A week in Rome May 2013
We took a two week Sorrento/Rome vacation in May this year. This was our first trip to Italy and I wanted to share our thoughts and experience.
Taxi Trip: We arrived at Termini station and found the taxi stand and gave our hotel name which caused a huddle of the taxi drivers at the front of the line. Eventually they called a driver from the back of the line and handed us off to him. In our experience this is a sure sign that our destination was close. We took off into busy traffic and we were amazed at the buildings as we sped around. We were just gawking around like first time tourists until we passed a sign to the Coosseum but it was in the opposite direction from where we were heading. We fired up our hand held GPS unit and commented that we could see where we were and immediately we were at the hotel. Later in the week we discovered a direct route from Termini to our hotel and we could have easily walked. Having said that the ride only cost us 15 euro and we enjoyed the impromptu tour which was a fun way to start.
Our hotel: We stayed at Domus Ciancaleoni, hidden down a small alley on the Esqualine hill. It has several apartments on two levels all hidden away behind an imposing door leading to the street. It was perfectly situated no more than a 5 minute walk to Monti Square and then another 5 minutes to the Colosseum. In fact it was perfectly located to easily walk to just about everything in the old city area. About a half hour after we arrived the reception clerk knocked on our door and took us on a familiarization tour around the neighborhood. That was a good idea. Once left on our own we walked to the Colosseum to spot the meeting point for our Walks of Italy tour the next day. We circled the Colosseum, Constantine’s arch then past the Imperial Forum and walked up to the monument of Victor Emmanual. Finding the hotel from a different orientation was exciting but eventually we got back. It was a good exercise because we never had a problem finding the hotel again.
Dinner experience; We decided to walk down to Monti square and it was just packed with people and all the Restaurants were full so we stopped in to a little bar with tables open. This was a mistake. Lesson learned, if there are tables open when every restaurant around is full there is a reason for that. From that point on we decided to wait for a table at a busy restaurant. The wine was good, I guess that makes sense.
First day hiccup. The next day we had time to kill before our Walks of Italy Colosseum tour so we headed out to local shops for groceries. It is fun finding all these little green grocers shops in the neighborhood.
When we returned to the apartment our landlady Sylvia was standing waiting for us quite agitated, as Walks of Italy(WOI) had called her asking where we were. Our tour was first thing in the morning, not the afternoon. I am afraid I have to take the blame for that one as it was on our schedule correctly. Sylvia called WOI and a long somewhat agitated conversation in Italian began. When it was over Sylvia said you are booked on the afternoon tour on Wed. Apparently WOI made a space for because Sylvia told them she is a top rated hotel and if they took her to lunch she would start recommending them to her guests. Now that is going beyond the call of duty.
The rest of the day we decided to see if we could find the Pantheon. The rest of this report is pretty much going to be me just marveling at all the incredible sites in Rome so I will try to be brief. We loved the Pantheon and spent an hour there. We then went to Piazza Navona. It is beautiful and we spent a good hour there just taking it all in particularly the buildings and the fountains.
We walked back to the Pantheon where we had seen a sign for Trevi Fountain so we started to walk that direction but soon found the church St Ignazio di Loyala, built in 1606. After seeing the statues at Piazza Navona we thought nothing could be as good as those but we were wrong, this church was spectacular and it was our favourite until we got to the Vatican. Afterwards we found the Trevi Fountain just before sunset so we settled in with the crowds to enjoy the moment.
Three tours with Walks of Italy. We did the Crypt and Bones, Colosseum Underground and the Vatican tour. I have to admit that as a rule I do not like guided tours but we booked these tours because this was our first visit to Rome and they seemed to pack a lot in. Best was they have very small groups with a maximum of 12 people, although there were 14 of us on the Colosseum tour. The guides were great, very knowledgeable but were casual and had fun. They had stories, acted out mini dramas and answered all questions. The highlights were: getting into the underground and top levels of the Collosseum. The Vatican was remarkable but we were very happy that our tour got us into the Sistene Chapel an hour before the general public could enter. We were able to stop and study the chapel with no more than 100 people maximum. Later when we returned, we realized how crowded it is with everyone in there. That extra hour was worth the additional cost of the tour.
Lastly, the Crypts and Bones tour. The Catacombs were amazing, there was such a sense of peace there and the overriding theme was the promise of the resurrection. The highlight was San Clemente. It is a 12th century church at street level. Apparently the Abbott could hear water and began to excavate and discovered the church was built on top of a 4th century church. However they could still hear the water and eventually discovered both churches had been built on top of a Roman apartment complex. Eventually they discovered the water still flowing through this first level of buildings. We were able to walk through all three levels although no pictures were allowed.
Campo De Fiori I do love open air markets, and this one is very special. The produce was so fresh and displayed as if an engineer was in charge. We loaded up on groceries and a bunch of kitchen gadgets for our kids. I spent the whole time taking photographs.
I think if we return to Rome we would probably want to find an apartment here, we felt like it was home and was so close to Trastevere where dining prices were closer to our budget than in the centre.
Here are images of our Roman adventure.
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A week in Rome May 2013