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Trip Report Trip Report - Nukesafe in Italy and France in October

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I have been home for a few days, now, have my inbox mostly cleared and can now do a short trip report for all of those Fodorites who helped me so much in my planing.

In short, we flew Delta out of Seattle to Rome on an open jaw flight, spent a week in Rome, took the Eurostar to Florence for three days, Eurostar to Venice, for two days and then to Paris for five days before leaving CDG back to Seattle. We closed the Venice - Paris jaw with a flight on MyAir, an Italian cheapo airline.

My Dear Wife (DW) and I traveled with her sister (SIL), and decided to go the apartment route so SIL could have her own bedroom without the cost of two hotel rooms. That worked well, with a few exceptions; of which more later.

The weather in Rome was outstanding! Not a drop of rain, clear days and nights, with the
temperatures in the mid 70s. We did all of the usual things, and saw the usual sights, interspersed with frequent Gelato stops. Our apartment was within five minutes of Campo di Fiori, at Piazza Monte de Pieta, so we were within walking distance of most of the sights, and close to a central bus stop at the cat sanctuary/ruins, where Corso Vittorio Emanuele II and Via Argentina cross. The express #40 bus stops there for a quick ride to the metro station at Termini, and the trams take one South on Argentina.

We got in on Saturday evening and, not wanting to crash too soon, followed Rick Steves suggested evening stroll of the sites up to the Trevi Fountain (Stop sneering! It was a lovely walk on a crowded Saturday evening through the Piazza Navona where a rock concert was going on.)

Early next morning we strolled over the Ponte Sisto down to the Sunday morning flea market
near the Porta Portese. Had we known, we could have easily taken the tram down, but the walk was great, as was the incredible flea market. It was huge, and varied. I might as well confess that DW and I are Garage Sale Fanatics, so this was a sort of busman’s holiday for us. SIL enjoyed it
too, even though she does not share our addiction. I should note that we later went to the highly touted flea market in Paris at Cligancourt, only to find it a seedy disappointment, by comparison.

The Rome Pass was a very good investment. We rode both the busses and Metro a lot, as well as planning our gallery visits to make the first two big ticket entrances the freebies; the Borghese and the Colosseum. We also did Ostia Antica, and a host others that are starting to blur into a memory of thousands and thousands of marble steps. Is it just my imagination, or is the whole of Italy built uphill?

Two restaurants deserve mention. One we found while wandering away from the Trevi Fountain in search of an ATM. The sign outside simply said “Grill and Wine”, at Via Arciare, 74. The service was casual, yet practiced, the presentation was spectacular, with entrees brought to the table in large, elaborately decorated, wine glasses, and then served. There was a girl singer/piano
player that sang and played popular Italian tunes. She had an incredible range, from sounding like a diva, to Satchmo. Bill for the three of us - me being the only big eater/drinker in the crowd - was €78.

The second restaurant was Alfredo’s. I have to explain this one at some length for you to see why we went there. DW had been there some 42 years ago on a trip with girlfriends when she was in college. Alfredo (Actually, the original Alfredo’s son, in 1964, Alfredo II) made much of the girls (Women, sorry!) and gave DW a souvenir menu, which he signed with a suitable sentiment.

DW had kept the menu, and when she saw in the Washington Post that Alfredo’s grandson was
coming to the Ritz Carlton Hotel in D.C. to demonstrate Fettuccini Alfredo, in 1982. We of course had to go, I was informed in no uncertain terms. DW took the menu and told her story to Alfredo III and showed him the signed menu. He was charming, and prepared the noodles himself for her. He then let her eat them, using the engraved gold spoons given to his Father by Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Mary Pickford.

DW of course insisted that we go back to Alfredo’s when in Rome, and brought her twice-signed menu. Unfortunately, Alfredo III was not in the restaurant that night. However, the head waiter had accompanied him on his trip to D.C. , and swore he remembered DW (He lies most charmingly, as many Italians do.). He made much of DW, stirred up the noodles himself, and let her, again, eat
with the gold fork and spoon. He also inscribed the now a bit tattered menu once again.

I had a very happy wife that evening. I swear she floated back to the apartment, even full of Fettuccini Alfredo!

The only sour note in our Roman sojourn, was the apartment we rented. It was called
“Apartment Piazza Monte Di Pieta” in the listing, and said it was on the “First Floor”, which we took to mean the U.S. second floor. It turned out that it was actually on the second (European) floor. No big deal, but after all those marble steps, the last flight of stairs were a (literal) pain.
The second, and more important bit of false advertizing was the “second bedroom”. It was
described as a “single bedroom with a French bed”. As we arrived, the maid was making up the sofa bed in the living room. “No”, we said, “My SIL will sleep in the small, separate, bedroom.”

It turned out that the hallway, through which we had entered, was in fact the second, really tiny, bedroom. It did not have a “French bed” in it, but a very small sofa bed. When that was opened one way, the small wardrobe would not open, and if opened in the other direction, one could not get out of the entry door in tht room. It seems the key to the main entry into the living room had been broken off in the lock some time before, and that entrance could not be used. We called the owner, and she said that she had planned to call a locksmith after we had left to fix the lock, but she “would see what she could do, if we could live with it for a brief time”.

Needless to say, we never heard from her again and she never returned our many phone calls during the week. SIL had to put up with us marching past her bed if we wanted to get in or out while she was still sleeping, and having to partially collapse the bed every time she wanted into her wardrobe. Not an ideal situation, camping out on her first trip to Rome.

Other than that, the apartment was well located, clean, quiet, and well equipped.

A couple of other things I should mention about our Rome stay. One is the trip to Ostia Antica. It was well worth while. The trip on the metro and train was simple and pleasant, and roaming through the uncrowded ruins was a delight. I got a couple of lovely photos of DW and SIL, emoting in the ancient theater. (They are both actresses, with more than a bit of ham thrown in.)

One minor glitch was the lack of a audio guide for the site. It was mentioned by another Fodorite some time ago, but he thought it might be only temporary. Seems it is permanent. The folks at the ticket kiosk said they knew of no plans to bring them back. I then asked for English guidebooks. Nope, they had none of those either. Italian, German, and French, but no English
available. Would have made the visit more enjoyable and informative with a guide book of some sort.

The other thing was the Vatican. Wow! What a cash cow that thing must be for the church! We went in the late afternoon, as had been suggested by others and, indeed, found the line only about a couple of hundred yards long. The line moved fast, and our waiting time was no more than 20 minutes. Once inside, however, it was like cattle being herded down a chute to slaughter! Rushing past treasures I know must be worth examining to be smashed into the Cistine Chapel,
elbow to elbow, is not my idea of a spiritual experience. I cannot imagine how it must be in the Summer when it is really crowded and hot as well. We left the chapel through the door on the right at the rear – the one marked “Reserved for Large Groups Only”. That led us directly into the entrance to St. Peters, which was a delightful experience, comparatively.

That’s enough for now. I’ll continue this report later.

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