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Trip Report The 12 Days of Christmas in Rome, 2013

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While this trip was bubbling up in the back of our minds for quite some time, it did not become a reality until early October. Consequently, there was some scrambling done and my various posts on this forum bear witness to that!

Who: our family of four: mom, dad and two adult sons in their 20’s

Why: we discussed a Christmas trip last year and the boys asked to go back to Rome; one wanted to stay away from warm or hot weather as he lives in Texas; the other wanted to get away from the deep freeze of Chicago. Rome was a good compromise with temps supposed to be in the 50’s. We hadn’t been there in a few years and that was that. We looked at this as a family finale for now as we are getting ready to retire, neither son is married at this point and jobs could move either of them at any time.

How: We flew on United, different days depending on vacation and work schedules, and managed to converge within 36 hours of each other; Taxis’ from the airport were the easiest way to get to the hotel since we were all jet lagged and as I mentioned, some were travelling solo. We did not find a taxi that would take a credit card but one driver offered to stop at a bancomat along the way. The one near baggage claim in the airport was jammed with weary/bleary travelers trying to figure out how to use the darn thing so we just gave up and grabbed a cab.

Where: This is where it got interesting; since we would need two hotel rooms, I started looking for apartments as an option. Thought I’d found the right spot, sent a deposit only to find that the final payment terms were going to be a huge hassle since we were arriving on a Saturday (banks closed), ATM’s have a 500e/day withdrawal limit per card and we only use one bank here (so no option to use multiple ATM withdrawals), the landlord/agency did not accept paypal except for the deposit, no credit cards, etc. I tried to find an alternative that was acceptable given that we did not want to open new bank accounts to get additional ATM cards for this trip and did not want to carry a large amount of cash with us. No luck….so it was back to the drawing board about 10 days before departure. At least I had more time than MaiTai Tom! I did learn a lot about Italian banking and transaction laws however. I also was glad that I’d kept all of our email correspondence in one email trail so when there was a question of returning the deposit, I had all the ‘lack of terms and conditions’ needed to get it done quickly. I found two hotel options and booked them both with free cancellation in case the landlord changed his mind. In the end, we leveraged some hotel points and the (endless) business travel perks to stay at the Westin. We had two rooms booked and were upgraded to a two bedroom suite with a nice central living room between the bedrooms so privacy issues were null. In all, there were three TV’s so everyone could watch what they wanted if they wanted. Our room was on the corner of the fourth floor so we had a great view down the street. Internet was free as was breakfast for 2 of us each day (more on that later)

What – Day 1
Travel day…up early and off to the airport. I had two choices when booking the flights; either an early morning departure with a long layover in Dulles or a later morning departure with under an hour in Dulles. I opted for the safer plan and since we were delayed due to weather by almost an hour out of Chicago, it was the wise move. I’ve learned that even if the airline says it’s a legal connection, that is based on perfect conditions, weather, timing, etc. A lot of people on our flight were stressed and worried about missing connections. We took our time, had lunch and hung out in the United Club for the afternoon. The flight to Rome left on time, landed on time and had zero issues…a good flight.

Checking in was painless at the Westin, our room was available and we took a ‘short’ nap of around 2 hours to freshen up and prepare for the first day’s death march until It was reasonable to find dinner and then crash.

We left the hotel and headed for the Spanish Steps, took photos of the presepi, strolled down Via Condotti and found a small piazza for lunch. We were taking off coats and scarves, sitting outside while others were bundled up against the ‘cold’. A decent but not outstanding lunch and then off to do some more wandering. We were attacked by two centurions outside of Hadrian’s Temple who wanted photos and some sword play. My son played along and we were charged 30e for the opportunity. Chalk it up to experience and the fact that they probably target those of us with our eyes half open. I was prepared to give him 10e but each of the guys demanded it. I could have walked away but honestly, I was just too tired to argue. We ended the day at the Pantheon and Trevi for some quick photos then back to the hotel for a power nap of an hour or so.

Dinner that night was at La Bruschetta near the hotel on Via Sardegna. TripAdvisor had mixed reviews but we had a very nice dinner with excellent service and reasonable prices. Dinner for three with wine was around 60e including bread and a large bottle of water. Of course, add 30% to that for the exchange rate! Our waiter was funny and attentive without hovering. The other patrons all appeared to be locals and were greeted like old friends or frequent guests.
Back to the hotel for some much needed rest.

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