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Finally in Italy for the holidays - installment report

Finally in Italy for the holidays - installment report

Old Dec 20th, 2014, 01:59 PM
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Finally in Italy for the holidays - installment report

I've been planning this trip for what seems like forever, and I thought it would be a nice thing to try to give a report regarding each day that would be informative and a journal of sorts for us. I'm already behind. We've been gone from home for 2 days.

to set the scene, we are parents of 2 daughters - 12 and 17. We are traveling to Rome first for a week, then a quick visit to Pompeii, another week in Montepulciano and flying out of Milan.

So the trip over on lufthansa was interesting - my 12 year old was amazed with the in flight enterrtainment system -- "you mean I can watch all these movies for free?" as a result, she stayed up most of the flight - I slept for a few hours as did the rest of the family. It was an 8 hour flight. She was a bit tired - to say the least. We had a layover in Dusseldorf before our final flight to Rome. After arriving in Dusseldorf, there was a bit of confusion on the plane - clearly someeone was ill - we had arrived at the gate, but the flight crew called for a doctor to the front of the plane and all passengers were kept on board for about 15 minutes. Eventually, the exodus began and what a rush of people!

In my haste and fatigue, I forgot to check under the seat to make sure i had everything. About an our later, when I asked my husband for my new Nikon Dslr camera that had been my birthday gift - he said "I gave it to you." Oh no...it had been left on the plane. I honestly thought I'd be sick I had such a lump in my stomach. And we only had 40 minutes until our next flight - I first tried to get back to the plane gate - no luck - no valid ticket anymore. Then to baggage claim. I spoke with a woman behind the desk who seemed nice and she called her friend who works in maintenance and had him check the plane. No camera. I started to cry - did I mention I was tired? She smiled sympathically and said I should check back with her on my return flight. I told her I wouldn't return through Dusseldorf and she smiled another sympathic smile. I apologized for losing my cool and breaking down and she said if anything turned up she'd bring it to the gate - I rushed back through security and made it to the gate. I cried a bit more as I saw the hopeful looks of my family dashed as they saw my empty hands.

Our flight was delayed by a half hour or so and I thought that maybe there was a lost and found - could it be there? so I went up to the counter to ask. As the gate attendant was calling lost and found - the original woman came into view -- yes, carrying my camera case!!! I couldn't believe it - I hugged her right then and there - twice! Of course, "do you have the camera" has become the running joke for the trip. But a sincere thank you to that attendant!
We arrived in Rome around 3:30 and made it into our apartment. We have rented an apartment very near the Campo dei Fiori.

I will write more about our trip thus far later - because, it is now nearly midnight!
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 02:31 PM
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So, I tried to sleep - too much on my mind I guess. So I'll write some more. That first day is a bit of a blur. The plan was to meet the caretaker of the apartment and he would call the landlord to go over everything. We met him, he was fine, but he left within 5 minutes. So I guess I am to call the landlord - but really? I just got to Rome - on a gorgeous sunny warm day. Rather than call the landlord, we departed immediately to wander. We popped in to a restaurant for a quick snack of a shared pizza and then we wandered toward the Vittorio Emmanuelle and then to the Pantheon. We dropped in on St Ignatious church and another church - but fot he life of me I can't remember which. In our lack of sleep dazed wander, we decided to head back to the apartment to research dinner options.

Once we arrived back at our place, we were all exhausted. I just couldn't see the hassle of going out to eat - could I even read and understand a menu at this point? So we went to the co op and we bought some pasta and (horrors!) jarred sauce. My 17 yo did the honors of boiling the pasta and heating the sauce in the microwave - and presto - dinner. For dessert we had picked up ice cream treats at the store. Yes, I rrealize how utterly crazy it is to be in a great food location like Rome eating jar sauce and manufactured pasta sauce, but for us, at that moment - it was exactly what we needed. We all hit the sack by 9.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 02:44 PM
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Sounds like a good start jujubean (apart from the camera, but how lucky to get it back like that!)
I will look forward to more. We were just in Rome in October…sigh...
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 03:04 PM
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Today was an early start - we had booked a tour with Daniella Hunt at Mirabilia Urbis tours. She was to guide us through the Forum and the Colosseum. We met her at 9 sharp at the entrance. Precious few people were there at that time, perhaps particularly because it was a cloudy, cool start to the day. Daniella jumped right in. My oldest daughter is fascinated by the ancients and as parents, the bulk of our fun today was watching our girls - especially the older, take it all in. My youngest, who was cold because she had underestimated the weather, every so often would complain, but not obnoxiously so - though Daniela picked up on it and after we finished our tour of the Forum, she took us for some hot chocolate. That did the trick.

Both kids were engaged at the colosseum - Daniella did a wonderful job of helping us to use our imaginations. She also answered so many questions and gave us help understanding things - this was my third trip to the Forum and my first time understanding it! She also gave valuable insight into the Colosseum that I had never understood before. While a private guide is not cheap - for us, with our kids at this age - it was so, so worth it.

We said our goodbyes to Daniella around 1:15 and began to make our way home for our youngest to put on a heavier jacket - it was sprinkling for part of the day, and certainly cool. On the way home we decided to give a neighborhood restaurant a try. We stopped at Pizzaria and cucina Emma. There we enjoyed a complettely delicious and restorative lunch. Between us we had 2 glasses of wine, 2 calzones, 1 order of meatballs (6) and I had carbonara. We topped it off with 2 espresso - all for 66 euro. For the quality of food and the ease to our apartment, we thought that was a bargain - at about $16 a person. We'll be going back maybe more than once.

After lunch we headed back to the Capitoline museum. In my previous ttrips to Rome, I had never visited - yes, a crime. All I can say is "wow" what an amazing evening we had. We got there around 3:30 and a bit later I began to notice dusk coming on as I walked past a window - and what views from those windows! We made our way around the galleries to the cafe and its outside balcony. It was sunset now, and just so amazingly beautiful. I became trigger happy on my camera and I'm sure I took far too many photos of the view over Rome. We pulled ourselves back inside to finish viewing. On our way out I thought we'd swing just down the hill behind the museum and take a different view of the Forum. I'm glad we did - my kids where transfixed. The columns looked amazing in the shroud of darkness with a bit of light shining on them.

Back up to the campidoglio and we happened upon a wedding. I can't imagine a more stunning spot for a wedding - surrounded by such history and beauty. But by now our stomachs were telling us it is time to go eat! My brother in law had previously recommended a restaurant, grotto di teatro pompei - it was close to home so we gave it a shot. The people were friendly, we liked our food and the price was good. We really had a good time there - the server seemed to genuinely enjoy having us there - what a difference that can make for a weary traveler at the end of the day.
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 03:21 PM
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Enjoying your trip and following along!
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Old Dec 20th, 2014, 05:00 PM
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JUJUBEAN, I enjoy trip reports and will follow along. Haven't been in Rome since 1999 so I need a refresher course.
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 02:01 PM
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The phrase for the day? NO, I do not want a selfie stick!

In every place where tourists tend to gather, you will find several men stepping in front of you offering these metal sticks with which to attach a cell phone and take your own picture in front of - the you name it attraction. Naturally, since we are tourists in Rome we encountered these guys pretty much everywhere we went today!

In spite of the onslaught, it was a great day. We woke much later than expected. We sent the kids down for cornetti at Roscioli bakery - about 100 feet away, while we finished getting ready to go. At about 10:00 we bounced out the door headed for the Borghese Gallery. we are staying very near the campo dei fiori. I had planned about 30 minutes maximum to get there - it didn't quite work out that way. Boy these Rome streets can wind around on you. we walked like crazy, making several wrong turns. Every time I asked my DH to stop and take a look at the map, he indicated he knew where we were - very grumpy - but usually he did know where we were. Which personally, drives me crazy. But, we did end up taking a wrong turn from the Spanish steps and we went all the way through the park - ugh! We arrived at the gallery 9 minutes prior to our scheduled ticket time. I was very frustrated! But great art has a way of calming even the most savage beast. I've been there 3 times now and each time I see something new that is wonderful and beautiful, and again all is well with the world.

We left the gallery and made our way back down to the Spanish steps. It was mobbed! Where did all of these people come from? But the sun was high, it was warm enough for short sleeves in the sun, and we took in everything around us. Of paticular note were the doctors dressed like Santa Claus on roller blades and roller skates - what a riot. they came down the via condotti, turned at the steps, and went back down. It was a sight to behold. I also noticed the Italian boy and his friend staring at my 17 yo. Really, I'm her mom - yes, standing right here! But it was very cute - because she noticed too.

But really the place was jam packed. By this time our stomachs were telling us to take a break. I downloaded 2 apps for food for this trip - Elizabeth Minchilli's Eat Rome and Parla's Rome. Eat Rome recommened a place just off tthe Piazza on a side street Borgonona - Nino's. So after a spin at Sephora to get my tweenager hair conditioner (yes, the choices are SO different here - holy cow!) we were off to Nino's. Old school, white coated waiters seated us. I am really trying on my Italian, but to be honest, I'm just terrible. They were very kind here. We were seated in a back room - the only english speakers in the whole area - yes, this would be good. And it did not disappoint. We had between us: tortellini in cream (the best!), a chicken dish, spaghetti w/ tomato and i had an artichoke pasta - we also had 2 glasses of wine - all was very good. The only misstep was I ordered my daughter a hot chocolate - this was clearly outside of their "wheelhouse" they brought what seemed to be heated up chocolate sauce - she couldn't bear it. But I give them kudos forr trying. the bill came to 105.

Refreshed from lunch we decided to skip the museum - my 12 yo had enough - and we hit churches instead. She likes the precepe in the various churches. At the Borghese, I saw Carravaggio - and I'm sorry, I didn't want to stop - so a church "crawl" it is! First up was S. Luigi dei Francesi.I filled more of my Carravaggio fix with the panels there - I think I could have stared forever. but alas, my family kept my going.

Next was S. Maria Sopra Minerva - and of course Michelangelo. It was also here that i had an interesting experience. There is a statue there - nothing particularly noteworthy, but a beautiful statute of Mary of the Rosary. I sat down in one of the few pews in front of me. there was an older woman there, next to the statue. From her mannerisms, I knew she had been there many times before. I just silently watched her. She did something by the statue, perhaps left a token, and then she gathered a few candles to light. she quietly went about her business. After lighting the candles, she sat down next to me and began to pray. Meanwhile, the rest of the world revolved around us. Sometimes, we forget that these spaces are true worship spaces that are very meaningful - and not just for their masterpieces. I sat in silence with my anonymous companion, contemplating the day.

My peaceful state was broken when I was joined by my 12 yo - who had the hiccups. No kidding. Here was this faithful woman sitting next to me and my kid is practically burping up lunch next to us. Mortified does not begin to describe it. But she tried to control it - actually, now, several hours later, it can even be thought funny.

So from there we grabbed a cab and headed up to Santa Maria del Popolo. You guessed it - more Carravaggio's!! On the way, we passed by the Ara Pacis - one of our actual planned destinations for the day that we scrapped. Since the traffic was so bad, we were stuck just outside and we peered through the windows. Can we say we saw it now? I think so! We arrived at the church and went in - really, can I just say Carravaggio is my favorite? because he is. We decided to save the cab fare and walk home down the Via del Corso. It started out so well.

We were having such a good time watching the street performers, the Italians talking animatedly, the groups of kids being kids, and so on. But then, my husband needed to use the restroom. What was once a leisurely - albeit crowded stroll, now became the passegiatta from hell and he weaved in and around nearly everyone in our path. I totally understood, I think we all can, but it was just crazy. It was so crowded it was tough to make our way through - but we did and we got back home.

after a brief respite at home - it was dinner time again, We decided to go back to Pizzaria Emma. it is about 3 minutes away and this time we sat inside the dining room - a very modern area with a glass ceiling. I must say, I feel so pathetic - this is the second time that we were the first to be seated for dinner. But, I suppose someone has to be first, right? We had fun watching dishes being prepared in their open salumi area - there was a mix of tourists and locals - mostly locals - and a very hip but accomodating vibe. Our waitress was great and attentive. Our food was good - we had: Cacio e pepe, rigatoni with tomato and basil; grilled organic chicken and again my 12 yo had the calzone. We also splurged with desserts. the total bill came to about 115. including a bottle of wine. We are over the budget for the day, with these 2 big meal bills. Tomorrow we'll cut back and have pizza or panini and perhaps dinner in - but we'll see!

On the agenda for tomorrow is the Doria Pamphijli gallery and the Scavi at St. Peter's
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 05:35 PM
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Great beginning. I am looking forward to hearing sto
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 05:37 PM
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I am looking forward to hearing the rest of the story and maybe seeing some of your pictures taken with that fabulous camera! (Sorry about the double post. For some reason my computer was stuck on the first one and then submitted before I could fix it.)
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 05:53 PM
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Enjoying following along. I now want to go back to Rome.
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Old Dec 21st, 2014, 10:09 PM
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JUJUBEAN, I enjoy tour reports and also follow along. Haven't seen Rome since 2008, so might be its massive changes there. One request from me, please upload some snap from your own camera to enjoy Rome very closely!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 02:29 AM
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Please, please give us our Christmas gift by keeping up this journal.

You have a real knack for making me see Rome through the eyes of a mother looking at Rome through the eyes of her daughters, if that it is not too meta-analytic.

Anyway, it is tefrrific!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 06:00 AM
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This review is just wonderful. We are travelling to Italy for the first time in April and my son will be 13.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 11:26 AM
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Count me in on this trip, jujubean. Thank goodness for found cameras!

Is Santa Maria della Vittoria on your agenda? Bernini became my watchword in Rome.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 01:38 PM
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Back up to the campidoglio and we happened upon a wedding. I can't imagine a more stunning spot for a wedding - surrounded by such history and beauty>>

I've shared here before, juju, the story of the time we saw a bride half way up the steps of the campodoglio shouting at someone down her mobile phone - we assumed that the object of her ire was the idiot who'd suggested that the wedding happened at the church at the top!

The galleria Doria Pamphilij is one of my Rome favourites - I hope you enjoy it. Do use the [free] audio guide - the narrator's wonderful english accent is well worth listening to. Presepi are also great things to see this time of year - there is a long tradition of them going back to St Francis at least and we found some lovely ones, though like you I am unable to name the churches where were saw them.

I felt for you with the camera - our DS lost his phone on a flight to Iceland. when we realised, we phoned it, [luckily before the battery ran out] and it was answered by someone in the airline offices in Denmark. By the time we got home, it was waiting for us. DS was VERY lucky.

keep it coming!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 02:03 PM
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Thanks everybody! Im very glad that I can be entertaining/instructive - it really does make me happy.

So today, the day began with me grudgingly getting up at 7:30 ish to go to the Campo dei Fiori for some fruit and maybe some veg. Neither my 12 yo nor my DH seemed as if they gave a rat's behind, so my 17 yo and I went out. It was chilly, I was very glad that i wore my heavy winter coat and gloves. I brought 2 coats - one is a winter coat (boiled wool) the other is a thin quilted coat that I wear in the fall back home. Today, the winter coat was welcome. Of course, once at tthe market, you have to check out every stall, circling around as if there is actually any difference between the oranges sold at this stall versus that - I never notice any difference at least. We ended up buying from an older, deeply wrinkled lady at the foot of the statue of Bruno - I figured she probably has earned that spot over the years. We bought cherries, strawberries, tangerines and apples - not nearly enough to justify the 19.50E price tag. (ouch) but we returned home with our fruit and hopefully some good photos.

that reminds me - I am trying to upload some photos of these first few days - will get it done asap!

After a breakfast at home (remember that budget?) we took off for the Doria Pamphilji gallery.

So, there's this illness that develops after a few days of 24/7 togetherness. I think it's called -"do you really have to walk that close to me?' syndrome. The illness begins with a general grumpiness, and develops into a feeling that you'd do just about anything to get a few minutes alone. It is exacerbated by 4 people in a 1 bedroom apartment that has only one bathroom and doing everything together! We had some flare-ups today, but so far - no full cases have been reported but it's close. We'll have to figure out some treatment options soon, or I think we all may go bonkers.

Back to our day. The gallery is wonderful. I really enjoyed the audioguide. It's free and so interesting. It doesn't go into great detail, but it adds a certain something. The rooms of the Palazzo where wonderful, but of course, what we went for was - you guessed it - the Carravaggio's!! We did not get there early - around 10. but we were some of just the few people there. Later a couple of school groups showed up, but for the majority off our time there we were some of just a few visitors - it is a Monday I suppose. So we moved along, my dh and kids going faster - because i listen to every aspect of the audio guide.

I get to the room with the Carravaggio's and I look around. It's just me and them. No one else is in the room. I know it sounds goofy, but it was really something to be there, by myself contemplating a great artists' work. Shivers...And plus, how often are you alone in Rome - like never! There's always somebody around - even if it is not someone related to you. So to be alone like that, well, just wow. I exited the gallery to find my husband and 12 yo sitting in a couplle chairs, he with his legs stretched out like he's watching a football game and she is sprawled across his lap. Yep, that's us, keeping it classy.

After the gallery we headed back to the apartment. we had decided earlier in the morrning to try pizza from Roscioli for lunch and it is about spitting distance from our apartment. We made a pit stop - filled up on water, had some expensive fruit from the morning and headed out for our pizza. I have genuinely tried to learn some conversational Italian, so why do I feel so incredibly ridiculous when trying to order anything? I really want to practice the language, but I feel as if it is mean to torture their language. thankfully, the man behind the counter was merciful - he used brroken english to my broken italian - it was nice of him. We took the pizza to go as we needed to be at St Peter's within 60 minutes and we decided to walk it. what an amazing lunch. This pizza was really, really good. we each got a nice portion size and the bill came to just over 13 E with 2 sodas thrown in. For the money - totally a good deal. I have to have that pizza again.

We got to St P in plenty of time. So much so that the Swiss Guards told us to come back in a half hour. So we sent a couple of postcards to grandma and grandpa back home and my 12 yo did something interesting. She had her Christmas list and wrote it on a post card to St Nick - she explained that it couldn't be to Santa because, well, we're at the Vatican and St Nick is the Santa here. priceless. Now, I don't think that she still 'believes". Maybe she does, but I think it has more to do with the fact that her sister told her that when she stopped believeing in Santa, the quality of the gifts went down - thanks kid. But, it may be possible that she does still, in a little corner of her heart believe, and she is testing the whole deal. She has kept the list very, very secret. She covered her writing as she went along. Why do I feel like this is a test? Well, I got her sister involved and later in the day, I'm proud to say my 17 yo actually dug in the trash to get that damn list out. I'll have to see if Santa decides to be generous this year.... Once those cards were done, it was time for our Scavi tour.

Our tour was led by a nice young seminarian from Kansas City in the US. This was my second time taking the tour, my 17 yo first time going. I figured with her interests, it would be a perfect match and it was. However, it left me wanting. Here's why - first let me say I am Catholic. I went to a parochial grade school and a Catholic college - but the Scavi tour was just too focused on the whole St Peter's grave thing. I know, I know, that's what I should expect, I'm in the Vatican for God's sake. But I was disappointed that the whole focus was on the grave deal. For example, there is this little window in an alcove that looks into a chamber - in that chamber is an amazing fresco on a red background of a woman's head. but he made no mention of it. I even felt as if when I was looking and I was falling a tad behind that I would be scolded like I was by Sr. Margaret in the 5th grade. I suppose it is because it didn't fit the agenda for the tour, but still, there is so much intersting stuff down there, it could be so much better. But, I kept my thoughts to myself and my daughter was fascinated. She read the Latin inscriptions, she touched the sarcophogi and just generally was enthralled by the whole deal. At the end, we went into St P's and she just could not grasp the immensity of it. We are going there again on the 24th, so she'll be able to absorb more then.

We met my dh and our 12yo by the right fountain in the square and it was at that momentt that I heard the funniest sentence of the day. While explaining to my kids what they where looking at, my 12 yo said, in an exasperated voice, "seriously another Bernini?" as if she was just sick to death of him. Pish-posh. Gosh how lucky they (and we) are to be seeing all of this.

We grabbed a taxi and headed to the Scala Santa. I had missed seeing them on my last trip and wanted to this trip. Well, once we got in there my 12 yo took the whole climbing up on our knees thing as a challenge. To which she challenged me. Now mind you - as I stated above, I'm Catholic, but, well, let's just say there are millions of Catholics more pious than I am. One of whom is my 12 yo daughter. But I rose to her challenge and dropped to my knees. By the third step I thought, "what have I done?" and all I was praying for was a way out, by the sixth step i was counting how many were left, and by the tenth step my knees were killing me and I was totally cheating by putting my toes down. I think I did the climb in record time. Meanwhile, my daughter was still taking it slowly. My 17 yo didn't even think for one second about doing it. We finally finished and headed over to St john lateran. My knees are still sore. that wood is much harder than it looks - must have been compressed over the centuries, becuase i am pretty sure that the marrble would have been softer.

I know it's a bit off the beaten path, but this church is worth a visit. Our prrimary purpose was to see the doors. The center doors of the church are the original doors from the Senate building at the Forum. My 17 yo hopes to study ancient Rome and for her to realize that these doors exist was fun to behold. She couldn't stop staring at them, thinking of all of the historical figures that passed through them. She went outside to get a good look at the decorations, and I caught her leaning her head into a door, her eyes closed, just contemplating that they still exist. (if I am wrong about this history - please don't tell me - it was a great moment). It was dark now and we decided to start walking back toward the colosseum. of course once there, we decided to walk all the way back to the apartment.

At home, when I get home from work, I almost always have a drink. Sometimes, it's a fizzy water, sometimes a beer or wine. So we've carried that habit here - but it's always wine. We bought a little cured meat at the grocery store, along with a bottle of red and some crackers, so we had a little party before dinner. It was nice - and budget friendly.

We had reserved at Renato e Luisa, so we headed there at 8. And we were not the first people there! we were the second. if you have tthe chance to come to Rome, this place is worth the effort. And if you come here, eat the meat dish. Doesn't matter what it is - the meat dish is best. I did not order the meat dish. I ordered a truffle dish. i have never had truffles before, and I really wanted to have some this trip. So when he said that one of the specials of the day was a truffle pasta, I took it. While it was very good, I must say, I'm not a big truffle fan. But i've scratched that itch. it was very good, but not great. We had: zuchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and baked and a prune, provolone appetizer, my 17 yo had matriciana, my 12 yo had oxtail sauce over pasta, I had a truffle gnochi and my dh had a truffle pasta and a slow cooked beef dish (it was sublime) we had a bottle of the house red too - all for exactly 100E. So our expenditures for the day, including the taxi ride (but not accomodation) was 177E or 44.25 per person - below our set budget. We did not finish all of the fruit, so I didn't count all of it for today.

We came home well satisfied and hopefully will be ready for another full day in Rome tomorrow. It is off to Trastevere first thing in the morning. I am starting to worrry though about where we will eat for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I enjoy cooking, but haven't much so far - maybe it'll be time.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:08 PM
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I found Ara Pacis very interesting. I hope you can put it back on your itinerary...
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:19 PM
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Thanks for posting about your trip, Jujubean. I teared up when you lost your camera! How sad that would have been if you hadn't found it.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2014, 05:23 PM
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When traveling iwth others - even with our DDs or by B and SIL, DH and I always plan some alone time - and sometimes we break up into boys and girls to do things of different interests.

A 17 year old can go out in the evening to student cafes or clubs (we did this when DDs were 17 and 14) - but 12 is too young. I would look for some pair or solo things to do.
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Old Dec 23rd, 2014, 08:14 AM
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We did not get there early - around 10. but we were some of just the few people there. Later a couple of school groups showed up, but for the majority off our time there we were some of just a few visitors - it is a Monday I suppose.>>

juju - I've been to the Doria Pamphilij several times now [where else can you see what a wonderful art collection without being swamped by other bodies?] and I've never encountered a crowd.

I'm seriously impressed by your climbing the stairs on your knees - it's not something I would do myself but I do admire you just for attempting it, let alone succeeding. your reaction to the Scavi tour is interesting too - as an atheist I was not expecting to be moved by it at all, but in fact as we arrived in the chapel below the main altar and the singing of the noon mass commenced, I started to weep. perhaps it's something to do with the guide you get - I think that some are better than others.
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