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Europeannovice Expands to Italy-Rome-Florence-Sorrento-Rome

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Aug 12th, 2018, 07:02 AM
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Europeannovice Expands to Italy-Rome-Florence-Sorrento-Rome

After a few medical issues temporarily resolved, got clearance to go on this trip we had been planning for well over a year. Finally, departure day arrives and DH and I get to the airport on time but flight was delayed due to a mechanical difficulty. We were told that they needed to taxi the plane to the gate but we all clearly saw the plane on the tarmac. We knew something was off when the entire flight crew left the area and went over to the coffee bar. Once we boarded an hour and a half later, the pilot announced that they needed a part and they needed to test the part before the plane could take off. Comforting.

Landing was late due to the late start but we finally landed at FCO airport. Immigration line was tremendous at least an hour long wait where it seemed there was no air conditioning. There were many desks but only 3 operators at the desks and many flights had arrived at the same time including our late one. Once we passed through immigration, we went to the luggage carousel and we only saw one bag. The same pieces of luggage rotated a few times and our other luggage was nowhere in sight. I asked in Italian if the attendant spoke English and he ignored me. I wanted to know if and how we would file a lost luggage claim. The carousel was already unloading the next flight's luggage. Luckily, my husband decided to look around and spotted our luggage on the floor near the exit door. Someone had removed our luggage from the carousel and did not replace it when they realized the luggage was not theirs! Finally all luggage accounted for and off to find our taxi driver. She was patiently waiting for us at the arrival area even though we were many hours delayed. The airport experience was not very welcoming but our taxi driver was extremely pleasant and even recommended some local eateries we should try while in Rome.

Given our many hours long delay, our room was actually ready upon arrival. We freshened up and first order of business was to get an Italian SIM card before the store closed. On our way we stopped and visited Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore which is known as the Pope’s Church and was founded in the 4th Century. You go through airport style security as this Church is heavily guarded. The insides of the Church are beautiful with lots of gold in the ceilings and 5th Century mosaics. Wow!

Sim card in hand and being hungry and tired we had our first dinner in Italy which consisted of Caprese Salad, Minestrone soup, Salmon, and Sorrento Lemon Cake. Delicious for our first meal in Italy. Then off to an early bedtime.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 07:09 AM
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Ah yes FCO's delights have to be experienced to be believed. Welcome to Italy.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 07:40 AM
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I am on board for this trip, europeannovice!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 08:54 AM
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Agree Bilboburgler--FCO is definitely an experience! It must be a test. If you can get through that then you can manage other glitches than come along the way during the trip with ease.

Thanks TDudette for the encouragement.

First full day in Rome. If you have read our past trip reports you will know that we tend to overdo our days in order to maximize what we see. We usually need a vacation after the end of our vacation! Since we don't know when we will be able to return, we try to accomplish as much as we can while we are there.Given that premise here it goes...

We had a full American/English Breakfast buffet at the hotel rather than the typical Italian coffee and cornetto. The breakfast consisted of freshly squeezed orange juice from blood oranges in season while we were there—so sweet and delicious along with other fruit juices available, home baked breads, cold cuts, hard boiled eggs, cereal, pastries, yogurt, frittatas, scrambled eggs, potatoes, bacon, sausage, baked beans, and salad. Cappuccino and Americano coffee were served along with special cheeses and pastries brought out by the staff.

The orange juice from the blood oranges were only present for a few days and when asked about it I was told it was quickly out of season. If it is not in season, you don’t get it anymore. They only serve fruits and vegetables which are in season. I think that is great. No processed foods like here in the states.

Once fortified with this wonderful assortment, we headed out to Palazzo Massimo one of 4 National State Museums. On the top floor of Palazzo Massimo is Livia’s painted garden frescoes which to me were more striking than Monet’s water lilies at the Orangerie Museum in Paris. Livia was the wife of Emperor Augustus and these dining room walls were painted in 30-20 B.C. The vibrancy of the colors still visible today is amazing. The frescoes include beautiful birds, fruit and flowers in a serene setting and the fence appears three dimensional. The room housing the frescoes was empty so it was nice to appreciate it without any crowds. On the same floor are fantastic mosaics each one so beautiful with such fine craftsmanship. We happened upon a Canadian visitor who was traveling by himself and we took each other's pictures with the beautiful mosaics in the background. The rest of the museum has marble figure heads of different emperors and in the lower level there is a wonderful exhibit of Roman coins throughout the centuries which my DH really enjoyed. The exhibit shows how the coins were made with silver and also with gold. Many display cases were present exhibiting coins throughout the centuries. We both loved this museum and was surprised how few visitors were present. It was really nice to enjoy it without the crowds but this museum certainly deserves more attention than it gets. In the courtyard were orange trees with oranges falling off the trees.

After a couple of hours at the Palazzo Massimo we left and found Church Santa Maria di Vittoria which has the famous Bernini statue the Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. The statue was under scaffolding for some restoration but you can still see the statue just not in all its glory. There are plenty of more Bernini to come.

Our next stop was supposed to be Villa Guila for the National Etruscan Museum but we became lost. We stopped into Hotel Eden to look at the magnificent hotel. The lobby alone is gorgeous. I had to use the restroom so they let me and the concierge helped us find an excellent stop for lunch. She also gave us instruction on how to find the top of the Spanish Steps. She specifically told us not to go down the steps if we wanted to continue onto Villa Guila later.

Lunch was at Valdimiro. Many local businessmen were eating there so it was not really touristy. We shared a fried artichoke appetizer and then also shared stewed veal with artichokes. We wanted a little meal to give us some energy but we were still relatively full from breakfast so we shared the appetizer and main course. It was the tail end of artichoke season and thank goodness we were able to have some wonderful artichokes this week.

We followed the hotel concierge’s instructions and managed to find the top of the Spanish Steps. They were beautifully decorated with gorgeous azaleas. They are just a series of terraced steps and lots of them with many many people about but they are made beautiful with the pretty flowers in bloom. The most annoying aspect of the Spanish Steps were the rose peddlers all over the place. I had no less than four guys trying to give me a flower and each time I had to wave them away.

Moving on we found the entrance to Villa Borghese which is a huge green oasis in the city. We strolled through managing to also find the Pincio Promenade with a gorgeous view of Rome. Since it was Rome’s Birthday on this day and it was close to Earth Day there was an outdoor concert going on at the Promenade. We stopped here for a little while. Many families were out in the park enjoying the day.

Then we exited the park passing through Piazza del Popolo with its obelisk flanked by two smaller churches on either side as well as lion fountains too. This is quite a busy place with people passing to and from. We proceeded to walk up Via Flaminia and to our destination the Villa Guila, a 16th century palace, housing the National Etruscan Museum. By now it was about 4PM or 5PM.

When we arrived, there were many people in the covered courtyard. I thought the place might be closed for a private party. However, we were surprisingly given a zero-fee entry ticket and an invitation to join the party and have a complimentary glass of wine. It was Rome’s Birthday after all! The museum itself was relatively empty since most folks were in the courtyard. We got to see some of the few remaining artifacts of the Etruscan people. We saw the Sarcophagus of the Spouses. We had seen another copy of this sarcophagus at the Louvre in Paris on a prior trip. This museum has quite a collection of the Etruscan civilization which predated the Roman empire. It was nice to admire the art and artifacts in an uncrowded space. We spent about 2 hours in the museum. It was really nice to visit two museums that were amazing but completely uncrowded. Neither of these two museums are usually on a first visitor radar but based on my extensive research prior to our trip we knew we wanted to cover them and were so glad we did!

We walked back down Via Flaminia and through Piazza del Popolo again to Via Rippeta to Ad Hoc. I had made dinner reservations at Ad Hoc one of the best reviewed Rome restaurants listed on trip advisor. It has a Michelin star. This was the one fancy meal of the trip. The restaurant is small and is decorated to look like a wine cellar with many bottles and corks on display. They served some bread with a delicious olive oil. I had of course the special artichoke tasting menu that evening which consisted of fried artichoke appetizer, pasta with artichoke, ham and parmesan cheese and for a main course lamb stuffed with artichokes. My DH had a house smoked salmon, vermicelli with salmon and cheese, and sea bass fillet. For dessert we had a tiramisu. Of course, this was all paired with some red wine. At the end of the evening they gave us a bottle of olive oil to take home. We were stuffed and tired so we asked the hostess to call us a cab and we took the taxi back to our hotel. First full day in Italy.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 11:05 AM
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Oh please keep this going! DH and I also tried to see way more than time permitted. The U.S. could take some ‘in season’ food lessons fer sure. We missed Palazzo Massimo but St Maria de la Vittoria was still un-scaffolded. Amazing Bernini! Did you get into the Borghese without a reservation?? Brava! Your Ad Hoc meal sounded wonderful!

More soon, per favore!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 11:47 AM
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Hi TDudette--That day we just walked through the park Villa Borghese enroute to Villia Guila for the National Etruscan Museum and happened upon the Pincio Promenade. The park was teaming with families enjoying the day. It really is a lovely oasis in the middle of the city. The Gallery Borghese we had reservations for later in the week. More on that to follow with many more Bernini's! Yes Ad Hoc was a highlight meal for sure!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 12:39 PM
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Well you certainly packed a lot into your first day. I'm pleased to read a TR from people who understand the importance of eating you keep yourselves going - well that was always my excuse. Sounds like you had great route planned too, and i love the way that the staff at good hotels will go out of their way to help non residents - they are playing the long game.

looking forward to reading more.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 01:24 PM
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we headed out to Palazzo Massimo one of 4 National State Museums. On the top floor of Palazzo Massimo is Livia’s painted garden frescoes which to me were more striking than Monet’s water lilies at the Orangerie Museum in Paris.

On my most recent trip to Rome I finally made it to Palazzo Massimo. I agree with you--fantastic museum and blissfully uncrowded. Livia's garden is so beautiful and I love how they have set it up with the changing light.

Enjoying your report!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 03:43 PM
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Annhig--We loved eating in Italy! From the pasta and pizza, wine and gelato--it was all so so good. And breakfast at the hotel in Rome was really really good and plentiful.

Leely2--Yes, we really enjoyed the quiet solitude of Palazzo Massimo and the treasures within--they were so amazing!

Day 2--This day in the city there were scheduled parades etc. so I planned for us to venture out of the city. While the day before we walked everywhere, this day we took taxis everywhere. Rather than dealing with public transport, we took a taxi to Villa de Este. We used more taxis in Rome than anywhere else we traveled but they were efficient and not too expensive. Most of the time we walked all around Rome but at night after dinner we took a taxi if it was too far to walk back after a long day or for this day we used taxis multiple times to get us from point A to point B.

We started off with a visit to Villa d’Este to see the Villa and more importantly the gorgeous fountains. We made sure to be by the pipe organ for the 10:45AM music played by the water fountains. The fountains are stunning and they varied in size. Cardinal Este was mad he did not become Pope and decided to purchase land to build a mansion and create these fountains which controlled the flow of the water supply into Rome. This gave him powers over the city. It took us about two hours to walk the grounds and discover all the fountains.

From there we visited Aqueduct Park with the remnants of the aqueducts that was the source of Rome’s water supply. This was on DH list of sights he wanted to see. The Park is in a residential area and there were many families riding bikes and setting up picnics for the day. What a great sight. We were getting hungry so we walked a bit where we had our first Italian pizza. This one was called Italiano pizza, a long pizza slice which is cut to your liking and sold by weight to determine cost. This is not the round pizza but more like a Sicilian slice. Two slices of pizza and a fresh squeezed carrot and ginger smoothie cost 7 euro. Great deal for lunch.

We then called for another taxi pickup and was whisked over to the Appian Way and the Catacombs of San Calisto. The guide explained the history of the catacombs and we were able to walk through and see some of the frescoes. Such interesting history.

Final taxi of the day we asked for the driver to take us to Janiculum Hill. I read that this area has one of the best views of the entire city of Rome and it sure does! Here is the monument for Italy’s unification and a gorgeous fountain that is completely uncrowded. When we arrived at the top terrace for the gorgeous views, there was a group of people dressed in period costume performing dances to celebrate Italy’s unification. That was a nice added bonus.

We used google maps and directions to make our long walk back. We stopped along the way at the Pantheon which was still allowing visitors inside. The line appeared long but it moved rather quickly. We entered but it was really crowded inside. The marble is beautiful. The oculus in the middle provides light for the church and based on the location of the shadows you can tell the time of day. The building is a perfect sphere. Hadrian had it built. What a marvelous structure but the intense crowds make it a little difficult to fully enjoy.

We walked passed the Trevi Fountain but it was way too crowded to get near anything so we kept walking back toward our hotel and to get dinner.

This time we shared a smoked salmon, DH had the fettucine and chicken pasta, I had a veal chop and we shared an apple strudel. Another exhausting full day but we accomplished a great deal and was away from the city parades with its throngs of people for most of the day.
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Aug 12th, 2018, 04:03 PM
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Enjoying your TR very much! Thanks!
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Aug 12th, 2018, 05:18 PM
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Yes, me too Loving the detail and I'm taking lots of notes for our upcoming trip
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Aug 13th, 2018, 10:59 AM
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You are tiring me out! LOL.
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Aug 13th, 2018, 03:26 PM
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I am tired writing it but we weren't that exhausted while exploring. The taxis helped us see more things that day than we would be able to trying to get from point A to point B via public transport and most of the things were all out of the city centre. I didn't want to be in the city that day because any typical tourist site would probably have been even more crowded than usual plus I wanted to avoid being near the scheduled parades etc. So it was a good day to explore the lessor known sights but the ones that interested us doing my extensive research.

A side note--we stopped by the local convenience store for water but had to be careful. Originally I picked up a pack of acqua frizzante which is sparkling water when I really wanted acqua naturale. Since restaurants charge for water as well, I became adept at asking for acqua naturale por fovere!

Seeing the aqueduct ruins tied in nicely with the trip over to Villa de' Este.

Day 3-Rome--Colosseum/Forum/Palatine Hill, Baths of Caracalla and some Churches Along the Way.

For the Colosseum I booked an underground tour. I think tour guides are very helpful to explain in depth what it is we are looking at. Otherwise we can read about it but when viewing it, it will look like a pile of rocks. What does this rock mean vs. the other? The guide can shed some light on these things. We had an 8:30AM tour and had to meet the guide at 8:15AM. We were able to walk from our hotel to the meeting point and this was part of the fun too. We walked down a residential street where people were carrying on their everyday lives. The garbage truck men were picking up the garbage. A couple of parents were walking their little kids to school. A woman was rushing off to work in high heels. How she can walk on those high heels and cobblestones must be a talent. This was a fun block to explore and then suddenly at the end of the block there it is...the iconic Colosseum sticking out across a busily trafficked road. Wow!

The underground tour allows in a certain number of visitors at a time to the restricted area--I think only 125 vs. the 3,000 that the Colosseum can handle. We go through airport style security again. The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian Amphitheater, was built by Emperor Vespasian to control the population. Construction began in 72 AD and was finished in 80 AD. If you are good to the emperor, you get to eat well at these events and see a spectacle for free. If you are not loyal to the emperor then you will be on the floor being the main attraction in the arena. The gladiators were often slaves, or prisoners. They started the morning events with the animals and once an animal was slaughtered it was fed to the people in the afternoon. The women and the poor were placed at the top but they had a really good view of all of Rome and they were away from the dust and dirt of the animals below. They had a sophisticated pulley system to transport the animals and gladiators from the underground area to the arena floor. The Colosseum had 80 entrances in order to fill and empty the amphitheater quickly. It was used for entertainment for over three hundred years. The Colosseum was damaged by earthquakes over the centuries. Most of the collapsed travertine used to build the Colosseum was later used to build other palaces and churches in the area. Sometimes they would flood the Colosseum in order to put on a water show. It also served to clean the Colosseum too.

After the visit to the iconic Colosseum, we walked over to the church called San Pietro in Vincoli or St Peter in Chains. In this church are the chains said to bound St Peter. In addition, a Michelangelo marble statue of Moses is in this church. The detailing in the marble is truly amazing. The horns on Moses head is supposed to represent rays of light. He is seated holding the ten commandments. Michelangelo completed this statue after he painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

We made another stop to Basilica San Clemente which is actually three churches built one on top of the other. At the bottom level is a 1st Century Roman Villa, then atop a 2nd Century Mithra church, followed by a 4th century church and then finally the top layer representing an 11th century Basilica. Very interesting indeed.

We grabbed a quick lunch at a cafeteria style counter where locals often go to eat a quick meal if they don’t have time for a large sit-down lunch. We had vegetables mixed with rice, a rice ball, and of course an artichoke. This was followed by a gelato of course. I tried a few flavors and pistachio was clearly my favorite. From then on, I only order pistachio.

Next stop was the Baths of Caracalla or Terme di Carcalla which was the city’s second largest public bath house. It is all ruins now but what a story behind the imposing structure. Men and woman had separate changing areas. They entered into the tepidarium or warm water area. After that they went into the caldarium or hot water bath where the water was heated with coals and it would feel like a steam room, then finally the frigidarium to close the pores. The baths were more like a country club with a library and an exercise room for the wealthy classes. However, all classes of people took baths. This was good for sanitary reasons.

After the baths we took a nice leisurely walk back to the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum passing by the Circus Maximus enroute. It was late afternoon so by then the huge swarms of crowds had dissipated. We got to see where the wealthy built their homes up on the hill. The Roman Forum was the political and economic center. We saw the area of the vestal virgins who were supposed to not let the flames go out. We saw the three major surviving arches. The arch of Titus built in 82AD commemorates his victories including his sacking of Jerusalem and causing the diaspora of the Jewish people in 70AD. The arch of Septimus Severus was built in 203AD. Septimus Severus was the father of Geta and Caracalla. Caracalla had his brother killed so he could take over and rule by himself without his brother’s involvement. Finally, the arch of Constantine built in 312 AD.

We still had a little energy left so we visited the Trajan Market and Imperial Forum which was the first shopping mall of its day. Now it is a museum with some interesting exhibits.

Dinner consisted of a shared artichoke, I had a pear and arugula salad and house special ravioli, DH had a Greek salad and gnocci shaped into little balls. Yum! Gelato for dessert. I figured we walked enough to earn two gelato in one day.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 04:31 AM
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Are these posts too long and boring or just about right? I try to include as much detail as possible to help others in their planning as I was helped by the many posts on here in doing my research.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 05:30 AM
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The reports are very interesting! Thanks!
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Aug 14th, 2018, 07:56 AM
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reports are fine, the right length and interesting

" acqua del rubinetto" does fine for me and you will have noticed that many of the fountains have blue stickers on them which means they are drinkable, just fill up your bottle, by the way the "here" app map also indicates where potable water is available with a pretty little fountain icon
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Aug 14th, 2018, 08:12 AM
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Yes we did see many running fountains and tasted the water too to fill up our water bottles. We saw our first one when walking up toward Villa Giula on the first full day. I didn't know about the app. Good to know for a future trip.
We used google maps and walking directions to help us navigate around without getting too lost.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 11:21 AM
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<<" acqua del rubinetto" does fine for me and you will have noticed that many of the fountains have blue stickers on them which means they are drinkable, just fill up your bottle, by the way the "here" app map also indicates where potable water is available with a pretty little fountain icon>>

so far as I know all of the water fountains in Rome are potable Bilbo; I've never found one that said it wasn't. I remember being in the Forum and some poor French child was being berated by its irate parent for drinking from the fountain, which was very sad.

europeannovice - your posts are great and I'm loving the detail. I can't but admire your energy - the Colosseum, San Pietro in Vincoli and Basilica San Clemente all before lunch is pretty impressive.
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Aug 14th, 2018, 11:22 AM
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Day 4- Rome and Bernini

We got up super early had a quick breakfast and headed over to the Trevi Fountain when there were so few people at the base and we can actually get near it to throw in our coins to ensure a future visit to Rome! We had wanted to visit Doria Pahmphilij but it was not open yet and we had other museums planned for the day anyway so we have to wait to see that private collection another time. Rome wasn't built in a day--can't see it all. We passed by the Victor Emmanuel Monument. That monument is huge and is not the same color marble as the rest of Rome. While the rest of Rome has a golden color to its travertine and marble, this is stark white. It is often called the typewriter or wedding cake and I understand it is not loved by locals.

Our next stop was the Capitoline Museum at the Piazza del Campidoglio. We had to wait for it to open. The museum is housed in two buildings, the Palazzo dei Conservatori and the Palazzo Nuovo Capitoline. In between the two buildings is the tabularium which is like a collection of census depicting residents ages and professions. The terrace of the tabularium has the best view overlooking the Roman Forum. This museum has some great sculpture and artifacts. We saw Lo Spinario, the boy digging the splinter out of his foot, we saw the Hall of Triumphs, the Lupa Capitolina—she wolf bronze statue with Romulus and Remus underneath, we saw the Statue of Marcus Aurelius, the wonderful Hall of Tapestries, the famous Bust of Medusa and the Hall of Geese.

Over at the Palazzo Nuovo Capitoline we saw the Venus ;Dying Gaul; and the mosaic of the Doves in the Hall of the Doves.

We then walked around a bit and saw the Bernini Turtle Fountain and stopped for a nice leisurely lunch.


Later that afternoon, we had a Borghese Gallery 5PM reservation since this museum limits crowds with two-hour timed tickets and we had the last time slot of the day. My goodness how gorgeous are these statues! Bernini is everywhere. I loved his Baroque marble sculpture of David. A stark contrast to Michelangelo’s famous Renaissance David in Florence who is poised to pose as a statue. This Bernini version is ready for action. In Bernini’s Pluto and Proserpina you can see his hand digging into her flesh and this is made out of marble. The Bernini Apollo and Daphne is another stunning piece. Daphne tired of being pursued by Apollo asked Zeus to turn her into a tree and the sculpture shows this metamorphosis. The two busts of Cardinal Borghese is also on display. The Cardinal did not like Bernini’s first version and made him do another one. Both are on display at the museum.

In addition to sculpture, the museum houses some great Caravaggios and Raphael’s. Caravaggio always paints with a dark background showing his depression through his art.

After two hours in the museum, it was nice to walk through the Villa Borghese over to our dinner at Osteria Barberini. We had a salad of mozzarella, carrots, lettuce, tomatoes, and olives. We had veal and arugula with a side of spinach drizzled with lemon and olive oil and cheesecake for dessert. It was all so delicious.

Next Up--Rome in the Morning and Florence in the Afternoon
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Aug 14th, 2018, 12:13 PM
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Annhig--We had to work around opening and closing times. The churches all closed for a lunch period and the Baths that day were closing early as well so we had to optimize the time to visit the churches before lunch. Luckily we had the first reservation at the Colosseum so it was definitely an early start to the day.
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