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Trip Report Rome, Sicily and Paris: 15 days with no Pope, meeting extended family and the Paris blizzard of March 12

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Hello everyone! I am finally settling down to begin writing a trip report about our much anticipated and long planned trip in March. First some background. My husband and I had our first trip to Paris in 2006 and fell in love with the city. We have tried to go back every year since then. This trip was our 2nd to Rome and Sicily and our 7th to Paris. My sister-in-law decided to come with us since her husband will not fly. She figured this would be a once in a lifetime trip to see Rome and meet extended family in Sicily. My husband and sister-in-law's grandfather came to the United States from Sicily in the early 1900's and there are still relatives in the little town he came from. The trip was originally planned for March of 2012 but had to be rescheduled for this year as my husband had to have major surgery. We were extremely lucky that the tumor in his abdomen was not cancer and this trip became even more meaningful to us.

We bought 3 Premium Economy seats on Air France for the trip ro Rome and home through Paris. We decided to spend the extra money as my husband were upgraded on our last trip to Paris and they were much more comfortable for him as he is 6'4". The trip to Paris was fine, no problems. We landed in Paris and had a 1 hour and 35 minute connection on Alitalia. It was tight as we were bused from the flight and had to go through customs and security. It was tight, but we made it to the gate with a few minutes to spare before we boarded. I was a little worried about Alitalia aabut the flight was just fine. We landed, and or luggage was there which was a little bit of a worry as I have not read a lot of good about Alitalia.

Through our hotel, Hotel Campo de Fiori, we had arranged for a driver to pick us up. This was 55 euro for all 3 of us and worth the money. We had selected the hotel last year for our first trip and they were lovely about letting us cancel at the last minute with no penalty so we used them again. Our first time in Rome, we stayed by the Vatican, and while the hotel was nice, nothing beats staying in the center of Rome. The hotel is very nice and the staff are very accomodating and polite. We stayed in a triple room on a square. The rooms are nice and the bathrooms were very modern. We usually don't spend this much on a hotel but we decided to splurge a little for this section of the trip. After settling in, we asked for recommendations for dinner as were exhausted and wanted to eat and turn in early. They suggested Baffetto, a pizza place around the corner from the hotel. I had read some negative reviews about the service at this restaurant but the food was really good and the service was just fine. I was literally falling asleep at the table and my husband and SIL were trying not to laugh. After that it was back to the room and bed.

Day 2: I woke up the next morning feeling great. I had put in my earplugs because we cracked the windows in the room so I did not hear the noise coming from the square. However, my husband and SIL heard everything. The stone streets echo and though we were on the 5th floor you hear it. My husband and I both decided that we would definitely stay here again, but request a room on the courtyard for more quiet. The breakfasts here are great and included in the room rate. Coffee, hot chocolate, breads, pastries, eggs, meats. We really enjoyed them. We had reservations for the Borghese gallery at 1pm so we decided to wander some in the city center first. We walked to Piazza Navona and then to the Pantheon. My SIL was so impressed. We live in southeast Texas and just the scope of the buildings and their age are beyond anything she has ever seen. We pointed out the Bernini fountains in Piazza Navona to her and then headed for our appointment with the Borghese and our favotite Berninis.

My husband and I had been to the Borghese on our 1st trip to Rome and were awed by the 2 Bernini's that get the most attention there(deservedly) Dafne and Apollo and the Rape of Proserpine. My SIL was equally awed. This is a small museum that really delivers. We were equally impressed by the Caravaggios. Just beautiful. After, we took a walk through the park and headed back to the center walked down the Spanish Steps and headed back to the Trevi Fountain for pictures and the obligatory coin toss. Found Crispino for gelato and headed home. We ended up at one of the restaurants in the Campo de Fiori for bruschetta and prosecco and walked throught the market. A really good tiring day, and we walked for miles.

Day 3: This was our Colosseum, Forum, Palatine Hill Day. My husband informed me when we woke up that there was soccer match that everyone at the restaurant across form the hotel was watching last night. He and my SIL said there was cheering and the whole works going on. I didn't hear as I had in my earplugs. My husband is not one to complain so he just shrugged it off as what happens when you open windows in a really old city. I woke up with a really bad cold. I was miserable, but when on vacation you have to keep going so we soldiered on to the Colosseum. On the way we stopped to visit Hadrian's Column and saw Hadrian's Market. We ended up entering through the Forum entrance as there was no line. We did however, run into a yound man from Ireland who was trying to sell tours for whatever company he worked for. He asked us if we wanted a tour and we said no. He then said and I quote " What is wrong with you Americans. You are the 100th people Ive asked and you don't even let me tell you about the tour before you say no." WOW. Not really the way to get the Americans to buy your stuff. We spent hours here. We really spent a lot of time walking up and around Palatine Hill which we didn't do last time. I would like to do an underground tour of the Colosseum eventually but we didn't set it up this time. That being said, the Colosseum is so very impressive. The first time we came to Rome, we walked up from the metro and there it was staring me in the face. My 10th grade World History book come to life. We then took a taxi to the Harley Davison store to buy shirts for my brother-in-law. We ended up finishing up the night with dinner at Costanza. We had read reviews and while they were mixed, we enjoyed this meal very much. I really enjoyed my gnocchi and had my 1st tiramisu of the trip here. Both were very good. My SIL had a steak and sent it back as it was still a litle bloody. She never quite got down the idea that medium well in Italy is not medium well at home. I cannot remember what my husband got I just know that he got a side of Risotto which we all shared as it was very good.

Day 4: This was our Vatican day. We had stayed away from St. Peter's so far as I knew we would be spending the entire day here today and I really wanted to see something else in Rome before we descended on the holy mecca for Catholics. Before anyone gets upset with me, we are Catholic but I really wanted to see some other stuff first as I was afraid that once we got there we would never leave. A few weeks before we left, I was up getting ready for work when the breaking news came on that Pope Benedick was retiring February 28. We were leaving March 1. We figured this would be really good as we would be there when history was made or really bad as Rome would be totally crazy.

I had planned the first part of the day with a Walks of Italy Prisine Sistine tour. I did this on the advice of Denise, a regular poster on these forums, as they take you to the Sistine Chapel when the museum first opens so you are not in there with thousands of other people herded through like sheep, as was our last experience. We spent days days not nowing when the conclave would begin and they would close the chapel. As luck, or divine intervention-whatever you want to call it would have it, they closed it at 1:30 pm on the day of our visit so we squeaked through. And we enjoyed the tour very much. It was very much worth the money for the time in the sistine chapel alone. There may have been 50 other people there. You could really walk around and get a great view of every section of the ceiling. We had a lovely tour guide named Claudia and we very much enjoyed her commentary and information. We especially loved her story about Bernini and the sculptures around the main altar. Apparently you shouldn't upset him or he will sculpt pictures of your sister having a baby while not married. Overall, I am pleased we did this and would consider using them again. We went not far from St. Peter's for a very quick lunch and then back again for a Scavi Tour at 1:15 pm. On the way back, we met up with the Cardinal from Thailand who blessed my SIL's ACTS bracelet. He was very engaging and teased us about going to Sicily and the Mafia.

The Scavi Tour was one of the highlights of this trip. You enter though the left side of St. Peter's through the Swiss Guard. The tour takes no more than 15 people down to the necropolis underground with the highlight being the area where St. Peter's bones were discovered and still lay. The guide was a little hard to understand at times, but it was very surreal being here. You end the tour back in the church itself.

After this, as we were gong to the gift shop, my husband saw the sign to climb the dome. He and my SIL then decided that this was a great idea. Did I mention I was sick? I felt like my head weighed about 50 lbs from my cold. I VERY begrudgingly climbed the 300 or so steps. But I WAS not happy. We ended up going to a gift shop here run by the nuns and so began the shopping. We are not shoppers per say. I know what I neeed to get and then buy it. My SIL felt this was probably her only trip to Rome so she bought something for everyone. We spent some time buying medals, necklaces, rosaries, the works. I really feared we weren't finished when we left. After a trip to the hotel to drop off our loot we ended up at another pizza restaurant the hotel recommended but I will have to try to find the name.

Day 5: We started this day by walking back to the Vatican for some more shopping and to mail postcard to my SIL's grandkids from the Vatican post office. I had really wanted to go to Trastevere today, but it was not to be. Between the shopping and the rain, we just never made it. I wanted to see Santa Maria in Trastevere Church. Maybe next time. By the time we left the Vatican, we ran into the nearest place to sit for a minute and have a coffee as it was really raining. We ended up back at the hotel to shower, as we were wet, and pack for the Easyjet flight to Sicily the next day. However, I should not say we didn't ever make it to Trastevere as we did this night but only or dinner. I had the hotel make reservations for Glass and I am so glad I did. It was the best meal of our 5 nights in Rome. It was quite an ordeal for our Taxi driver to find this place. We were late for our reservations and he eventually had to call and try to get help but we eventually found it. And WOW. The food was wonderful. We both had the ravioli with parmesean cheese and the risotto with truffles and dessert. Did I say the food was really, really good? The chef, Christina Bowerman, comes out and speaks to each table and we had a great talk with her. Her ex sister-in-law lived in the town next to us in Texas. She also went to schhol in Texas. Small world. We also traded restaurat ideas for Paris as she was going in a few days. I would highly recommend this restaurant.

Overall, Rome, is a great city. I wish we could have seen more, but there is always the next trip. However, Rome could not compare with Sicily on this trip and meeting my husband's family.

Up next, Sicily.

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