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Holy Week in Rome - Traveling with my parents (AKA Oh my god am I out of my mind?) with many Restaurant Details

Holy Week in Rome - Traveling with my parents (AKA Oh my god am I out of my mind?) with many Restaurant Details

Old Apr 10th, 2007, 02:04 PM
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hi, y'all,

we were in Rome last easter - arriving Easter Sunday. generally, restaurants were open even on that night, and on easter monday, the forum, Palatine Hill and colosseum were all open as normal. on the tuesday, only the castel san angelo was shut, apparently because it usually shuts monday.

but it was very, very busy, though it got better towards the end of the week, when it was just crowded!

go then by all means, but don't expect to do so alone.

regards, ann
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Old Apr 10th, 2007, 03:30 PM
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Did someone mention a farting squirrel?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n-UqgUrMo_U

Jim
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 03:01 AM
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I'll answer questions first:
1. Yes, I am a teacher.
2. The farting squirrel commercial was for mints/gum. Jim posted the link to the correct commercial (except the voiceover was not in English).
3. Crowds really were not that bad (except around the Trevi fountain and Vatican)and we didn't run into any closings. Just plan ahead on things and you should be fine.

April 2, 2007

I was very excited about this day because we had received confirmation to go on the Vatican Scavi tour. We had a confirmation for a 9:15 AM tour, so we woke up at 7:00 AM. Did I mention it takes my mother at least an hour and a half to get ready to go? Every day? At any rate, we woke up, had breakfast, got ready, and clumped up Via Gregoriana to the very handy taxi stop at the top. Actually, I can’t tell you how much grief that taxi stop saved. If you didn’t feel like walking, having a taxi stop nearby was a godsend.

So, the taxi took us to the Vatican, I think by way of China since it cost 14 Euro, and we got out and looked for the entrance to the scavi. We found the requisite Swiss guards, confirmed that was our entry point, and went back out to take some pictures of Piazza San Pietro. Now, it is worthwhile mentioning that on our way into Rome from the airport, the driver took us past the entrance to the Vatican museums and the colossal line that had formed outside. When I say there were thousands and thousands of people in the line I am by no means exaggerating. After careful consideration and discussion, my parents and I decided that we would not try to do the Vatican museums. First of all, it meant we would need to return to the Vatican a second day. Second of all, my parents are not “museum people,” and their astute self-observation saved us from a day of suffering. We contented ourselves with pointing at the Sistine chapel from the outside and pretending we had seen it (I already have – twice).

The scavi tour was really quite absorbing. Our guide introduced himself and said he was from Transylvania – an unfortunate move on his part because I spent the entire tour having the Count laughing in my head (One sarcophagus – ha! Two! Two sarcophagi – ha ha!) Anyway, I was a little worried about the claustrophobia aspect of the tour since my father is slightly claustrophic, but there was generally plenty of room above our heads and only two or three small spaces to walk through. The temperature outside that morning was about 58-60 degrees, and it was definitely warmer and more humid down inside the excavations, but it wasn’t warmer than about 70-75 degrees, so it was mostly bearable, if a little close feeling. The tour ended with the level right under St. Peter’s that had the tomb of Pope John Paul II. Many people were lined up to pay their respects.

After the scavi, we went up to St. Peter’s basilica. Now, after you exit the scavi, you can go right into the basilica via the stairs on your left hand side. We did not know this, and we thought we had to get in the line that, by this time, wound all the way around the perimeter of the square. The line took about an hour, and we went through the metal detectors and bag search….only to find ourselves back on the same level with the tomb of Pope John Paul II and the same exit to the same stairs from the scavi tour!! All in all I guess we had only wasted an hour, but it was very frustrating nonetheless. There was no sort of signage indicating how to get into the basilica from the scavi tour, and I even asked specifically and they said back through the piazza. So who knows? After so much excitement, we took a cab back to the apartment for a rest.

After a brief rest, lunchtime came around so we headed down the hill towards the Trevi fountain to try and find some decent food. I was looking for a pizzeria a taglio, and a signora in a shop in Via Gregoriana pointed us in this general direction. We ended up finding a tavola calda that had pizza a taglio, so it worked out just fine.

Lunch – Sevil Tavolacalda Pizzeria, Via in Arcione

1 lasagne
1 pizza ortolana
1 pizza margherita
1 bottle water 1.5 Liters
Total: 17 Euro

The pizza was edible, though not warmed through all the way, and while my dad enjoyed the lasagna it seemed to be mostly cheese and pasta, with not much else going on. As man cannot live by pizza alone, we found a branch of Gelateria della Palma on the same street (Via in Arcione) and ordered 2 cones and 1 cup of gelato.

Gelato: Gelateria della Palma
1 cone with Rafaello (coconut and white chocolate) and Zabaglione (liquory custardy flavor)
1 cone with café’ and nutella
1 cup with amarena (cherry, sort of) and cassata siciliana
Total: 6 Euro

As we approached the Trevi fountain, the mass of people thickened. Hands down I think this was the most crowded attraction in Rome during Holy Week. We decided to put off our coin-throwing to a future date and turned around. My mother shopped for classy souvenirs (Italy lanyards and Rome shopping bags). This was pretty much our main excitement until dinnertime, when we headed down the Spanish Steps to Buca di Ripetta.

Dinner – Buca di Ripetta, Via di Ripetta (Tel. 06-321-9391)

1 glass house red wine
1 Nastro Azzurro beer on tap
1 chamomile tea
1 bottle water 1 liter
1 tagliatelle alla caccia (special of day)
1 fiorentina Danese
1 fritto misto di verdure
Total: 99 Euro – Service included

My parents wanted something other than pasta this evening, so they decided to try the fiorentina steak. Now, the waiter advised that the steak was for 2 people to share and would likely be 6 or 7 etti (600-700 grams). Each etto was 7 Euros. They gave it a try. The steak showed up on a giant platter adorned with zucchini, potato chips, and some other vegetables I can’t necessarily recall. Because the steak was so large, it was virtually impossible to cook it evenly. Half the steak was medium rare, and the other half was approaching well done (we had asked for medium to medium well). I don’t think any of the steak was actually medium well. A large portion of the meat was tasty and moist, but there was also a large portion of gristle. For a steak that ended up costing 63 Euros (It was 9 etti) I don’t know that it was worth it for them.

I had the tagliatelle alla caccia. The sauce was made from wild boar and hare, and it was delicious. Just the right amount of seasonings, the meats had been braised until they fell apart and there was a lovely combination of fresh herbs in the sauce that complimented it very well. Excellent choice – if you ever see it on the specials I would recommend it highly.

By far the most expensive meal we ate and, for my parents at least, not the best. And another trudge up the Spanish steps, by way of a lewd painting that caused my mother to fall into hysterics on Via del Babuino.
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 09:11 AM
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April 3, 2007

I woke up early and was ready for some “alone” time, so I got up and dressed and decided to walk to Campo dei Fiori. Now, I walk just about every day and I really thought this would be a short jaunt. About 40 minutes into a brisk walk, I finally managed to get to the Campo. I walked around surveying the food, purchased some lovely fragoline (small strawberries) a couple of pears, some giant apples, and a loaf of bread from the Forno Campo dei Fiori. Total cost: 7.30 Euro. Somehow it was 8 a.m. and I was already tired, so I walked to the Largo Argentina and then caught a cab back to the apartment for 6 Euro.

My parents and I had breakfast in the apartment, including some of the strawberries I’d just bought, and we walked up Via Gregoriana to catch a cab to the Palatine. Now, for some reason I think this confused our cab driver because he dropped us off on Corso Cavour several blocks from the Coliseum, and the Palatine is beyond that, so I have no idea what happened there. It was around this time that an “incident” occurred, which apparently was my parents’ favorite part of the trip. We arrived over toward the Coliseum and needed to find a restroom, so we went into the Coliseum metro stop and found the public restroom there (good deal by the way – the whole room gets sprayed down between uses). On the way out, this guy was trying to get us to take a Coliseum tour. I ignored him, as is customary if you are uninterested, and he decides to say “Americans are ignorant.” Now, I don’t know if it was my 7 a.m. walk to Campo dei Fiori or the fact that I was getting tired or what, but I decided to fire back in Italian. The gist of the message was “Would you like to repeat yourself? What the *&^ do you care if we don’t take your &*^%$% tour?” He ran in the other direction.

The line for Coliseum tickets was out the door, so, as we’d been advised, we went to buy our tickets at the Palatine and see that first. I had never been to the Palatine before, and was interested in what there would be to see. Three tickets cost 33 Euro, and we were in the door within 10 minutes. The Palatine was spectacular, although they could use more signs about what is what, since it isn’t always the easiest to figure out where you are on the map or from a guidebook. The views from the hill might have been the most amazing part, as we got great shots of St. Peter’s basilica as well as the forum and the Coliseum.

We wound down the hill from the Palatine to the forum, where admittedly our steam was starting to run out. There were lots of people in the forum that day, compared to the relative tranquility of the Palatine. We went back over to the Coliseum metro station to grab a sandwich from the bar there, and we took it outside to eat while looking at the coliseum. I won’t detail the food on this one, but 3 sandwiches and a Diet Coke was about 15 Euro.

Finally on to the Coliseum, where thanks to our forethought we did not have to stand in a ticket line. We breezed in the tour group entry to the left, and rented a couple of audioguides for the tour (4.50 Euro each). They were setting up the Coliseum for the Good Friday Stations of the Cross ceremony with the pope, so we spent the majority of our time watching them erect the wooden stage and set up marble (?) half-moons. The weather was starting to cloud up and with our energy sadly lacking, we wandered across the street to the taxi stand and took a taxi back to the apartment.

An afternoon of rest before heading back out to dinner NOT via the Spanish Steps (this day we saw the Geox stinky shoe commercial – not quite squirrel-fart hilarious, but still pretty darn funny), this time to Ristorante al 34.

Dinner – Ristorante al 34, Via Mario de’ Fiori, 34 (Tel. 06-6795091)

1 bottle water 1 liter
˝ liter house white wine
1 orecchiette con broccoli e salsiccie
1 pasta al 34
1 tortino carciofi (artichoke pie)
1 insalata mista
1 panna cotta con frutti di bosco
Total: 45.50 Euro without tip

I have to say that when we entered this restaurant I was filled with a sense of trepidation. First of all, at 8:00 it was packed full, and literally EVERY SINGLE PERSON in the restaurant was American. Now, I know Romans eat later blah blah blah, but every restaurant we had been in so far had some Italians eating in it, even at our early dinner hour. The tables were crammed cheek by jowl so that you could barely navigate between them. The atmosphere could be deemed lacking, if I want to be nice. We were handed menus in English. When I requested the Italian menu, several items from the English menu either did not appear or had completely different ingredients listed. I had heard good things about this restaurant. I did not want it to be bad. I almost left.

Because it was raining outside we stayed, and overall it ended up being a mostly good experience. The orecchiette had a nice sauce with the broccoli being almost pureed into the sauce itself and nice chunks of sweet sausage. The pasta al 34 were quaint little pockets (more rustic than ravioli) filled with a salty/sweet cheese mixture in a sauce made from cream, pine nuts, and marjoram. Tasty. My mother ordered the tortino carciofi, and while she did note that she would have liked more artichokes or larger chunks of artichoke or both, the flavor was enjoyable and the portion size sufficient. The mixed salad contained fennel, arugula, radicchio, celery and lovely cherry tomatoes. The panna cotta was a perfect consistency and the berries on top had a great flavor – even the blackberries were sweet and not toothy. The house white wine was okay but not memorable. I was wrong – it wasn’t the worst dining experience ever.

We half ran and half walked back to the apartment in the pouring rain – we were all soaked by the time we got back and had to run our clothes through the dryer. Which was also a washer. And you had to run the clothes through at least part of a wash cycle before the dryer would start. Super convenient. Here’s a tip: Run it through the spin cycle so the clothes don’t get wet and then the dryer will start.
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 09:17 AM
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hi, nnolen,

more great stories - why do they treat the exit from the scavi into St. Peter's like a state secret? [it's the same with the "secret" exit from the Sistine chapel"]

we hit that queue for the vatican last year, and after about 15 minutes ducked out. When we went back later in the week, we got there much earlier and only waited about an hour to get to teh front.

how do you remember exactly what you ate?

keep it coming!

regards, ann

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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 09:33 AM
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April 4, 2007

Today we planned to go to Ostia Antica. We got up slightly earlier than our usual 9 or 10:00, and walked to the Spagna metro stop. Here is a tip: HAVE EXACT CHANGE FOR THE METRO. They only have automated machines and they will not give you more than 4 euros back in change. Getting the correct change was sort of a runaround but finally we managed to extract 2 tickets from the machine. Only 2, even though we had paid for and been given change for 3. I bet on the fact that we wouldn’t be checked for tickets and we went down to the train platform.

We took the metro to Termini, where we switched and got on the other line to the Piramide stop. Now, I had taken along explicit instructions of how to get to the train station for Ostia and it said to go across the street. Nothing doing. It is in the same station that the metro stops – the tracks are parallel and you just need to wander around in the same station to find the train that goes to Ostia. I was also expecting train cars and instead got essentially another metro with few seats and lots of graffiti. The ride was about 30 minutes out there.

Once we got off the train, we went via a pedestrian overpass over to the ruins. Entrance to the ruins was 6.50 Euro per person, and we each rented an audioguide for an additional 2.50 Euro. Quite personally, about 15 minutes into Ostia I felt like I was screwing with the audio player for myself and my parents more than I was enjoying the scenery, so I pretty much gave up on mine and stuffed it in my pocket. My mother listened to hers in a haphazard fashion, not really in any order.

The Ostia site is larger than I was expecting – not as colossal as Pompei, but still fairly large. I had heard that it was not as well preserved, and that is correct. Most of what we saw remaining was floor mosaics and partial walls. We saw one internal wall painting in one building. The theatre area was very well preserved and with the mountain pines as a backdrop made for some stunning photographs of the site.

The day we made our trip there were many, many Italian school groups also visiting the site. We happened to go to lunch in the Ostia cafeteria (way at the back of the site) at the same time they did, and the cacophonous roar from the eating area was really something to behold. Luckily, most of them were outside so we chose to dine inside.

The cafeteria had a pretty decent selection of food, tavola calda style, though it was costlier than we were expecting for cafeteria food.

Lunch – Ostia Antica cafeteria

3 orders tortellini with sausage, cream sauce, peas and bacon
3 orders vegetables (2 beans, 1 zucchine)
1 bottle water
3 rolls
Total: 39 euro

The tortellini, while clearly not homemade, were tasty and the sauce was flavorful with a nice punch from the fresh peas. The vegetables were cold, but were much improved by the pouring of some fresh olive oil over the top and a sprinkling of sea salt. Overall good quality, but also fairly high price. Note: the vegetables cost as much as the tortellini – both were counted as secondi.

After lunch it unfortunately started to sprinkle, so we again put up the umbrellas and we headed back toward the exit, seeing more of the site on the way out. The train back was significantly less crowded, and we managed to snag seats for the 30 minutes – a real blessing since I was sincerely tired. We had no dinner reservations for the evening, so we decided to swing by the supermarket on the way back and pick up some fixings for a dinner at the apartment. We dined on mozzarella, prosciutto, gnocchi with tomato sauce and mozzarella, and bruschetta with tomatoes. In sheer exhaustion, we resorted to watching “The Terminal” in Italian, since my parents had already seen the movie in English and could fill in the blanks.

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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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April 5, 2007

After our usual breakfast of fruit, bread and jam, yogurt, coffee, and cheese, we headed out to the taxi stop at the top of the hill and asked the driver to take us to Santa Croce in Gerusalemme. I’d been really interested to see this church and had not seen it on any of my previous trips to Rome. The church itself was quiet and serene with very, very few people inside. We had almost the entire place to ourselves. At the front of the church, to the left, is an area where the pieces of the cross and the titulus are kept. Only a few people were in line there to look at the relics. It might have been the best thing in Rome for me, like a hidden secret that not many people see. There was also a room dedicated to a young girl who had serious physical difficulties but dedicated her life to God. She was buried in a small chapel also to the left of the church. There was a church store at the back, and this was where we bought several rosaries and memorials from the church. We also couldn’t resist the displays of chocolates and candies made by Trappist monks.

Back out into the light of day, we headed toward San Giovanni in Laterano. Along the road between Santa Croce and San Giovanni there is a large ampitheatre on the left hand side. The crumbling arcades make a nice counterpoint to the apartments behind. San Giovanni rises directly ahead of you as you walk from Santa Croce, and while it looks small from down the street it is most definitely not a small church. Inside, you notice the complexity of the side altars as well as the main altar where only the pope is allowed to celebrate mass. There are remnants of frescos by Giotto, many of which were destroyed when the church burned down (twice) and are now preserved behind glass. There are significantly more people at this church, as it is the pope’s home church. Across the street is the Scala Santa (the sacred stairs), which were packed with faithful Christians making the ascent on their knees to show their devotion. To the left of the Scala Santa a Roman aqueduct leads into an apartment complex.

We ate lunch near San Giovanni at a pizzeria a taglio, definitely a good choice for a quick lunch.

Lunch – Piazza San Giovanni Tavola Calda
1 – pizza porcini
1 – pizza 4 formaggi
1 – pizza margherita
2 – bottles Diet Coke
1 – can Lemonsoda
Total: 13.60 Euro

Excellent pizza, and cheap at twice the price. The 4 formaggi was particularly good, with a nice smoky scamorza cheese on the very top, sliced so thin it looked almost transparent. We were the only non-Italians in the place.

After our brief lunch, we headed down Via San Giovanni in Laterano to the church of San Clemente. Unfortunately, I had planned poorly and forgotten about the afternoon period when churches are closed, so we missed both San Clemente and the nearby San Pietro in Vincoli. Defeated, we walked to the nearest taxi stand (unfortunately at the Coliseum) and took a cab back to the apartment for our afternoon rest.

That evening, we went back down the Spanish Steps (how many times is this now?) for dinner at Ristorante Ad Hoc.

Dinner – Ristorante Ad Hoc, Via di Ripetta, 43 (Tel: 06-3233040)

1 bottle Sangiovese (Tiaso Pallavicini – from Lazio, 2005)
1 insalata mista
1 spaghetti vongole verace e funghi porcini
1 saltimbocca alla romana
1 tagliata di manzo con rucola, aceto balsamico e scaglie di parmigiano
1 bottle water
1 tiramisu
3 glasses of Prosecco to start (included)
Total: 62.50 Euro (tip not included)

For me, this was probably the best meal of the trip, all around. The service was excellent – we had a very knowledgeable server who offered us Prosecco when we were seated .I fully expected to be charged for it, but we were not charged on the bill. The wine list was superb, and we went with a local wine since several restaurants we went to didn’t have wine from Lazio on the list. I had the pasta vongole veraci (little clams with porcini mushrooms) and it was FANTASTIC. It might even have beat out the pasta alla caccia at Buca di Ripetta. The sauce was perfect, the clams were cooked to perfection, there was just the right dusting of fresh parsley, the mushrooms were firm and meaty and didn’t overpower the taste of the clams.

My mom had the beef with arugula, and while she said it was not the most tender ever, it was very flavorful and she enjoyed the taste of the meat with the arugula and the parmesan. My dad tried the saltimbocca, which came with potatoes, and said it was flavorful and moist. We also tried some tiramisu’, which literally melted in your mouth with flavors of espresso and amaretto. To die for. Highly, highly recommended. I am now drooling at my desk.

My father had by this point determined that there were 132 steps on the Spanish steps, so we commenced our walk up them and at each landing, he announced how many were left. It added a nice bit of ceremony.
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 09:55 AM
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Can you imagine having your kids in school somewhere in metropolitan Rome? What field trips they would have! One year, my kid's field trip was to tour the newly constructed Texas Rangers ballpark...and those kids were touring Ostia Antica!
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 10:06 AM
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April 6, 2007
Our last full day in Rome

On Friday, we decided to walk up to Villa Borghese, which was right above where our apartment was located. I had never been, and it seemed like a nice, relaxing thing to do on our last full day in Rome. We wandered around the park for several hours, marveling at the great views (the one out over Piazza del Popolo with St. Peter’s in the background was the best), watching Italians enjoy their day in the park with their kids, watching the swans paddle around the manmade lakes, taking pictures of the fake Roman ruins placed strategically around the park. We exited onto Via Vittorio Veneto, marveling at the splendor of La Dolce Vita era Rome, and we had lunch at a swank sidewalk café on V. Veneto. I was not expecting much, but the plates of prosciutto, mozzarella and tomato were superb, with ripe tomatoes and luscious mozzarella that oozed milk at the touch of a knife. All three of us ate and drank for 32 Euro – I was expecting an arm and a leg.

We wandered, and shopped, and returned to the Trevi fountain for our requisite coin throw. I think the sadness set in when I realized I couldn’t even squeeze in gelato after all I’d eaten for lunch.

I hadn’t eaten gelato every day as I’d planned. I’d only had one real pizza, with my second to come that evening. I hadn’t bought any clothes or shoes, since the crowded shops along Via del Corso sent me into panic attacks whenever I went inside. We hadn’t managed to see San Clemente with its three levels of history. Already the regrets and the next-times were slipping in.

We returned to Pizza Re’ for dinner, where we had eaten on our first night in Rome, as a kind of homage, a way to pay our respects to our trip. We ate more or less the same thing we ate the first night, as a way to try and gain another week, more time to do what we wanted to do, eat what we wanted to eat. It didn’t work. We finished our food as we knew we would, paid our bill, and walked down Via del Babuino to the much accursed Spanish Steps. We walked up them for the last time. Back in the apartment, the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum was being broadcast on television. The haunting images of the ruins at night were a perfect backdrop to our melancholy. Our airport shuttle was coming at 4:00 AM. Our Roman vacation had come to an end.

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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 10:07 AM
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Sorry everyone about the double posting of April 4. I have no idea what happened there!
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 12:24 PM
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bookmarking
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 12:37 PM
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bookmarking.

BTW - loved how you handled the rude tour guide!
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 12:41 PM
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I second Prospero and salute you on the tour guide! I wish I spoke Italian!!
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 02:25 PM
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Kristina,

Here is the link to the specific apartment:
http://www.sleepinitaly.com/files/apt_gregoriana.html

It was a very quiet location. The only downside was that all windows looked onto interior courtyards, which made it difficult to tell the time of day or the weather. Otherwise, it had heat, a washer/dryer, two bedrooms (one with queen bed and one with two twin beds), a hair dryer, a french press coffee maker as well as a moka espresso maker, a refrigerator and a stovetop, a microwave, pots, pans and silverware, plenty of towels, sheets, pillows, and blankets, a selection of movies and books to read...really just about anything you could ask for.

We liked the location, but I know it is not as central as most people would like. It just depends what you want to do, I guess.
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 04:21 PM
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Please tell us, what did your parents finally think of Rome? Were they glad they had made the trip?
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 08:09 PM
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Thanks for the apartment link. It looks quite nice, but may not work for us. We will be two couples traveling and I've promised my friends (who have never been to Rome) a "room with a view".

Would you recommend the company sleepinitaly? I've read good and bad comments about them.

BTW, I often travel abroad with my mother, and while it can be a challenge at times, it is ultimately rewarding. I hope you enjoyed your time with your parents as much.

I had to laugh at your comment about missing the entrance to St. Peter's after the Scavi tour-that sounds exactly like something I would do! Even though I "know" I should be able to do something, I often trust the local official who usually manages to tell me the wrong thing!
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Old Apr 11th, 2007, 10:47 PM
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loved your report, now what is the results from traveling with the parents? It seems like you all had a great time so you were not out of your mind afterall.

thanks for the details and the restaurant recommendations too.
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 02:49 AM
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My mom really enjoyed it and liked Italy and Rome and wants to go back. I think my dad enjoyed himself, but he commented that there were still many places in the United States he wanted to see. I'm not sure what that means, quite honestly. I think he would go back, but would rather travel domestic.

The trip was worth it because I got to spend time with my parents, even though it was frustrating at times, and we have lots of great memories.
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Old Apr 12th, 2007, 03:55 PM
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nnolen-
Loved your report especially reading about your funny moments. Taking notes on your restaurants recommendations. DH and I will also be staying at the top of the Spanish Step area in 3 weeks. Thanks.
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Old Apr 13th, 2007, 04:40 AM
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Brava
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