour in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe ~Anatole France

Today we can again begin slowly. Coffee and schneck (totally Midwestern made up word) out on the balcony as we check email and plot the walk for the day.

We headed out towards the historic center and did our share of “climbing” up hills to get the good views. Piazza di S. Pietro in Montorio, a few churches, then to Gianicolo, a look at the lighthouse, walk a bit for awesome views and then back to the bus stop to make our way home.

We stay with our routine, relax, few snacks, couple of drinks and then siesta time. We have an English Palazzo Farnese tour scheduled for 5pm so we are heading back out relatively early.

The queues in these tours are always so strange. You see people with their little printouts so you know (or think you know) you are in the right place. People come and go from the site, which had quite a police presence this evening. As people individually went in we all began the guessing game-was that the guide, was that the guide…funny how people connect as they wait. Finally the doors opened and our guide was ready to lead us through.

An embassy (French) now, this building has been touched by the likes of Michelangelo and Giacomo della Porta. Annibale Carracci painted the fresco in the Farnese Gallery. It is one of the most magnificent works of the High Renaissance according to the experts; “The Loves of the Gods” is in such bright color it looks as though it was just painted. It was the highlight of the tour for sure.

After the tour we stop at a little place in the square for a drink and end up enjoying a cocktail with another couple that had been on the tour with us. We exchanged our travel stories to date and then parted ways. We did not have reservations for dinner anywhere tonight; we thought we would just wing it.

So we wandered around a bit and then stopped at Vincenzo alla Lungaretta for some more al fresco dining as it looked quite inviting. A good spot (the fencing/shrubs at two sides) and a wonderful waiter, we opted for the house wine, water and pizza for each of us-don’t remember exactly how much this was, but it was pretty cheap. And the pizza was the best we had on the entire trip. The cheese was to die for, didn’t glob up in your mouth, very smooth and creamy. Roughly 30E

We made our way home with no trouble as usual but we were both feeling like all the walking was catching up with our gringo feet. Tonight we were really looking forward to our bed. No sleeping in tomorrow, we have a Vatican tour with Richard Bowen, meeting at the Vatican entrance at 8:45am.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

I've finished that chapel I was painting. The Pope is quite satisfied.
~Michelangelo

Today is a chilly, overcast day-good day to be on the inside! We grab the underground that is just a few blocks from our place that gets us just outside the Vatican. We locate Richard and skip to the front of the line, entering as soon as it opens.

Richard was an excellent guide....how do these people Know so much????). One could go to the Vatican every day for a few years and probably never see everything there is to see. Tom and I have this thing for maps so the map room was a feast for our American eyes (and he was happy to deviate from what “most” want to see)! Naturally one can't go to the Vatican Museum and not stop for the Sistine Chapel. Oh the humanity! It is hard to imagine that the frescos will be around for later generations to enjoy. Thousands go through every day. The windows are open and sorry, Rome is a smoggy city. There simply is no temperature control in the facility at all. Add to that all the rumbling of buses, cars and the underground.... And amazingly people keep snapping flash pictures after they have been asked not too......It wasn't just ugly Americans either!

We spent 4 hours with Richard and then parted ways. We found a spot at a little café outside the Vatican and it was perfect for people watching! As has been the case the entire trip we have had wonderful service in every restaurant/café/market we have been to, even when all we are going to have is a drink or two. And not one lousy wine or beer to boot. The skies are threatening but we make it home again without opening the umbrellas

The weather is spotty rain and remains chilly. We rested up and then headed out to the place we had reservations for tonight, Le Fete. Last year we had a cooking class here but never managed an evening back for a dinner. Inside the restaurant was cozy and we were happy for that. We carried our umbrellas but didn’t have to use them. We did need our jackets though. We could have walked here but because it wasn’t that nice out we took the bus.

We had the Bruschetta variety plate and a cheese appetizer plate to begin with. Wonderful homemade apricot and pear marmalade and terrific bread rounded out this course. Tom had Carbonara and I had Pesto/ricotta ravioli. Tom enjoyed his and didn’t mind munching on mine but I found the pesto simply too overwhelming for my taste and normally I love every pesto pasta I eat. For dessert we had gelato and peaches, just so-so. With a house wine and water it came to 74,80E which included a 10% servizio. We were very underwhelmed by the meal, perhaps because we expected it to be so much more. Chef Andrae, our “teacher” last year here, was so enthusiastic about the ingredients and the food, the presentation and everything we simply expected to have our socks blown off. They weren’t. That isn’t to say that service wasn’t wonderful because it was. The house wine was very good too. It is just that we would not go out of our way to go here again, just a very plain Jane kind of meal.

Home with no troubles via the bus and off to bed for us. Tomorrow is supposed to be chilly and gray as well so we decide to visit the Etruscan museum at Villa Giulia.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Before the rise of Rome as a super power, the Etruscans ruled almost the whole of Italy.
~ Barbara Lambert

We are happy to hear that our Packers beat the Bears on Thursday night football, always a nice start to the day :). It is still cool and overcast out, a perfect day for a museum. We are going to take the long trek out to the Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulla.

Getting there was no problem at all. A few connections but we seem to have the public transportation really under control this year. We had to walk a few blocks but it wasn’t raining so it wasn’t a big deal.

The museum is wonderful. We are simply drawn to the Etruscan culture. There were many fascinating pieces here, lots of jewelry, implements, etc. And it was not a mob scene so one could take their time at the items of interest.

We headed back home and had cocktails outside (we have a canopy so a few drizzles are no problem). I did not bring much chilly weather clothing along (it was so hot the previous year long pants went unworn the entire trip) and made a mental note the comfy pants I wear on the way to and from really aren’t the only pants I want to have when long pants are called for. Live and learn.

We had dinner at another local place, L’ AnticaRoma. It was good but I don’t remember exactly what we had but the receipt notes wine, water, bread, 2 primi’s, a cheese plate and one secondi for a total of 51E. Service and food here must have been fine because I didn’t note otherwise. I get so annoyed with my self when I don’t make good notes (and who knew it would take me almost 10 months to get to my doggone report!!!:?).

The raindrops have stayed away while we are out and about but man it really rained the night before and watching TV there apparently is a lot of flooding. We luckily were not caught in any of it. The good news is the awesome weather is expected to return on Saturday. No matter the weather, we are sleeping like logs!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

“Water is the driving force in nature.”
~ Leonardo da Vinci

Today we start out slow. The wonderful weather is back. We have our coffee and a little bite out on the balcony while the washing machine does its thing. It is wonderfully sunny during the day so the clothes on the line will dry with no trouble.

Our plan is to trek out to Aqueduct Park. We get there with no troubles and find that some bike race or rally is going on so some areas are taped off. It really wasn’t a bother (only when trying to get a good shot with the camera-yellow tape rather ruins the look). We took a nice walk alongside the aqueduct, finding some welcome shade every now and then. The brush is pretty thick on either side of the pathway, sprinkled with trees here but a vey nice walk. To the other side is a golf course. Yes the old and the new do really co-exist everywhere here. The structure(s) are awesome. Don’t need to be an engineer to appreciate this. And every five minutes or so the jets heading to the airport fly overhead………………..

We hung out at the park for awhile, watching the kids have so much fun with the streams of water and then headed back to our place. Our plan is to stay in tonight. We do a grocery store/bakery run and return to rest up to relax and eat outside on our balcony tonight. And what a nice feast we had! Olives, cheese, sausages, tomatoes, of course bread and wine and the best bakery treats ever! iPod speakers with a little bit of Willy, Patsy and Roy Orbison along with candles, a terrific end to a wonderful day.

Tomorrow we venture way out…day tripping, First Class no less, to Orvieto, our first trek away from the city

Sunday, September 16, 2012

“The most famous is the Duomo, the eye-catching cathedral that dominates the main square. There's nothing else in Italy quite like this.”
~ Ute Junker

Up earlier and off to the much maligned Roma Termini. We purchase our tickets with little trouble but don’t seem to understand the platform layout. Luckily a young woman that spoke English noticed us quizzically looking at the signs/our ticket/the signs…and helped us out. Way, way on the far end. We found our ride with time to spare. Boarded and were immediately happy we had opted for the first class passage.

Shortly after take off a conductor came by and looked at our tickets. A few minutes later a couple of other fellows, looked more like cops than conductors, came by and asked to see our passports. They looked at them and us and then walked off with them. I hate when someone walks off with my passport! Luckily, again since we are not scoundrels or wanted for anything, about 5 minutes or so they were back and handed us our passports. Smooth sailing in comfort after that.

Once in Orvieto you grab the funicular to the hill town. It was bustling with visitors however some shops were closed. I love the cities but when in a quaint little hill town like this I remember how much I enjoy being out of the big city too. The pièce de résistance in this town is of course the over the top Duomo di Orvieto. It is magnificent. There was a service going on when we arrived so we sat across from it and looked at the interesting façade, snapping photos. We did purchase the city pass and used it for the little bus, the funicular and entry to several venues.

We did the underground tour after the Duomo and found it fascinating. An ancient olive press and an area that was used as an underground hospital during WWII along with hundreds of pigeon holes rounded out that tour. The guide was very nice and well informed (also a wonderful theme on this trip-awesome guides). We also did the Museo Claudio Faina e Museo Civico. We did not do the Pozzo di S. Patrizio-for another trip I guess.

Two different stops for some of the Classico wine and a gelato, each with a different view (and more photo ops) and then some shopping. I did get a lovely well made tablecloth here and of course some local pottery. A few trinkets for Mom and then the train ride back home. Nary a double look on this train ride, showed our ticket and that was it.

We decided to have supper at a little place (Ristorante Il Focolare) we have passed on our walk home from the bus stop. It was delightful! Clearly we were starving-cheese and meat plate appetizer, a salad, two pastas (Lenticchie for hubs, Fettuccine for me), one Saltimbocca Romana, two breads, water, wine and millefoglie fragile (a yummy raspberry cake/torte) and torta mele (an apple cake/torte) for me-66,80E. Great service, nice seating (outside) and wonderful food, terrific end to a wonderful day. Slow walked home, shower to rid ourselves of cave dust and then we dropped in to bed!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Music's the medicine of the mind.
~John A. Logan

Leisurely start today, coffee on the balcony, little bit of housekeeping and then we headed out to do the Eyewitness self guided “best mosaics” tour. More over the top church decorations :). We hit Santo Stefano Rotondo, Santa Maria in Dominica, a look at the façade of San Tommaso in Formis. While following the walk we did happen upon Vesper’s at Saint Quattro Coronati. What an angelic sound within the walls of this particular church. We sat and listened and it was utterly mesmerizing. Young nuns, old nuns and those in between, voices of angels and a demeanor to match. We then went on to the church of San Clemente. Since this is where we will meet our guide on Wednesday we end here and then caught the bus back home.

Our normal routine….. cocktails on the balcony, rest, clean up and head back out. Tonight we just did a little wandering and ended up at Ivo Via di San Francesco a Ripa 158, a very lively pizzeria. The waiter was a character and entertained everyone! Service was wonderful and even though I managed to break a glass here {not really my fault}…no troubles. You are utterly jammed in to your spot though, they make the best of every inch they have, propping little blocks under the wobbly tables once you are seated! We had water, wine, a caprese appetizer and a pizza for each. All was very good and the tab only 30,70E. Great spot for people watching. Weather was perfect. We made our way home and with our nightcap reconfirmed the arrangements for our Johnny Madge Olive Oil Tour!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

A land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey….
~Deuteronomy 8:8

Today we are off to have our tour with Johnny Madge http://www.johnnymadge.com/viewpage.php?page_id=1 I stumbled across this tour in one of my searches and it seemed very doable and quite interesting. Absolutely both as it turned out. We had excellent directions and no trouble at all getting there and safely back home. A perfect day weather wise we made our connections easily and shortly after we debarked Johnny was there to whisk us off to the countryside.

The ride from the station was probably around 25-35 minutes although he did pull off to the side of the road to give us a postcard view of the hill town we were about to experience, as well as to point out some of the interesting facts about the olive trees that were growing there. On to Casperia, where the van is parked in the lot and we walk up a walk-way to the traffic free village. Beautiful stone walk ways and buildings and he points out as we go along what each one is.

He called his little place a speak-easy-typical Italian red tape as he waits all the licensing…. A delightful little shop (with the gecko door handle), he has us take a seat and the education begins! We are joined by young couple, Amy & Mike from Texas and it will be the 5 of us for the afternoon.

We taste and talk about the different olive oils and what to look for when attempting a real and a fresh oil. Born on date is more important than stale date…. The acidity is very important and of course different regions produce different oils (DOP). All the while we were enjoying wine with the oil and bread and great conversation. An avid Slow Food Movement supporter Johnny was an interesting and informed teacher.

The plan is then to go and have a lunch that follows the principles of the movement, fresh seasonal and local food, prepared fresh. Just as we were getting ready to go word came that the woman that was going to be preparing everything had fallen ill. Johnny asks for our patience as he tries to find another lunch spot for the 5 of us. After about 15 minutes or so he says he has a place, a bit longer ride but we will have a lunch in keeping with his tour promises.

Here I must interject that I was in food service for many years in another life. I’m so picky about my food, the cleanliness of the place, the service, etc. that many times, unless I really simply will myself to relax and ignore, my dining experiences are not good. Certainly on vacation I’m a touch mellower but at home I almost would rather just eat at home. I also know how difficult it is to get good food to the table for guests in a timely manner and at the right temperature. So I really appreciate a good meal prepared and served as it should be.

To say this “on the fly” pick was spectacular would be an understatement. When we arrived at La Vecchia Quercia http://www.lavecchiaquercia.net/ the table was all set up for us, lovely spot to ourselves outside, mostly shady with the sun skirting around. They let Johnny bring his wine (choices we had made when at his place) and then came the food. Sincerely it was unbelievable and course after course, with no rushing, it was like the food never stopped. Bread with a mushroom tapenade, beans, cauliflower, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes, fried potatoes, mushrooms, cheese, marinated eggplant and 2 varieties of bread with a garlic oil. There were two varieties of home made ravioli, wild boar meat and frittata with truffles-Yum! The owner insisted we try his home made rigatoni with pig cheek and we all did. It was good, a tomato based sauce and of course pasta cooked to perfection. Naturally the Italian cookies come out after that. Several had coffee, we passed.

After the meal they asked if we would like to come inside and see the kitchen, meet Anna (and I think the other gal may have been her daughter) so we did. Their wood oven is their pride and joy and it is where almost all of our appetizers were made. This kitchen that had just put out a feast for 5 (plus those on the inside of the restaurant) was huge and spotless. I mean Spotless! They both had their hairnets on and clearly took pride in this place. After my heart for sure! Our next country trip to Italy will include a stay at this place, can only imagine how very nice the bed and breakfast is!

Full up we leave and head for l’Olivo Piu Grande d Europa, translated means the oldest and largest olive tree in Europe. Snap a few photos and then it is time to get us to the station. We say our good- byes, board the train and nap the ride home.

We are not hungry for a big meal so opt to just pick at the cheese/crackers/wine for tonight. We walked to the ATM to get the cash for our tour tomorrow. We luckily were able to book Francesca Caruso (of Rick Steve’s Rome fame) and are really looking forward to that tour.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

“While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand; When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall; And when Rome falls - the World.”
~ Lord Byron

The day is overcast so naturally we will carry our umbrella’s along, although overcast is much better when walking outside than the blazing sun, that is for sure. We are scheduled to meet Francesca at San Clemente at 9am. Pleasantries exchanged we go inside and begin our tour.

San Clemente is very interesting, the “lasagna” church-like all of Rome, layer upon layer. You get to see the evolution of the various cultures, so interesting. From there we walk to the Coliseum. Isn’t much that hasn’t been said about this magnificent structure. Subject to the rumblings of the traffic, the smog, the people, earthquakes, earlier the pillagers, it is amazing that this wonder still stands to welcome all that visit Rome. Oh how awesome it would be if there was time travel to see it in its real glory days.

On to the forum where you imagine how everyday life must have been in ancient times. We snap our shots and listen to the stories Francesca has for all that we are seeing. We peek in to the “tomb” of Caesar (actually site of the ruins of the Temple of Caesar) and see there are flowers that visitors have left. Statuary everywhere and plaques from ancient days, astounding that all this still is here. The guides are very passionate about the city and preserving what everyone comes to see. Hard to know how a balance is achieved. One thing is for sure, Francesca brought all that we toured to life for us.

We part ways and decide that tonight we will just stay home and have a simple pasta meal. We stop at the market on the way home and pick up what looks good to us, few fresh veggies, fixings for some antipasti, pasta, bread and some more wine. We head home and after a bit of a rest put the meal together. We were able to enjoy the first course outside but the rain really started to come down so we moved our meal indoors. Glad we were not out trekking in the rain we closed up shop early, each of us snuggling up with our good reads.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Food is our common ground, a universal experience.
~James Beard

Today is our “Food Tour" through Walks of Italy. Go figure, the bus that has been so wonderfully “there” for us is a complete no show this morning. Since this tour is set for a specific time we hurry to the taxi stand a few blocks away and grab a cab to Campo dei Fiori where we are to meet up. Luckily we made it in time and after a little bit of introducing and information we are off.

We found our guide Jeannette to be outgoing, very easy to understand and quite knowledgeable in addition to being personally interesting. The tour had 10 people. Her first stop was a bakery for bread for the next stop, an olive oil stall. The stop at the bakery should probably be done before the tour begins to preserve time as the only thing we really learned at the bakery was #1, the inside is small and #2, they don't like to slice the bread for you. The market itself was wonderful and time very well spent. The olive oil/vinegar stall was marvelous, the fellow that served us was terrific, as were the samples (Gourmet Souvenir is the name on the card he gave us-in Campo De'Fiori). We tasted and learned things we didn't know-part of the point of the tour.

Jeannette did a great job keeping people close together, engaging and seeing to it that everyone was involved. Sadly the cheese person was unable to accommodate us as apparently we had missed our time slot with him. On to the meat market, {Norcineria Viola} which was spectacular. It was wonderful to have a space to go to (another wonderfully clean kitchen I might add) to try the meats and some of the wine. That proprietor was very friendly and seemed quite happy to have us there.

The pizza restaurant {Ciccia Borala} and restaurateur was also very nice. He was prepared for us and we all had a good time making the pizza, certainly he had deliciously fresh and varied items for us to use for our pizzas. And another very clean place. Here I would say I felt rushed out to hit the next two places, which in retrospect, seem like foolish additions. One thing we have learned on our many trips to Italy is they like to sit and eat their food and rarely wrap up left over pizza. The pizza place didn't rush us, moving on to the next item was where the rush was. That is not to say we didn't thoroughly enjoy our pizzas or visiting with the other travelers.

We found the gelato uninspiring and really a rather unnecessary stop. Even more unnecessary was the coffee stop. Honestly if the coffee stop needed to be included I think the beginning would have been a better place for it, not at the end. Cutting out these two stops on the tour may have given time for the cheese as well as time to linger with the pizza.

Jeannette however really made the tour a nice and very entertaining one. She remembered every ones name and engaged all of us personally, a true gift for a great guide. Additionally she took care of making some reservations for us, something I think above and beyond just running the tour and we really did appreciate that. We just think there was too much crammed in to the 4 hour time slot. The market fresh vegetables, olive oil, cheese and meat and then the pizza place would seem like a more cohesive "food tour". This is just our opinion. That is why, for the price paid, we think this was sort of average. I would give the guide a complete 10, she was good! As a little footnote I did send this message to Walks of Italy when we returned. I never got a reply so a few weeks later I posted on Trip Advisor. I did get a reply shortly after that. I felt they rather wanted to blame the guide for missing some things-not hurrying folks along-but I still say too much was crammed and certainly not all necessary. Being hustled along on a tour of food in Rome just doesn’t seem right. However they did say they were modifying the tour so hopefully those now taking it have a completely wonderful and cohesive experience.

We had concert plans at Sant’Agnese in Agone at the Piazza Navona-Music in Bernini’s Rome. A lovely little ensemble, with baroque period instruments, that we thoroughly enjoyed. We started out in the small side chapel, the Borromini Sacristy and then, after the main church was closed to regular visitors we moved to the main church. The sounds were lovely and of course, more magnificent art. We love the concerts in churches, perfect venue for music not enhanced with amplifiers. This particular group was quite talented.

From there we headed to Cas Coppelle, the restaurant recommended by our guide (she also made our reservations for us!). No disappointment here! Since it was Thursday we naturally had Gnocchi. To die for! We had an appetizer of bruschetta, bread, the two gnocchi, spiedini and two terrific desserts, along with wine and water. I should have been noting that it is always a bottle of wine, not just a mere glass ;). Total was 74E.

Home to bed, we can sleep in tomorrow because we have housekeeping planned as we wind down our Roman adventure.

Friday, September 22, 2012

“Known as the Queen of Roads…”
~Unknown

We spend the morning straightening up, getting the wash done that we want done and preparing our bags for our take off on Sunday. Hard to believe that this journey is almost at an end.

We headed out to the Appian Way, this time further out with a plan of more walking. Perfect day for this too. Sunny and not too hot we followed the Eye Witness 90-minute wall along the Via Appia Antica. There is a lot to see and with the Eye Witness we knew what we were looking at. The area is lovely and quite peaceful. We did make two stops for refreshments along the way, all that walking you know ;).

We make it home just fine and tonight our dinner is to be at Dino & Tony’s (clear across town-quite a trek from our place-but we make it no troubles). We’ve been here before, several years ago when we were traveling with some friends. It was just as much fun with the two of us. They did have tables outside but we opted to eat indoors. We were not disappointed. Part of the meal is the overall “experience”. They love you when you just say “si” and that is what we did. I got many winks form Dino (he is the one that took care of us). The food never stops. Nor does the drink! Or the antics of Dino and Tony as they interact with the customers (some people don’t like that aspect at all). We did pass on the meat course and so then out comes dessert-flan, crème brulee, almond cookies, sugared dough balls, prune filling on pizza crust….plenty to eat here. Oh and of course, shots all the way around. When it comes time to pay, he puts his elbow on the table, rolls his pencil and then writes down what you owe. I’m pretty sure it was just around 40-50E.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

After a day's walk everything has twice its usual value.
~George Macauley Trevelyan

Here we are, our last full day in Rome. We are out by 11 to head for the Borghese Gardens. The sun is in and out but it isn’t raining and it isn’t cold, very pleasant.
The gardens are beautiful. Statuary, ponds, birds, all that a good garden should have. We do a good bit of walking, picture taking and admiring of all there is to see. We stop for a quick bite and a drink and then decide to go find the segways for a segway ride. I don’t remember how much they were to rent but I don’t think it was terribly expensive. They give you a little tutorial and then you are off.

They were fun and we got the hang of it pretty quickly. Actually in the right circumstances I can see where these would be preferential to a bike. Of course there was a lot of unobstructed area to cruise and those babies can really cruise. We meandered a bit more after the segway and then headed back towards home. We had to stop at the Tevi and brave the crowds to toss our coins. We want to make sure all the odds are in our favor for a return to our favorite city ;).

Our landlord stopped by to say goodbye and brought his daughter along for us to meet. We were cocktailing on the balcony so we sat out there, talked a little politics, solved a few world problems and then we all bid each other a pleasant farewell. He told us to be sure to call if there was any trouble with the driver in the morning.

Our plan for tonight is to just go up the street to “our” place for supper. As always the wind down of the vacation is the wind up for the ride home. Neither of us necessarily sleeps that good on the last night.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

“There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home….”
~Dorothy

Up before the crack of dawn we see that our plane has at least left America, always a good sign. The driver picks us up at 8:15 as scheduled and we make a departure to match our entrance!

There had been news of “strikes” by some AA pilots but luck was on our side. We had practically the same crew going home as coming over, a total Score! No turbulence, no screaming kids, no crabby attendants, all good. As has been the case in the past we manage to get the bus back to Wisconsin in pretty swift fashion and just like that, vacation over. If you can’t just click your heels home, this was not too bad an alternative.

Hubs planned to take Monday off but I must return to work. I stay awake for the flight home, usually read one or two books (depends upon the size) so I can at least catch a few winks once home and try to assimilate back in to the normal routine. It is good to have our own comfy bed, our own bathroom, our own place. I’m always anxious to see our Mom’s, our kids and our grandkids. Travelling is awesome, but there is no place like home :). 

As always, I've reread but there are probably still some errors and I apologize for those. Contact us via our email with any questions. Now I can help hubs with our venture to Germany in September, a mere two months away!! Ciao/ Auf wiedersehen!

18 Replies |Back to top

| Add a Reply

Sign in to comment.

Recent Activity

View all Europe activity »
  1. 1 Scenic train rides from Milan to Lucerne
  2. 2 Spain and Portugal in Depth
  3. 3 Visiting Exciting Turkey in the Throes of Restoration
  4. 4 Please help with Sicily Itinerary!
  5. 5 Venice to ban wheeled suitcases
  6. 6 Garmisch Partenkirchen Christmas packing list
  7. 7 Visiting UK boyfriend
  8. 8 Hotels and locations in Barcelona
  9. 9 Paris and where else?
  10. 10 Hotels in Amsterdam and Paris @ less than 150 euros per night
  11. 11 For 20,000 Euros, carve your initials in the Roman Colosseum
  12. 12 Trip Report Saxon and Norman churches in Northumbria
  13. 13 Eleanor's Pages
  14. 14 15 days in Europe from 15 Dec 2014 to 1st Jan 2015
  15. 15 Amsterdam for a few hours, would you?
  16. 16 Trip Report Christmas Market Battle: Vienna/Salzburg/Munich
  17. 17 Tips for Chamonix in June?
  18. 18 Transportation ticket in Athens
  19. 19 seeking travel tips in italy and crotia
  20. 20 Internet or travel agent?
  21. 21 Starting to plan for 3.5 weeks in northern Spain, May 2015
  22. 22 Itinerary concerns, please help
  23. 23 Neighbourhood for longer stay in Lisbon?
  24. 24 Catalonia says it's going to have an independence referendum
  25. 25 Aran Islands in wintertime
View next 25 » Back to the top