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Trip Report The "I'm moving/I'm coming home" Italy Trip Report...

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You never realize how dependent you are on the internet until you don't have it for a whole week! AGH!!!

Well, it's still not being installed til Friday, so I've had plenty of time to start this loooong trip report!

First, I have little for Venice, since I contracted severe food poisoning on the second day. Most of you reading this probably read about that, the ants, the Raid, the acqua alta, etc. NOT my favorite Venice trip, I'll say. :( So, I got nothin' else on that leg of the trip.

I was still nauseous and unable to eat when we arrived in Florence. I only went out the last day and we did the normal things- Duomo, Santa Croce, Piazzale Michelangelo. The only thing I'd like to report (and I believe I also mentioned this in the earlier "I'm leaving" post), if you desire some "home" food, there is a gourmet food store behind the Duomo. Yes, it was expensive, but when you must have peanut butter..you will find it there. Along with much other American and British food stuffs/liquor.

On to my 3 weeks in Rome:

Thanks to all of you for your support, advice, support, comfort, support and support. :)

I booked a 2 bed, 2 bath apartment, in Trastevere, through RentalInRome.com. Here is the apartment link: http://www.rentalinrome.com/trastevereapartments/inntrasteverebalconyapartment

I thought RinR was very easy to work with; agent was on time and very efficient. Apartment was exactly as represented, clean and very spacious. The balcony was large and can easily seat four for dinner/drinks. The washing machine was a bonus (after the hour spent translating Italian instructions...[which I then left my English translation for the next guest]). The noise from Viale di Trastevere can be quite distracting and loud. Bring your earplugs if you are a light sleeper.

The location of this apartment was really perfect. Right across from the Tram #8 stop, 1 minute to walk to regional train station, and dozens of bus stops nearby. The very convenient one was the #3B bus that took us to the nearest Metro stop. That bus left the train station every 10 minutes or so. Very convenient. The tram takes you right to Piazza Venezia or you can get off at the Largo Argentina. Both places give you access to most all of the sites in the heart of Rome. Loved this apartment! (Though I would have killed for a toaster and a blender, there was adequate pots/pans/dishes for cooking and I did much of that. There was a Tuodi grocery store right across from the tram stop. Again, very handy at just a couple minutes walk from the apt.

I purchased (weekly) the 7-day (Biglietto settimanale C.I.S.) ticket from the nearby tobacchi shop. Price is E24. And I can tell you, I got plenty of use out of them! (See below..) It only has to be validated on first use, but you will need to have it with you at all times when riding bus/trams/trains. You will need it for the entrance to the Metro and train turnstyles, also.

Folks, I have to tell you, it only took me a week to really figure out and start using (to its full extent) the entire Rome public transportation system. If I had not, I could not have possibly gotten to all the places listed below... in 3 weeks.

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    Churches Visited:

    *Santa Maria in Trastevere (10-minute walk from the #8 tram stop “Belli”) - I’d been here once before on a Sunday, but could not get past the back of the church, as Mass was still in session. This trip, I also happened to get here on a Sunday, but closer to 1pm, after lunching in a little trattoria near the church.

    Upon entering, the smell of the incense from the last Mass was so familiar. (I went to parochial school through 5th grade.) The church was not crowded and I quickly made my way toward the front apse. By the time I arrived there, I realized I was crying. The mosaics were so beautiful, it must have been a purely emotional reaction!

    I LOVE this church. I spent several Euros to continue illuminating the apse, until my coins ran out! There were many tourists who did not know about the coin boxes in churches. It kind of broke my heart that so many would come here and not be able to appreciate the church in all her splendor, because they did not know you had to turn on the lights.

    I spent the better part of an hour here. The front left chapel has a stunning ceiling. Don’t miss this church.. and bring plenty of coins!

    *Santa Maria in Cosmedin- This church is small and very plain, compared to all the other churches visited. But it does have a cozy charm about it. Of course, the main tourist attraction here is the “Boca della Verite” or “Mouth of Truth”. (See “Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.) My nephew and I let the guard take our picture with our hands in the mouth, and no blood shed! 

    This church is just a 1-minute walk from the Circo Massimo (Circus Maximus). If you opt to take a “tour” of the city on the “110 Open Bus”, do hop off at the Circo Massimo, so you can see it and this church with the charming bell tower and portico!

    *Santa Maria sopra Minerva – I’ve visited this church several times, but it is never enough. The stunning blue and gold ceiling sucks you in. Then there is the beautiful cloisonné on the altar and the assorted works of art all over the church, funded in no small part by the Medici.

    Two Medici Popes are entombed here (Leo X and Clementine VII), as well as the patron saint of Italy, Saint Catherine of Siena. She is entombed at the altar. Much to see in this church. No reason not to visit, as it practically sits on top of the Pantheon. Don’t miss this gem and the Bernini elephant obelisk out front!

    *Santa Maria Maggiore (Basilica) – When I looked on my map, this basilica appeared to be half-way between the Cavour and Termini metro stops (Metro A line). Since Termini is always a riot waiting to happen, I decided to get off the metro at Cavour. Big mistake.

    It is, literally, all uphill from the stop to the basilica. (And, coincidentally, all downhill from Termini, as I would later discover! One always forgets about the “seven hills” of Rome! Haha)

    This basilica was another glorious work of art. The mosaics, the baldacchino, the marble on the floors. I simply run out of adjectives. The chapel designed for Pope Paul V Borghese was mesmerizingly beautiful, as was the gold ceiling in the nave of the church. It is said that this gold was the first brought back from America by Columbus; the ceiling was a gift from Alexander VI Borgia.

    One of the sweet surprises here was the ceiling in the first chapel on the right. There, you will spy a delightful scene of what I call, “the heavenly hoe-down”! All manner of musician angels playing instruments, and a couple of cherubs floating overhead, holding a banner of sheet music. I just loved its’ whimsy!

    *Santa Maria del Popolo – My second visit to this church. My first visit was a bit of a letdown, as the Chigi Chapel was being renovated and was all covered in tarps and plastic.

    Not so, this visit! Happy to add to my list of Dan Brown book sites. Not to mention this church is lovely all on its’ own! (My nephew enjoys the macabre more than I do, and was delighted to see the kneeling skeleton on the floor of the chapel.)

    There are a number of frescoes among the art here and I love Caravaggio, so it was a bonus to again view two of his works in the Cerasi Chapel!

    This church sits on a huge square of the same name and is 1-minute walk from the Flaminio (A line) metro stop.

    *Sant’Andrea delle Valle – This church is on the Corso Vittorio Emmanuelle, right in the heart of Rome. If you are visiting all the churches near Piazza Navona, take the extra five minutes to come see this one, too!

    This church has the largest dome in Rome, outside of St. Peter’s. And it is lovely. But the ceiling here is the stunner. Reminiscent of the Vatican Museum ceilings, with individual paintings between the supports. Simply stunning!

    The details in the architecture in this church were phenomenal! And the marble! The number of different colors/kinds of marble used here will blow you away. Another incredible find!

    *Sant’Agnese in Agone – This church sits nearly directly opposite of Bernini’s Four Rivers fountain in Piazza Navona. It is a small church, but an absolute gem! Love, love, love this church. Again, the stunning colors of the marbles used is awesome. Really, one of the most beautiful “small churches” in Rome!

    *Sant’Ignazio di Loyola – Two trips ago, I attempted to see this church and showed up at the front doors at 4pm (it is supposed to be open at 3), the same time two German tourists also arrived. We were all disappointed to find the doors locked. (This IS Italy! Haha)

    I had done some last-minute gift shopping near Piazza Navona. I was walking to the Trevi for my standard last-look and some lunch nearby. So, I was not even looking to visit this church.

    However, as I walked past it, I noticed some people coming out the front door and looked at my watch-- 12:10. “OK”, I think to myself, “most every church closes at noon. Why is this one open?” Then it struck me that this was that church that I and the German tourists wanted to see. But I couldn’t remember which one it was, and I did not pack my guidebook this day.

    I decided to jump on it and headed up the stairs. (Good thing, as my guidebook states it closes at 12:15!)

    Wow!!!! I wonder why I haven’t seen more press in Fodor trip reports about this amazing church! One of two Jesuit churches in this area (the other is Il Gesu and I saw it on a previous visit), it was fantastic!

    The ceilings of the nave and the chapels are incredible. Really lovely. The marble bas reliefs in the farthest front right chapel, and the bas reliefs in the two largest chapels (opposite each other ) were beautiful. The twisted green marble columns- unlike any other I’ve seen in Rome. And the different colors of orange, pink and red marble were mind-blowing!

    One very interesting feature is that there is a “fake dome” near the front left of the altar. Apparently, the original design called for a dome here, but money was tight and the dome fell victim. So, they painted the ceiling with what looks like a dome. Fascinating, really.

    Unfortunately, the picture in my guidebook of this “dome” is superior to what I was able to see in the church. Not only was it dark, but like a goof, I’d left my extra camera battery and battery charger back home. So, at this point all I had was my Iphone camera. Not great. Couldn’t get a good look at the dome. But, hopefully next visit!

    Love, love, love this find! This should also be on your map of churches to visit near Piazza Navona!

    *San Luigi dei Francesi – Really. Running out of adjectives! This church is the French church in Rome (as Santa Susanna is the American church in Rome.) I missed it one day, and made a point of going back, as my guidebook made it sound great and it is, again, near Piazza Navona. (Half-way between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.)

    The guidebook was right. This church did not disappoint! Again, the marbles here were delicious, including a rare yellow marble that may have been salvaged from other monuments/statues, etc. The large Fleur di Lis on the back of the church floor leaves no doubt that this is the French church.

    There is much light in this church, the better to appreciate all the gilt and the beautiful painting that takes up the better part of the nave ceiling. There are also some incredible chapels here.

    My favorite, of course, is the fifth chapel on the left toward the front of the church. Here hang 3 Caravaggio works, all dedicated to St. Matthew. Coin box provided!

    Lovely, lovely, lovely!!! Can’t wait to post the pictures!

    *Basilica San Paolo (St. Paul Outside the Wall) – This was a very easy visit from Trastevere. I took the #3B bus from the Stazione Trastevere (train station was kitty-corner from my apt) to Piramide/Ostiense. Took the Metro B to next stop (Basilica S. Paolo). The basilica is on the opposite corner from the metro exit!

    This basilica was much unlike the other three (St. Peter, St. John Lateran and Santa Maria Maggiore) in its simplicity. That is not to say it’s not stunning, in its own right. It’s just that the nave’s windows are all the same, and the side aisles have absolutely no chapels. It is, however, a massive space!

    The baldacchino was particularly gorgeous, as was the large apse bowl at the front of the basilica. More incredible mosaic art that just boggles the mind. (Coin box provided here, too!)

    Another unexpected, and terrific, find was a holy water font to the far right of the front apse. It is a huge font (as most are), but the artist placed a sweet cherub standing on the base of the font, dipping his fingers into the holy water atop it. And the coup-de-gras on the other side of the base is a “fallen angel” cringing at the feet of the cherub. Loved this find!

    Imagine my surprise when I found signs directing me to the basilica’s cafeteria! Yes, a lovely place that had a pretty good lasagna (it was 12:30 and I was hungry!) and wasn’t unreasonably priced! Had a chocolate cornetto for dessert. Very nice. FYI!

    *St. Giovanni in Laterano (Basilica) – I took the #3B Bus to Metro B Piramide station. Took that line to Termini and switched to the Metro A line to the “San Giovanni Laterano” stop! 

    My third visit here. And it still never ceases to amaze me. This is my favorite basilica. It is so bright and each chapel is so different than the next. I could spend hours here with the huge statues of the saints that line the nave, and the huge papal altar.

    This basilica also houses a baptistry (closed while I was here) and the Scala Santa and Sancta Sanctorum (also closed during my visit). Just something else to look forward to on my next visit!

    When I was done, I walked a couple blocks to pick up the #87 bus to Piazza Venezia. From there, it was a short block to the new #8 tram stop in the Piazza- and I took that all the way back to my apt. in Trastevere.

    *St. Peter’s (Basilica) – Took the #8 tram to the first stop past the Tiber, (Arenula/Ministero Giustizia). Got off and picked up the #23 bus that travels along the east side of the river. Got off near San Giovanni in Fiorentini and Castel Sant’Angelo. From there, it was a quick 10-minute walk to St. Peter’s.

    Really, what can you say about this place that isn’t in the guidebooks? I was rather saddened the last two times I visited, as both times, the front of the basilica was closed off for some kind of event. You couldn’t get closer than 70 feet or so to the baldacchino.

    Luckily, this trip- no event- and I was able to get right up to the Bernini baldacchino to appreciate it’s intricate columns and lovely carvings. Spectacular. Seriously spectacular!

    Because of its size, St. Peter’s isn’t nearly as bright as St. John. It’s also always more crowded, so not as pleasant an experience, IMHO. But incredible, nonetheless!

    The line was long for the dome, so nephew came back another day and climbed it just near sunset. He said it was awesome. I’ve yet to take that plunge! (claustrophobic and asthmatic!).

    *Santa Prassede – The day I’d walked uphill (forever, it seems) to Santa Maria Maggiore, I knew that Santa Prassede was just around the corner. Alas, I arrived at 2 and the church is closed 12-4. Since I’m such a huge fan of mosaics, I knew I had to come back.

    So, a couple days later, I took the #3B bus to Piramide Metro B line station. From there to Termini took about 10 minutes! It was about a 15-minute walk to Santa Prassede (all downhill- hahah) from Termini.

    The outside façade of the church is covered in scaffolding, and if you weren’t looking for the church door, you’d probably have difficulty finding it. However, I was looking. 
    Wow! Wow! Wowsa!!! Another new favorite church. The mosaics were all that they had been represented to be. Stunning, like Santa Maria in Trastevere. What caught my attention here was the amazing number of marble patterns on the floors of both the nave and the side aisles and chapels. Truly lovely church.

    There is also a stunning chapel (Chapel of St. Zeno) whose walls and vault are completely covered in the most phenomenal jewel-colored mosaic tiles. Really breathtaking. The icing on the cake is that, housed in this chapel, is one of the largest relics I’ve ever seen. It is said to be part of the marble post to which Jesus was bound when he was flogged shortly before his crucifixion. Wowsa! Don’t miss this church!!!

    *Santa Maria della Vittoria – This was another church I’d tried to get to in previous visits, but I never seemed to be in the area when the church was open. So this time, I made a point of making sure I got there.

    We took the #3B bus to Metro B Piramide station. Changed to Metro A at Termini and got off at Piazza Barberini. (We took in the Cappuchin crypts at Santa Maria della Concezione first, then walked on to this church.)

    Loved this church. Geez, have I said there are any I didn’t like? (Well, the only one I haven’t gushed over is probably Santa Maria in Cosmedin. But, hey… they are all terrific!!!)

    It was not a huge church; I loved it’s “neighborhood” feel. I, of course, came to see Bernini’s “Ecstasy of St. Teresa”. I was surprised at how small it seemed compared to my expectations. It was awesome, just the same!

    I also loved the incredible work on the iron altar gates. This one is a bit further out and takes a bit of a walk.. but well worth it, in my opinion! (We walked from there to Santa Susanna, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane and Sant’Andrea al Quirinale, as well as taking in some of the Presidential Palace and great views of the St. Peter’s dome from the Piazza del Quirinale. Then we walked from there down past Trajan’s Column [precariously swaying in the wind and now cabled down due to instability, no doubt] and Piazza Venezia!)

    *Sant’Andrea al Quirinale – Incredible small church designed by Bernini. We got here in late afternoon and the sunlight through the windows here made the whole church appear to glow in gold! It was an amazing affect. Loved the mosaic in the middle of the floor of the nave. This man knew his job- most seriously! Do try to get to this church and Borromini’s rival church practically next door. (Though, I thought, “no contest- Bernini, hands down!”. But, to each his own!)

    *San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane – A really lovely, very small church, designed by Borromini. It is sweet and simple, certainly made me feel like it was a chapel as opposed to a church. It was quiet and delightful. The man was more reserved than Bernini. That is not necessarily a bad thing! Do visit when you’re in this neighborhood!

    *San Pietro in Vincoli – I decided to visit this church after my visit to Santa Prassede. They looked reasonably close enough to walk it. And it would have been, had there not been construction running along the back end of the park that backs up to this church. I ended up walking a long way around the block, but it was all good.  (Hot day out- glad to find a food truck parked in front of the church for cold water!)

    This church really had nothing major going on for it with the exception of Michelangelo’s “Moses” and another amazing relic- the chains that were said to bind St. Peter while he was imprisoned in Rome’s Mamertine Prison. They are housed in a glass case under the main altar.

    The couple other things I found here were some extremely macabre and graphic tombstones along the left wall. Took pics for my nephew (who’d gone home at this point). The grim reaper was very graphic (see link to pics). Crazy!

    *Santa Susanna – OK, so this is not a church I’m going to rave about, either. It is very plain and very dark. The façade is very pretty, though. This is the American church in Rome. It is the place from which you would normally pick up your reserved tickets for the Wednesday Papal audiences, fyi.

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    Other sites visited:

    *Museo Frati Cappuccini e Cripta Ossario (in the church of Santa Maria della Concezione) – We didn’t actually get to see the church- it looked like it was closed for some kind of restoration. But we did pay E6 to get into the Cappuchin museum and crypts under the church. The museum was great. Well done with lots of art and artifacts (without the bones!).

    The crypts…Ok, this was not my cup of tea. I paid E6 to use the restroom, basically, and swiftly walked past all the crypts, telling my nephew I’d meet him outside. Sorry, just not into crypts designed entirely out of the bones of human beings. Ick!

    But nephew loved them! Right across the street from the Barberini metro stop. (And a few feet from the adorable Bernini “Fountain of the Bees”.)

    *Colosseum – I am strange in that I find the Colosseum to be a very peaceful place. One new thing this trip (it may be new; it may be updated; I may have spaced on previous visits and not seen it…) is that on the top level, there is a large area that is basically an outdoor museum. Some fascinating maps and coins, statues, etc. Worth a stop to look at these artifacts and learn a little more about the construction of the Colosseo!

    *Forum/Palatine Hill – It wasn’t crowded at all the day we went (rain threatened but never fell!) and the wildflowers were in full bloom, including endless fields of red poppies! Another place I find peaceful and could sit and spend a whole day here.

    A tour is terrific here, but my DK Eyewitness Guide had great maps of the ruins here and we were able to identify everything very easily. A good guide book is essential if you are going to tour this on your own!~ (Otherwise, I can highly recommend Francesca Caruso, with whom my cousin and I toured this site a couple years ago!)

    *Palazzo Doria Pamphilj – A truly unexpected jewel of my last day in Rome!! Annhig had mentioned this gallery/palace to me as something she’d probably visit on her last day in Rome.

    Well, it was unbelievable serendipity that I’d been to the Trevi and was on my way back to Piazza Venezia when I saw a large set of wooden doors opened to a lovely green courtyard. Since I saw folks stepping in to take pics of the gardens, I decided to also.

    Imagine my utter surprise when I looked up and saw that I was at the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj! Seemed like fate, so I paid the E11 and went in!

    I have to say that one’s enjoyment of this place is tripled by the fantastic narration on the audio guide. It is provided (in English) by a current descendent of the Doria Pamphilj family (who happens to be British, as one of the descendants married a Brit in the 1700’s).

    He talked about spending time in the palace apartments as a youth, had a great sense of humor, and the personal knowledge about the rooms and the family members that decorated/used them was terrific!

    I initially thought it was a shame that they don’t allow any photography whatsoever here. I thought for sure if they did, they’d have much more traffic. (It was practically empty! I saw maybe 10 other people the entire 2 hours I was here!) Then, again, maybe that is why they don’t! Family still lives in some of the palace, so maybe they don’t want more traffic or noise!

    Do yourself a favor, though- get thee to this palace! The gallery level houses over 400 paintings that the family has collected over the centuries, including one of the Doria Pamphilj Pope (Pope Innocent X), painted by Velasquez. There are also works by Titian and a newly-restored Caravaggio of “John the Baptist” as a young man.

    We were also able to watch two art restorers working on one of the other large paintings from the gallery. Very cool! Well worth the E11! Audio guides were available in other languages, fyi.

    *Ostia Antica – My nephew and I picked up the regional train at Ostiense and were in Ostia Antica in 40 minutes (about a 10-minute walk from the train station in Ostia).

    This site is phenomenal. It was amazingly void of crowds on the bright, sunny day we arrived there about 11am.

    The first thing you should know is that this place is HUGE. Do not plan on less than 3-4 hours here, if you really want to do the site justice. There is so much to see, it goes on forever. And so much of it is intact, it is hard to believe. The baths, the theater, the apartments, cemetery.. it is awesome. (And, again, I found it to be totally peaceful.)

    I used a Rick Steves free download to help me identify some of the sites, but you also get a map at admission and it is helpful (but not perfect) in figuring out what is what. (Keep in mind that your Roma Pass can be used here.)

    You should know that this is not a circular route- you walk all the way into the site and you must walk all the way back! It is quite a hike- so be prepared for that. Take a lunch and find a spot to sit and rest a bit. The theater is perfect for that- it is fully intact!

    There is a paved asphalt road that runs along the outside of the site, from the Cafeteria back to the entrance. This is faster than traipsing back through the actual site, fyi. (They could make a fortune offering golf cart rides back to the entrance for E1!)

    We had not brought lunch, so chose to eat in the cafeteria. Save for a class of 30 unruly 9-year-olds, it was not bad. We both had pasta w tomato sauce and it was pretty good. Hot and filling, for sure!

    I haven’t been to Pompeii, but for the stone bodies, I’m betting this place is equally worthy. It is so well-preserved because it was covered in mud for centuries. It had been a major seaport at the mouth of the Tiber and it is worth the ½-day trip!

    *The Capitoline Museums – I’ve wanted to make it to these museums ever since reading about MaiTaiTom’s visit here. I happened by on my way home from St. John Lateran, and decided to take the plunge. (Almost literally- haha. Just after I’d taken a picture of one of the lion fountains at the bottom of the Michelangelo-designed stairwell.. I turned to go up and suddenly felt a huge rush of cold water over my back and neck! A bunch of people started to laugh and I turned to see a very large seagull had awkwardly crash-landed into the font for a bath, giving me one, too! haha)

    I have to wonder why these two connected museums were so empty! It was June! And it was wonderful to be able to move so freely between rooms and exhibits!

    Favorites included the imposing bronze of Marcus Aurelius on horseback and the monstrously-large remains of what was once a colossal statue of Constantine. The head, a foot and a hand are exhibited. I cannot fathom how big that statue must have been. Maybe 60-80 feet? Crazy.

    The views from the rooftop terrace are worth the price, alone! And, though I did not eat there, there is a large café on that terrace. Covered, so sun will not be an issue. Next time!

    *Galleria Borghese - Believe it or not, this was my first visit. Unfortunately, marred by the ineptitude of the staff. My reservation was for 1pm. As you may know, the tickets are for a specific time period of 2 hours. That is all you get.

    Well, I arrived at 12:50 and got in line to pick up my ticket. When there were only about 10 people in front of me, the line stopped moving. Apparently, there was only one person handing out tickets and the man at the front of the line was unhappy about something. Either they didn’t have his reservation or ???, but they didn’t resolve it until 12:25!!

    I was so pissed! They didn’t even apologize and when I asked if we got to stay 25 extra minutes, they gave a firm, “No, you will have to leave at 3:00.” Crazy angry to the point of possibly not enjoying the gallery as much as I should have.

    I certainly enjoyed Daphne and Apollo. And much of the rest of the gallery- but could not get over my burning point on the reduced time and ineptitude of the staff to call in a manager, or ask the man to stand aside while the rest of us in line got our tickets!

    *Pantheon – I twice had lunch at a little outdoor café directly across from the Pantheon.. the food is pretty good, but the view is better. :)

    The Piazza della Rotonda, which sits in front of the Pantheon, is always a hotbed of activity. Lots going on, so people-watching while eating lunch is a favorite pastime.

    Rick Steves’ free download is 30 minutes and perfect for your tour inside the Pantheon.

    *Piazza Navona – Had lunch once and dinner once at outdoor cafes in the Piazza. Perfect weather. Again, food is more expensive, but the people-watching is unparalleled here. 

    I did not save receipts, but the better of the two was the first café on your right if you are entering the piazza from Corsia Agonale. Very good Bellini and pasta e fagiole. (The cheese on the cheese plate was good- but only came with ordinary bread. No crostini, no olive oil or honey, no fruit or jam. Boo!)

    *Piazza Venezia- Another hotbed of activity- but not the good kind. Haha. Everyone is moving through here to get to somewhere else.

    Certainly, you must see it for the Vittorio Emmanuel monument, and it does have the steps up to the Piazza del Campidoglio (and the Capitoline Museums).

    The shade on the east side of the VE monument is great in late afternoon. A cool breeze and a sit up on the higher marble benches is recommended for lazy reading or loafing or a gelato break.

    Of course, dozens and dozens of buses stop in this piazza or near it, as well as the #8 tram. There is also a taxi stand to your left-hand corner of the square (as you are facing the VE monument), should you simply get tuckered out and don’t want to fight for the bus lines! ;)

    *Piazza del Popolo – If you’re going to Santa Maria del Popolo, you can’t miss this massive piazza! Wonderful fountains, an obelisk and twin churches can all be seen here. Not to mention the sumptuous Pincio Gardens towering over the eastern side of the piazza. A nice place for that gelato break!

    *Spanish Steps – Now, this place never lacks for people and activity! You can refill your water bottle by treading out onto the platform of the fountain found at the base of the Spanish Steps. There is lots of shopping in this area and street vendors hawking roasted chestnuts, etc. Always seem to be horse carriages also waiting nearby for adventurous (and wealthier-than-I) tourists. 

    The signs indicate that eating on the steps is prohibited… but I saw lots of people doing it anyway.

    *Trevi Fountain (numerous times) – It needs to be said that just one visit here won’t do- You must see the fountain in both bright daylight and during the dark of night. It looks totally different at night.

    I always make a point of throwing my coins in on the last day in Rome. So far, it’s working beautifully! Hahah

    (fyi- best gelato in Rome is right there on the corner. Stand in front of the fountain. Turn right. Walk until you hit the corner of Via del Lavatore. Gelato place is on your left. Try the blackberry. Yummy! (Pay the cashier first- then go pick out your gelato!)

    *Area Sacra dell’Argentina (almost daily!) – Also known as the “Torre Argentina” or “Largo Argentina”. This site is home to what are believed to be the first temples in Rome. It is a sunken site, about one square city block. And it is the place I’d want to have the ceremony if ever I were to lose my mind and get married again. ;)

    Part of this site has been identified as the remains of the Curia of Pompey. It was here that the Senate met and where Julius Caesar was unceremoniously whacked by his friends and colleagues.

    As you all probably know by now, it is also an active cat sanctuary. It is quite interesting to see the kitties sleeping amongst these ancient ruins. The cat sanctuary is open to visitors most weekdays from noon til ?. The stairs are at the southwest corner. Please do stop in to support this non-profit. Make a donation or buy some adorable cat merchandise. They care for many ferals, feed them and vet them regularly. But many of the cats were dumped, so are quite social and appreciate a scritch under the chin from visitors.

    *Area Archeologica del Teatro di Marcello – This amphitheater looks like a Colosseum Junior. Though, it is quite large in its own right.

    What is most fascinating about this amphitheater is that it was used as a base for other buildings that were built over and around it in later centuries, as invasions happened and owners shifted. You can visibly see where other buildings were added to it based on different building styles and materials.

    It is behind the Synagogue on the east side of the Tiber. Well worth a visit. Nearby are the three pillars remaining of the Temple of Apollo.

    *Portico of Octavia – If you are seeking the amphitheater mentioned above, you can easily find it by heading out the back street from the Synagogue. But first, you will find this incredible ruin of the Portico of Octavia.

    It was built to honor the sister of Augustus Caesar (who also happened to be the wife Marc Antony deserted for one well-known Egyptian princess…).

    It is the only surviving remnant from the Circus Flaminius. Eventually, the area became well known for its fishmongers (being so close to the Tiber) and a church was erected in the Middle Ages. (Sant’Angelo in Pescheria, of course!) Definitely worth a visit!

    *Jewish Ghetto – I believe Rick Steves has a free download for this too, but I just wandered the neighborhood. Look for the fountain with the turtles- very whimsical. (Fontana della Tartarughe)

    *Jewish Museum and Synagogue- I was short on time this day, so did not actually get into the Synagogue itself. But I did tour the museum (overpriced at E10) and it’s amazing collection of Judaic artifacts.

    This is the “new” Synagogue, completed in 1904. I’m not sure where the old one is/was, but I believe it was on the west side of the Tiber. (Anyone?) There is also a small gift shop as you enter/exit the museum.

    *Vatican Museums – My nephew and I had 12:30 reservations for the museums. We left the apartment at 11:15, expecting to catch the Tram #8 to the Tiber, then the #23 bus to near the museum entrance.

    After waiting 10 minutes, we started seeing people leave the platform. A girl behind us was on her cell and told us there was a transit strike. (Dang me for not checking daily the website so graciously provided by KY to check on such things!)

    Well, I looked at my nephew and said, “We are right across the street from the train station. There will surely be taxis there.”

    We turned and went to step off the platform when a taxi pulled up at the red light, right in front of us. It was empty! I yelled, “TAXI!”. He shook his head yes, and off we were to the museums. Made it by 12:15! And only E12 to get there.

    Loved our visit, and of course the Sistine was packed to the gills. We did what any other self-respecting Fodorite would do, and we walked out with a large (and I must say, extremely well-behaved) tour group, to exit to St. Peter’s, while other visitors were whisked out the side door back to the museums. ;)

    *Scavi Tour at Vatican Excavations – We exited to St. Peter’s so we could avoid having to walk all the way back around for our 3pm Scavi tour. This worked out really well.

    As we were waiting with the other small group, the strike came up in conversation. We were told the strike would be on hold from 5-6pm so people could get home from work.

    I also mentioned to my nephew that my last Scavi tour was guided by a terrific Italian archeologist whose love for this place was apparent; that she made sure everyone could hear her and she was awesome. And who should show up as our guide???  You betcha! Awesome tour!

    (We made it onto the #64 bus at the river just after 5pm. We took that to the San Pietro train station and took the regional train back to Stazione Trastevere, right across the street from our apartment. Home before 6.)

    *Wednesday Papal Audience in St. Peter Square – Oh, where to start? First, when I was planning this move, I figured I’d have plenty of time to attend a Wednesday audience and see the new Pope. Second, when I was setting plans into motion, there was no indication from the Vatican website as to whether or not Francis would continue the Wednesday audiences.

    So, I realized (on Monday the 3rd ) that my last chance to attend an audience would be two days hence. I scoured the internet and knew I’d had to have a reservation at least two weeks in advance- and would have had to pick up those reserved tickets at Santa Susanna on Tuesday evening.

    I cannot say how I accomplished it, but I was able to get a ticket that afternoon. ;)

    That was pretty much where the good stuff ended. Hahaha

    On a previous visit (when Benedict had just recently been elected as Pope), we got to St. Peter’s at 8:30 am and there were hundreds of open chairs left for ticketholders.

    Alas, this Pope is like a superhero.. I arrived via taxi at 8:30 and the place was a madhouse. They had long ago run out of chairs and the security forces were letting absolutely everyone in to the square, after going through security.

    So my ticket pretty much became worthless at that point. (DO make note… if you are going, 7am is not too early. Six might be better! Take a book and plenty of water to drink!)

    I did manage to stake out a spot near a ramp railing, so at least had something to lean on for most of the morning. Mind you, the Pope does not appear until after 10am, and the actual event starts at 10:30! If you cannot stand that long, take a chair or plan on skipping it.

    I did manage to get a picture and a video of the Pope (20 feet away), without giving up my spot. Certainly, a very, very popular Pope!

    *Food- I did a lot of cooking for myself and nephew. Especially since I was still not feeling 100 percent upon arrival in Rome. However, I can recommend two spots new to me and one spot that is still my favorite place to eat in Italy!

    1) Pizzeria Taberna Piscinula (Piazza in Piscinula, 47/50)- Trastevere, near the river. Had lunch here. “Pasta of the day” was hand-made pasta in asparagus-cream sauce. Delish!
    2) The Ducate Café – On the southeast corner of the Torre Argentina. Unbelievably affordable and the food was delicious!

    I had a wonderful (and huge) Caesar salad with grilled chicken for about E9. Then decided on the zabaglione for dessert. Oh my!! Pure heaven for E5! Large enough for 2 to share. Smothering fresh strawberries, crumbled up cinnamon biscotti and mini-chocolate chips. Accompanied by cookie stuffed in the top. Yummy!!!!!!!! I’ll be back!

    Staff was nice and knowledgeable, if not overly friendly. Free wi-fi, too!

    3) My favorite restaurant in Italy, Il Chianti, sits just 2-minutes walk from the Trevi on Via del Lavatore, 81. I had lunch there my last day in Rome, under their shaded patio umbrellas.

    Started with an appetizer of two large chunks of the most incredible gorgonzola cheese, drizzled in chestnut honey and accompanied by perfectly-grilled crostini, also drizzled in honey. Seriously, TO DIE FOR!!! I’d kill for that right now! Followed that up with my favorite pasta, cacio e pepe. Wonderful! Staff is lovely, friendly, warm. Love this place.

    Link to pics maybe tomorrow! Hope you all enjoy what I've written!

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    Welcome back to Texas, sarge..

    I have enjoyed reading your report ,I must say that you did an excellent job describing the beautiful churches of my Bella Roma..

    I am glad that you enjoyed visiting the Basilica of San Giovanni..

    It used to be my church.

    My older two kids, my siblings and me were Baptized in San Giovanni.The Pope's Church.

    Waiting for the next sequel of your Rome's experience.

    I hope to go back in September..

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    Thank you for your report which I'm sure will be very helpful for people planning their visit to Rome. You certainly were able to get to a great many sites during your stay.

    I'm so glad you mentioned some of my favorites that are often overlooked like San Pietro in Vincoli with Michelangelo's Moses, one of his most powerful works. Also, Santa Maria della Vittoria for Bernini's St. Teresa in Ecstasy.

    And I hope many will take your recommendation to go up to the Piazza Campidoglio and visit the wonderful Capitoline Museum. I think this piazza is one of the most beautiful public spaces anywhere.

    I have followed your reports with great interest. Someday, I hope, you will have your extended stay in Rome with visits from grandchildren who will always remember your showing them "your" Rome.

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    thank you, Sarge, for sharing all of this with us. the details about the churches will certainly be very useful for future visitors.

    and though your trip was cut short, you were lucky to have 3 weeks in Rome in a row which is longer than many have managed, including me!

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    Wow! So much more to see and only one day in September! Going to take your advice and see the Trevi Fountain at night! How to choose from all the other things you mention that I've not yet had the pleasure of seeing...

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    Lovely report. We are hoping to return to Rome next year. Hopefully I'll remember to print your report asa a handy reference tool.

    I feel the same about Santa Maria in Trastevere, I like the look of your apartment and may look into renting it.

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    yes, bx, I'm back in my home. Albeit, sleeping on an air mattress until my new bed and mattress and living room furniture come. Frankly, I've got a card table and one chair, besides the air mattress right now. hahah

    But it's all good. Kitties home. Carpets cleaned in the three bedrooms and new hardwood being installed next week.

    New living room furniture arriving Saturday. Cable guy comes tomorrow. Whew!

    Just finishing pics. Link should be here tomorrow!

    Thx all!

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    Here are the pictures. Please click on "Slideshow" to better view pics and captions.

    Please let me know if this link doesn't work or if there are issues!

    Thanks, all. Hope you don't tire of all the beauty!

    http://sarge56initaly2013.shutterfly.com/pictures/9

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    Sarge - I was told you had recently moved briefly to Italy and then back to the States. I'm looking at relocating to Italy and am looking for some advice. Would I be able to talk to you about your experience?

    Thank you

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    I'm glad this thread came back to the top because it gave me a chance to view your fabulous pictures. Now I want to do a "church tour" of Rome! What wonderful memories you must have, despite the other issues on the trip. I think my favorite shot is the one of the wildflowers at the forum. Beautiful. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!

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    msteacher - there was a thread [in fact several] by a fodorite who was cataloguing all of Rome's churches but the last time I looked for it I couldn't find it.

    anyone else remember those threads?

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