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Rome trip and photos: oh solo mio

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Hi, I recently returned from a solo trip to Rome.

I did the usual things most tourists do, but wanted to point out a few things that I discovered this time. It got dark early and it was cold and windy so I didn't stay out walking much after my dinners, I just hunkered down in a nice warm restaurant and let them bring on the food and wine!!

I stayed on via dei Coronair near P. Navona and dined mostly in the area this trip.

*Osteria de Pegno, on vicolo di Montevecchio. This place is so warm and romantic! Warmly decorated and they serve delicious specials every night. Excellent bacala. They are somewhat stern on reservations and I watched them turn away alot of people without reservations even though there were empty tables. You sort of book your table for the evening. The owner is very professional and has an interesting personality to say the least.

*Osteria del Antiquario, on via Coronari, very good food in a lovely setting.

*Le Streghe (The Witches), on viccolo del curato 13 at via coronari. Family owned, excellent food. Some more interesting owners. The man of the family didn't flinch when I entered in a freezing whirlwind one evening and, while dabbing my teary eyes (from the cold wind), told him, in my Italian, that I was a woman alone. After a moment's hesitation, he graciously seated me at a table for one. The sweet lone candle outside their door lured me inside that cold night. They have creative special Roman dishes and I highly recommend it.

*Ristaurante Tre Archi, on via dei Coronari 233. Here is a local place even though it is very near P. Navona. Businessmen come in and silently dine alone, night after night. Local couples come in and quietly dine on the good simple food. Not much on atmosphere, but with the good food and professional service, it is a good place to dine alone if you feel squeemish about that. Really excellent minestrone soup, roasted vegetables, fresh fish.

All of these restaurants have someone serving you who can speak English.

I went on a few day tours set up by EnjoyRome Tours. They book you through Vastours which doesn't have a website yet. I wanted to see some sites outside of Rome and it was the easiest way. I was not about to take public transportation, too confusing and time consuming. Vastours has mini vans and the tour groups are limited to about 8 people (for the tours I took). They also offer other day tours, walking tours, extended tours and excursions to places such as Venice, Ostia Antica, Assisi, Pisa, Florence, Sorrento, Pompeii, from overnights to up to about three day trips. They are very professional and I trust them.

I walked over to the offices of Enjoy Rome, near the train station and was met by a lovely girl who went over my different options carefully with me (you pay Vastours at the beginning of the tour, in their office). She was really very helpful and made me feel womcome. After my first tour I just called Vastours directly for the next day's tour (English spoken, phone (+39) 06.48.14.309) (vastours@vastours.it)
They will pick you up at your own hotel and drop you back off there later.

The first tour I booked was the Christian Rome tour. I was met at my hotel in the afternoon and for about 38 euro, I spent the rest of the day visiting various basilicas, the Old Appian Way, Quo Vadis Chapel and catacombs. All so very interesting and I had always wanted to see the Holy Stairs where pilgrims ascend on their knees.

This tour drove us outside the original Roman walls of the city to the catacombs. The Romans could and would not bury any body inside the walls so, at the time, the catacombs were far away from the public. I never thought I would visit them, I am not much into dead bodies or anything to do with the subject so it never occurred to me to go to an underground burial site of all things.

But it was part of an excellent tour, so why not. In the van on the way there, my cell phone rang, it was my Italian friend, S, who asked where I was going that afternoon. I told him the catacombs and there was "dead" silence then,

"Why are you going there?"
"It is part of my tour"
"It is not good, the air is not good down there"
"underground?"
"si, si, there are spores down there you should not breathe"

I thanked him and told him for his concern and our little tour group walked over to the chapel which itself is underground, having only high windows which on the outside are ground level. After an introductory talk and just before we descended to the four or five levels of hewn out graves, I remembered the spores. I wondered if he had heard something on the news that I had just brushed off, what if there are spores and people who have lived through the tours come down with some strange catacomb disease? I asked the guide how long we were be down there and she gave me a look (more about why the look, later) and said 25 minutes.

Oh, I went along with the group down the tiny narrow stairs. We were told to follow right behind the person in front of us and not to take any photographs or deviate in any way from the group. I noticed the guide had a tiny flashlight that she would use in case of a blackout, comforting.
We had a little group meeting in one of the larger rooms where the guide mentioned that we would be going through passages and rooms where only one or two people could fit at a time and up to four levels underground.

Suddenly, I didn't want to go through this, like I said, I do not like anything morbid.
I let the group go ahead of me and I thought I could backtrack up to the chapel. The last of my group went through the narrow passage and left me in the chamber. I looked back at the way we had come. It was now alot darker to me and with the dim little hanging lights overhead I could see two passages whichled in different directions. I knew we came in on the one on the left, but when I looked arond the corner it didn't look the same. I looked at the passage on the right and it veered off and I couldn't see very far down it in the dimness. It felt a little dank...spores? I thought "get a grip, it is better to breathe spores with the group and the guide than it is to probably go the wrong way and be doomed to a short life of wandering the catacombs until I die of starvation." "Think of future tourists who will hear your pitiful wailing". So I turned around and caught up to a couple who were lingering behind the group, I didn't want to be the last in line so they stepped aside and let me go in front of them. (Don't blame me too much, I got this way when I was a teen visiting a wax museum when all of a sudden one of the "wax" mummies came to life and chased me all over the museum and outside and down the boulevard, flailing at my head and shoulders with his shrouded fists. My luck of course that I happened to be standing there when he went berserk and deserted his job, such as it was! I ducked into a store and watched as he kept running until he was out of sight, a crazed bundle of gauze dashing into the night, but that was years ago....)

These catacombs are really very interesting, the tomb holes are like diagonal wedges hewn out of the sandstone, very tiny shelves really. The guide told us they shrank the bodies with lye so they would fit, ugh, just the things I didn't want to know. At the time they were being used there was the stench of hundreds of thousands of....well, you get the point. They had little oil lamps with fragrant oil to sniff, but that would hardly be enough! Talk about spores!

For info on the catacombs:http://tinyurl.com/jvy4d

I have my photos up on pbase, click on Roma 2006:
www.pbase.com/seaurchin


(Hundreds of miles of catacombs http://tinyurl.com/jvy4d)

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