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Italy Trip Report: Christmas and New Year 07/08: Rome, Florence and Venice

Italy Trip Report: Christmas and New Year 07/08: Rome, Florence and Venice

Old Jan 11th, 2008, 08:16 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2007
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Italy Trip Report: Christmas and New Year 07/08: Rome, Florence and Venice

First I want to thank you all for your postings which were incredibly helpful for planning. I hope that this report is helpful for future travelers.

Who we are: 2 married, middle aged first time travelers to Europe
Where we went: Rome for a week, Florence for 4 days and Venice for 4 days. We flew into Rome and left from Venice.
Our interests: art, history and food. We love to walk and explore and learn.

First some general observations: People: Overall we had a very good, sometimes great time in Italy. We were there for 2 weeks and I am happy to say that most people we met, both the Italians and fellow tourists from all over the world, were extremely nice and helpful. For some reason I didn’t feel I was in a different country, let alone a different continent, for much of the trip. Perhaps this was because we traveled in mainly touristy areas, but I think this was also because I grew up in NYC.

Language: I took Italian 101 before going and I guess I must have spoken pretty well because people answered me in Italian. The problem was that I couldn’t understand them because they were speaking so fast and not at the Fun with Dick and Jane level. So I often had to ask them to repeat themselves in English which DH thought was hilarious. 99% of people we met spoke English and were happy to do so when needed.

Trains: We took Eurostar from Rome to Florence on December 28th and then from Florence to Venice on January 1. We thought it would be good to travel on the first of January because museums etc are closed and we were right. I loved Eurostar. We booked tickets in advance from AAA so all we needed to do was show up and find our trains. I wish we could have taken Eurostar home to the states. The trains were on time for both trips. We stayed in second class and our big bags easily fit in the overhead compartments. The trains were full in 2nd class. The scenery on the train ride from Rome to Florence was gorgeous. From Florence to Venice the landscape was pretty flat for much of the ride. There was no snow on the ground along the route, except for on the hilltops near Florence. I think that one reason I liked the train so much was because it was the only time I was “allowed” to sit and do nothing. Our motto for the trip was supposedly “il dolce far niente” but we didn’t follow it as you shall see.

Buses: The buses in rome were amazingly easy. Not like NYC where you have to memorize routes ahead of time. The stops for each numbered bus were clearly marked on signs and we felt safe on the buses up to 11 at night. Metro was also easy but it shuts down early and you can’t look out the window.

Guidebooks: We used Fodor’s and Lonely Planet for planning, Rick Steves on site for museums, churches and palazzos etc… and Eyewitness DK for weight training and momentos. Who needs pictures when you have the beautiful, but heavy, Eyewitness DK books?

Money: Italy did not seem expensive. However, the declining dollar caused the trip to be expensive and cost us over $2000 more than it would have several years ago. It was hard to buy higher priced souvenirs such as clothes or shoes because of the exchange rate. Meals were costly, also because of the exchange rate, not because the prices were high. (Roman women wore the the most beautiful, unique clothes. They were so elegant. I wanted to stop women on the street to ask them where they shopped, but I knew I couldn’t afford it because of the exchange rate) We took some Euros with us and used credit cards while we were there. Our credit card didn’t work 1 day, but it worked for the rest of the time. We told our cc companies that we’d be in Italy ahead of time.

Shopping: Warningtrong, critical opinion ahead. I was hoping that I would find “craft” in Italy (unique works by creative individuals) and although I saw signs of it (I already mentioned the beautiful, interesting, incredibly crafted clothes women wore and of course there are beautiful, well made shoes) for the most part I didn’t find it. I was saddened by all of the mass produced, name brand goods in the historic areas Central Rome, Florence and Venice. Many streets in the historic areas of Florence and Venice looked exactly like Madison Avenue. It was the same kind of sadness I felt when I went to SoHo in NYC after 15 years away and there was a huge J Crew where art galleries and studios used to be. It was strange to me.

Coffee Culture Shock: You can’t get a good cup of 8 ounces of coffee and sit down for an hour. (at least where we were) You drink espresso and cappuccino, which although are very, very good and cheap (cost about 1 to 1.5 E standing and 3-5E sitting) are so tiny that they don’t lend themselves to a slow, sip and relax experience. This was fine for two weeks but I don’t know if I could live in a place without a café where I can sit and read for two hours, bump into friends and people watch.

Weather: Rome: Last week of December: about 55 degrees, several sunny days, several cloudy days and several slight drizzle days. No heavy rains.
Florence: Last days of December: about 40-50 degrees, totally clear skies for most days, one cloudy day.
Venice: beginning of January, felt very cold (lower 30s, maybe even 20s.) Snow flurries one day, cloudy two days and one really sunny day.

Accommodations: We found our accommodations through guidebooks and trip advisor. We wanted to pay less than 175 a night for a 3 star hotel. We did it, although the exchange rate made it difficult.
Rome: in Rome we stayed at Hotel Modigliani at Piazza Barberini/Via Venuto. It’s very close to the Spanish Steps area and Trevi Fountain. This is a great location, on a quiet sidestreet one block from buses and metro. Restaurants abound. Our room on an upper floor was a good size and had a fantastic shower. You controlled your heat and the room was warm, which was important to me. The room and hotel were spotlessly clean. The décor throughout the hotel appeared fresh and new. The staff were extremely helpful and made dinner reservations for us. Their dinner recommendations were very good, but not knock your socks off. The owner was very nice. The breakfast was delicious (pastries, cereal, yogurt, fresh fruit, ham, cheese, crusty bread, espresso/cappuccino) and was served in a really nice dining room and in the garden on warm mornings. They had a tv with international CNN in English, but the only US news they thought worthy to report was the tiger attack at the SF Zoo. Drawbacks: Noise: There was no street noise and I didn’t hear noises coming from other rooms, but did hear people out in the hall talking and knocking on doors up to about 11/11:30 at night. This was only temporary noise, but you are at the mercy of your neighbors here and if they are noisy you’ll be able to hear them. This is true for a lot of hotels though. Also, no in room clock. Overall this is a great inexpensive 3 star and I would definitely stay here again!

Florence: Il Villino. This is a bed and breakfast several blocks from the Duomo. It’s a great little place in a great location. Our room was large and had beautiful stained glass windows. It was clean and comfy. The shower was small They served my favorite breakfast here with nutella, crusty bread, best yogurt I’ve tasted in really unusual flavors, (kiwi, passion fruit, melon) ham and cheese, fresh fruit, cereal and espresso/cappuccino. No street noise, except for the fireworks on New Years Eve. We could hear our neighbors’ TV from across the hall one night, but that only lasted a short time. The owners were there most of the time and were very kind and attentive and eager to make our stay a good experience. They had a wonderful dinner recommendation. They also happily lent us dishes and silverware one night so that we could have a feast in our room! Drawback: The fan on our heater was breaking down (it rattled and screeched and sometimes wouldn’t go on) The owner tried to fix it himself but didn’t succeed while we were there so we turned the heat off at night because of the noise. He was very nice about it and did try to fix it by changing the filter, but it appeared to be a more complicated mechanical problem. We weren’t uncomfortable without the heat at night and would have said something more if we were.

Venice: Ca San Giorgio in Santa Croce. This was another great place to stay. It’s a small, clean hotel in a great location if you want to be close to things but not around crowds. The rooms were a decent size, with a small shower. The staff at this hotel went above and beyond for us because I caught a bad cold in Venice and they gave us a teapot and lots of tea so I could make 24 hour tea, and they offered me food and fruit one night when I was too sick to go out to dinner. They were so kind and helpful, I can’t thank them enough! The breakfast was good with great fruit, great bread, nutella, great espresso/capp, ham and cheese, cereal and pastries but the yogurt wasn’t in individual cups, it was in a big bowl and didn’t seem appetizing. They had a fantastic, tangy blood orange juice. They had satellite TV with 3 stations in English-BBC, Bloomberg and a French News Station. The room was nice and warm and we could control the temperature. By Venice I missed home and wanted some news, especially about the upcoming primaries, but I couldn’t get any info. The hotel was kind enough to keep our bags for us on our last day so that we could stay in town til 6pm to leave Venice for our airport hotel in the evening. I would definitely stay here again and I wish we could have stayed here and in Venice a few more days.

Another Venice hotel for our last night: Marriot Suites at the Airport: We stayed here because our flight left at 7am in the morning and we didn’t want to have to get up any earlier than necessary. Staff were nice, they sold us stamps and mailed our postcards for us. They have a free shuttle to the airport, however it was crowded and chaotic and the shuttle filled up at 5:30 in the morning and we couldn’t get on even though we reserved the time. We had to wait for it to return worried that we wouldn’t make it on the next one and get to our flight in time, but we did. The hotel was nice, clean and had a free buffet breakfast that we didn’t know about til we were on our way out so we almost missed it. Good place if you have an early morning flight.

1st day: The cost of our plane ticket on USair was over 1100 each because we flew into Rome and out of Venice. (and also because we left out of our small town airport) The red eye flight from Philadelphia to Rome felt very long, but I didn’t mind so much because I was excited. It was about 10 hours long because there was a luggage problem and we spent over an hour on the ground while it was being fixed. DH is over 6’3 tall and when we reserved tickets the clerk had said that we were going to be sitting in the first row and he’d have extra room, but she was wrong. We were actually in the second row and DH was squished. Tall DH was miserable. But thankfully the flight was close to on time in Rome and our luggage arrived in Rome with us! They also did not feed us enough on the plane for such a long flight and we should have brought more snacks.
We got there at about 9am and went to the tourist info booth at the airport and bought 3 day Roma passes for 20E each. Roma passes were great because they included the bus, as well as 2 free museums and a 20% discount on museums after the two free ones. Our taxi ride was fun because the driver, who was sort of ornery, drove like a madman. It really felt like a roller coaster ride. We past by ruins as drove to our destination (Piazza Barberini) and I was really moved by them.
We checked into Modigliani and went off exploring Rome. We were both very tired and our original plan to go to the Colosseum was discarded because I had sprained my leg on my treadmill the week before our trip and was still limping and I wanted a slower kind of day. We were also in some kind of strange “we’re finally here” trance and had a hard time doing something. However our room wasn’t ready yet so we had to go do something. We walked to a wonderful overview at the Medici palace and through the Borghese gardens (a beautiful park) and went to the Spanish Steps. We had lunch at La Rampa, which is around the corner from the steps. They had a really nice Antipasti spread for 10E a plate. The plate was a small plate however so for some it might not be enough for a meal. But the variety was great. We also shared fresh pasta with mussels, which was very good. It was a great introduction to food in Rome. They did give us tap water.
Then we walked and found Giolloti (not on purpose) and had gelato which was our favorite of the trip. The strawberry was amazing and so was the pistachio, which is my favorite flavor. While eating gelato and strolling we walked down an alley which opened up to a small piazza and Ecco Pantheon! I started to cry it was so moving. And it was then that I realized that I love ruins. I don’t know if the Pantheon can really be considered a ruin because it’s an active church, and it appears to be in pretty good shape, so maybe I should say that I was struck by the age of the building and the sense of time and change, one thing changing into another thing. So we went inside and stayed around a while, reading and imagining the people and the time during which it was originally built. This experience shook us out of our trances and we then began exploring the streets in earnest. I had cappuccino at Tazza D’Oro, which I thought was the best I had in Italy. The coffee was a flavorful dark roast that tasted very fresh. We then went to Trevi and other monuments in the area.
We had dinner that night at a restaurant recommended by our hotel, Colline Emiliane. It was several blocks from the hotel near Piazza Barberini. Our Italian neighbors at the table next to us were eating a great looking Spinach torte. When they saw us eyeing their torte, which was not on the menu, they said in English that it was very good. We ordered it and it was great. Then we had Pumpkin ravioli, which was delicious and interesting and fresh pasta in Bolognese sauce. This was recommended by our waiter. It was very good, but not that interesting. We shared roast veal, which it seemed everyone in the restaurant was having, for our second course. The waiter also steered us towards this choice. I was really full by this time so I didn’t have much, but DH loved it. It was in a light cream sauce. Overall I thought it was a very good meal. I don’t think you could go wrong here. I think we had the house wine and tap water. The total was about 50 E.

Day 2: Today we woke up early to go to the Vatican. It was the Saturday before Christmas and due to the fact that the museum would be closed three days this week, we worried about the crowds, so we wanted to get there early. We also had a Scavi tour reservation at 1:30, and the museum opened at 10, so we wanted as much time possible there. We took the metro (using our Roma Pass!) and got there at 10 and there was no line! We got right in. We first went to the Pinacoteca, which you should not miss! It pays to go there first if you want to be able to go to St. Peter’s right after the Sistine chapel. We were both wowed by Raphael’s transfiguration. Then we began the walk through the galleries to the Sistine Chapel. By the time we got to the Raphael Rooms, about 11:30, it was very crowded. The Sistine chapel was full of people. We stayed there for about a half an hour. There are benches there so you can sit while you’re taking it all in. We left through the side door to St. Peter’s and asked the Swiss Guards and security outside if we could go get lunch and then return for Scavi without having to stand on line. They said that as long as we had a copy of our reservation they would let us in to attend the Scavi tour. So we grabbed a quick bite across the street from St Peter’s at a tavola calda (it was actually pretty good) and then went on to the Scavi.
I found out about Scavi through this forum and it was one of the highlights of the trip for me. I loved learning about the history of the necropolis and the tombs were beautiful. There were frescos, mosaics and elaborate coffins. Then the guide took us upstairs to see Pope John Paul’s tomb.
Following Scavi we went to St. Peter’s and because I’d hurt my leg I couldn’t go up to the top, which I felt sad about because I like panoramic views, but we did enjoy seeing Michelangelo’s Pieta and we stayed for the 5 o’clock mass. Then we decided to walk across the bridge by Castle St. Angelo and looked for a restaurant near Campo De Fiori and found Ditirambo, which was on our list of restaurants we wanted to try. I think it was about 7:30 and they were just opening up so they let us in without a reservation. 1/2 hour later they were completely packed. We had house wine and two pasta dishes as appetizers. One was a duck, which tasted a lot like our bolonese the evening before. The other was a really fresh, homemade square pasta with salt cod, artichokes and other ingredients that was really delicious. We shared a main of sea bass, which was very good and a side of cooked chickory, which was great. We both enjoyed this meal. Then we walked back to Piazza Barberini, which would have taken about 30 minutes, but we got lost and wound up going in the opposite direction. I think that this was the night we tried gelato at san crispino on the way home. We didn’t like it as much as giollioti. It wasn’t as creamy and the flavors had less depth.

Day 3: This was Sunday and since many Museums are closed Monday, and Tuesday was a holiday, (xmas) we had a lot we wanted to fit in. We took the bus to Piazza Navona to see St. Ivo alla Sapienza, a church by Borromini. Our guidebook had mistakenly said the church was only open on Sundays so we thought we had to go today if we wanted to see it. Interestingly, it was actually closed on Sundays for services, but open all other days! We were able to study the outside however and we did go in during the service and the music was haunting. So much thought and creativity went into this small church. It probably was my favorite church of the trip. Then we took the bus to National Museum of Rome, Massimo near Termani train station. They happened to have a Pompeii exhibit, with lots of frescos from Pompeii. This was great for me because I had wanted to go to Pompeii, but we’d decided it was too far to do on a day trip. So we got to see some of Pompeii! They had 100’s of beautiful frescos. There were mostly Italians at this exhibit and it was here that I saw the best dressed people I’ve ever seen. The rest of the museum has interesting mosaics and statues and frescos. It also has a coin collection. Across the street were the Baths of Diocletian and the church Santa Maria degli Angeli, which is built into the baths, and has a beautiful calendar with the astrological symbols on the floor (a sundial?) We explored these and then walked to Monti to try to have lunch at Trattoria Monti, but it was closed so we walked to the enoteca Cavour 313 on Cavour and had one of my favorite meals with the best olive oil I’ve ever tasted. The olive oil came with the bread and it was so delicious. We got wine, an order of various wild Boar meat products, a cheese plate, their organic vegetarian antipasti plate and an arugula salad. It cost about 55E because we bought a bottle of the olive oil to take home with us. The oil is organic and cost 12E. It is my most prized souvenir from Italy.
It was about 3pm when we were finished with lunch so we ran to the Colloseum and avoided the long line because we had Roma Passes. We were there for about an hour. The visit was a bit strange because there was a Spanish music concert in the park across the street. The music was really loud and the juxtaposition of the ruins with “arriba, arriba, ay, ay, ay” and really lively music made it hard to appreciate it. We thought we could see the forum and the Palatine, but they weren’t letting people in because it was late, so we followed the crowd up Via Sacra for about 20 minutes to a dead end. It was a nice walk but I was really tired at that point. However, DH wanted to go to the Capitaline Museums, which were opened until 8. I wanted to go back to the hotel and relax (we’d already been to a museum and two in one day seemed like too much) but he was so excited that I relented and we went and I don’t remember much about it except for the great nighttime views from the Café and good coffee. I think there was some nice artwork there and sculpture too, but I was saturated. DH enjoyed it immensely.
Then we walked home and had pizza around the corner from Modigliani. The pizza was very good but they refused to give us tap water because, they said, they didn’t have any. We had house wine and the bill was about 20E.

Day 4: Christmas Eve Day: We went to Doria Pamphilj in the morning. The galleries include an audio guide narrated by “the prince” who still lives in the Palazzo. This was amusing. We both enjoyed the artwork and the Palazzo itself. There is a nice café attached to the Palazzo to have coffee or a sweet after the museum.
Then we window shopped a little and had lunch at Enoteca Corsi. DH had their pasta of the day, which I thought was kind of boring. We had a sausage and broccoli dish that was fantastic and osso bucco, which was very good.
We walked over to the forum and explored and at about 3:30 we went into the Palatine, which was our favorite part of the trip. The Palatine is where emperor Augustus lived. It is on a hill above the Colloseum and Forum. From the other side it overlooks Circus Maximus. The sun was in the process of setting, it was overcast and fairly warm and the muted colors of the ruins and the grass and trees created a slightly melancholy and magical mood. There are panoramic overlooks and lots of ruins to explore. There weren’t many people because it was late in the day. We explored until we were shooed out at 5.
It was dusk at this point and we thought it might be nice to try to have dinner in Trastevere. However, it was xmas eve, so we know it could be hit or miss. We decided to walk there past Circus Maximus and over the bridge at Tiber Island. It was a really nice walk but we got to Trastevere about 6 and it was dark and cold and Everything was closing, and the streets were deserted. Even the McDonald's was closing. As we were finding our way to a main street to see if anything was open we were approached by a begger on a dark, desolate street. When we declined to give her anything she just walked away, but the desolation of the area that night turned Trastevere into Trastescary. We gave up and walked to Campo area where we found a Chinese restaurant on via Florida (?) near the cat sanctuary and had a tasty chinese meal. We then walked to the Pantheon hoping they’d have a mass but we were told there wasn’t a mass there this year so we called it a night. We missed seeing Trastevere when things are open and we’re both sad that we never got back there to have dinner or go to the churches and farnesina.
I think that I will take a break and post this now. I’ll write more later. I hope it’s interesting to you and not too long.
Ella656 is offline  
Old Jan 11th, 2008, 12:17 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,223
I'm enjoying your report and wirting for the next installment.

Just so you know for your next trip . . .

<<Many streets in the historic areas of Florence and Venice looked exactly like Madison Avenue. It was the same kind of sadness I felt when I went to SoHo in NYC after 15 years away and there was a huge J Crew where art galleries and studios used to be. It was strange to me.>>
Just like in NYC, you must go a little further afield from the main shopping streets, to areas where the rents are lower, to find the smaller more authentic local shops.

<<You can’t get a good cup of 8 ounces of coffee and sit down for an hour.>>
You can sit down at any cafe, order an Americano or a caffe lungo, both larger coffees, and sit for the rest of the day. The table is yours forever. I've sat at the same table for three hours over one cup of hot chocolate. It usually costs more at the table, but the table is yours until you decide to leave.

Waiting to hear more about Rome, Florence, and Venice!
ellenem is online now  
Old Jan 11th, 2008, 12:34 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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wirting . . . waiting . . .
ellenem is online now  
Old Jan 11th, 2008, 01:53 PM
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A charming and interesting trip report Ella. And for someone that injured their leg before the trip you certainly did a lot of walking!!

I enjoyed travelling through Rome with you, your writing style is such that one feels they are on the trip with you.

And yes, next time be seated at an outdoor cafe (if the weather is conducive) and feel free to sit at the table as long as you wish while you relax and people watch. I always order Cafe Americano when I wish to linger. But I do love (about three of them) the espresso in the morning.

And the elegantly dressed Roman women, oh sigh, some of them certainly are. It can be like a fashion show can't it?

Wishing you and your husband many more beautiful trips together!
LoveItaly is offline  
Old Jan 11th, 2008, 04:24 PM
  #5  
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I’m glad that you are reading this and enjoying it. You’re both right that we could sit for as long as we wanted anytime we ordered something at a table and we appreciated this. We never felt rushed at a meal in Italy.

The hurt leg was the pinnacle of irony on a trip full of walking. It felt better by the third day in Italy but the week before the trip it required an ER visit because I couldn’t even stand on it. The moral is never start running when you are in your 40s and it’s two weeks before vacation!

Day 5, Christmas in Rome
This turned out to be our favorite morning/afternoon. It started out completely cloudless and sunny. We decided to walk to the noon mass at St. Peter’s. I was extremely excited about seeing the Pope even though I am not Catholic. The walk from Piazza Barberini took about 30 minutes. We crossed the bridge to the Vatican by the impressive Justice building. As we got closer to the Vatican the streets became more and more crowded and there was excitement in the air. Walking down the main street we saw a parade of Swiss Guards in their orange outfits accompanied by a marching band. They walked up the the steps of St. Peters and stood there throughout the Pope’s talk. We picked a place to stand and waited about a ˝ hour for the Pope to come out of his window. People around us were incredibly nice. They were happy and courteous. Some brought their dogs and I asked if I could pet a bichon frise. The owner said ‘yes’ and I stooped down and the cute dog jumped on me and licked my face-the friendliest, sweetest dog. I forgot to mention that I cried right before this when the cheer “Popa, Popa” went through the crowd and a group of priests started jumping up and down excitedly. I found out later that my crying was due to a mild case of “Stendhal Syndrome.” At least I didn’t need to get hospitalized.
Finally the Pope came out and gave a 15 minute sermon in Italian about Jesus and Mary. That’s all I could understand. He sounded very formal and serious. The sermon was all business. At the end of the sermon there was a silence and then, in a voice heavy with warmth and emotion the Pope said “uomini e donne, Buon Natale!” and everyone cheered, because he addressed us and you could feel emotion coming from him. He then gave blessings in many languages and after each the people who spoke that language gave a roaring cheer. Spanish won, with the most cheerers. By the way, the Vatican must have the best sound system in the world.
After this experience of a lifetime we walked to the Jewish Ghetto area for lunch. We had a choice between several restaurants open on Christmas day. We chose Il Portico because of the tortellini in broth that everyone outside was eating. After we sat down we discovered that they had an expensive limited menu that day, but the soup looked so good that we coughed it up to a Christmas tax and had a very good lunch. We had the soup, a pasta with lobster in garlic sauce and lamb chops. We were waited on by an 11 year old cherub boy who recited the menu in Italian while looking up at the sky, as children reciting often do. His family was eating together inside (they filled most of the restaurant inside) and the tourists were eating outside. It was fun speaking with him in Italian as he was very patient. Then we went to the synagogue where what appeared to be a Jewish Italian youth group was taking a group picture. It was fun watching them be teenagers. Several blocks away was the theater of Marcellus and after that Capitoline. We decided to walk up to Capitoline and see it in the daytime. Then, on a whim, we decided to walk to Monti and Quirinal to see if churches were open. I think we saw Bernini’s St Teresa there. We went to Maggiore in Monti area. This was my 2nd favorite church. The colors of the huge apse mosaic were so vibrant. We went to St. Peter in Vincoli, but it was closed. I wanted to see Michelangelo’s Moses, and was disappointed.
Then we walked to Gusto for dinner, near the Spanish Steps. Gusto turned out to be my favorite Pizzaria. Gusto has a chefy, maybe expensive restaurant, a wine bar and in a different location a block away, a Pizzaria. It has a very modern look and on Christmas at 8 was packed with Italians and tourists. The music was loud and atmosphere energetic. We had a full bottle of wine here and good times! We ordered two pizzas, one four cheese and one with sausage, I think. Both excellent.

Day 6: We had reservations at the Borghese today and took the English tour at 11, thanks to advice on Fodor’s. (someone’s trip report) The tour was great and I fell in love with the Bernini sculptures. We were disappointed that they only allowed you two hours here because we could have stayed another hour. After the Borghese we ate at Sora Lucia near Trevi. It was recommended by our hotel. We shared an antipasti plate (good, but not enough quantity) pasta with pepper and cheese (great) and scallopini. (good) We had a piece of apple torte for dessert here that was fantastic! It was a food highlight of the trip for me. It was a yellow cake with a creamy layer inside and a layer of cooked apples on top of that. Yum! I miss that cake.
Then we did our tour of centro storico churches all afternoon and were especially moved by the St. Matthew Caravaggio series at San Luigi dei Francesi. I liked the calling of Saint Matthew. We turned out to be Caravaggio fans after Rome.
We had dinner at La Tortuga. The food wasn’t great, but it was good. We had pasta, but I don’t remember what kind and boiled beef with sauces, which was interesting and I unfortunately don’t remember the rest.

Day 7, last day in Rome: We went to Palazza Barberini in the morning and enjoyed the art and had lunch at a pizzeria we found near the Spanish steps. We went shopping and to Santa Maria del Popolo in the afternoon. In Popolo I was greatly affected by the crucifixion of St Peter (another Caravaggio) because in the painting he appears to be looking at himself being crucified. To me he seems to be looking at his arm nailed to the cross. This depiction of his awareness of his suffering and death impacted me more than other depictions of crucifixion. This of course was my reaction, I don’t know if it was at all what Caravaggio intended. I also liked the pinturiccio chapels.
For dinner we went to Osteria del Angelo for the fixed price meal. Most memorable to me was the pasta amatriciana and the raw chicory salad with anchovy (?) dressing. I wish I could have some of that salad right now!
We were sad to leave Rome, but felt we had seen a lot and we were ready for new adventures.

Day 8, Roadtrip to Florence- Our hotel clerk told us we could take the bus to termini from Barberini for 2E, verses 15 E for a cab. We each had only one big bag so we decided to do it. The trip was really easy by bus. As I said earlier the train trip was great. I loved looking at all the medieval hilltop towns we passed by. I wished we could have explored them, but another time. We walked to our hotel from the train station in Florence. It was about a 20 minute walk, but it felt good after the train ride. We checked into Il Villino near the duomo and went out to explore Florence. We walked around the town and had pizza for lunch. We went to Pitti Palace- galleria palatina at 3 and were there for about 3 hours. Unfortunately it’s a blur. I enjoyed it but I can't remember specifics. But I was wowed by dinner at Il Guscio…
This was my favorite meal of the trip, thank you fodor’s forum. Il Guscio is kind of chefy, my kind of food. We had a vegetable antipasti dish that was delicious, a pasta dish that was very good, but I don’t remember what was in it and my favorite, steak with parmesan cheese and balsamic vinegar on top. (incredible) We loved this meal. I’ve got to go, but I’ll write more later.
Ella656 is offline  
Old Jan 11th, 2008, 06:56 PM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Ella, I'm really enjoying your report. Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa is in Santa Maria della Vittorio, so unless you went there, you didn't see it!
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Old Jan 17th, 2008, 01:09 PM
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Hello again,
This is part 3 of my trip report. I’m now in Florence. But first….

Susan P,
We did go to Santa Maria della Vittorio. I love Bernini!

Day 9
This was our first full day in Florence. It was a Saturday and we had reservations for the Uffizi at 10:00. There already was a long line and I’m glad we had reservations. We still had to wait on line about 15 minutes because of the slow speed of people going through security. We planned on going to the Uffizi in the morning and churches in the afternoon. However, we found ourselves at the Uffizi until 5:00 because we loved it so much. It really was the best of the best. I especially loved Botticelli, Lippi, Gentile da Fabriano’s adoration of the Magi and Simore Martini’s Annunciation which has the Virgin giving the angel Gabriel the “stink eye.” Her expression and stance reminded both DH and I of my niece and we said my niece’s name out loud at the same time when we saw the painting! We ate lunch at the Café there and it was pretty good.

We had a reservation at Guscio again that night. I know, we went there last night. But it was my favorite meal thus far and I wanted to try several things we hadn’t tried the night before. We got there and it seemed a hotel had called them and cancelled a reservation. They assumed it was our reservation because our name sounded like the name the hotel gave them and they gave our reservation to someone else. They told us we had to wait an hour to be seated or go somewhere else. The restaurant was only partly full at this time and I’m sure the owner could have done something to accommodate us since it was his mistake. (an honest mistake) After a few awkward minutes of DH and I discussing whether we wanted to wait an hour he said that he would seat us because it looked like another table hadn’t shown up. I was very happy about this at first, but felt uncomfortable during the meal and I wished we would have gone somewhere else. The food was very good, but I felt upset about the mix up. I still love the food there best.

Day 10
Today we went to Academia to see David. The space they created for him is perfect and the statue is amazing. I had another mild episode of Stendhal Syndrome there. The night previously I read in Rold C. Wirtx’s Art and Architecture Florence ( a Barnes and Noble book) about Stendhal Syndrome: “While traveling to Florence (Stendhal) found himself unable to control the emotions which welled up in him in anticipation of the city’s cultural pleasures… Even today patients who respond in a similar way are still being treated in the psychiatric ward of S. Maria Nuova: 107 cases between 1978 and 1986… the trigger for this curious phenomenon is apparently an excessive exposure to art.”
After the Academia we decided to take a walk to Piazza Michelangelo and the church San Miniato al Monte for the views and the church. We also walked to Fort Belvedere for more views. From the Fort one can see a castle up on the south hill. Does anyone know what this is?
Then we tried to have lunch at a restaurant recommended by a friend (called Bordino, I think) but we were too late. (It was about 3:00 by then)We also tried to get into the Brancacci chapel but they had no reservations available for the remainder of that day. We ate a late lunch at a self-serve place. We shopped and relaxed until dinner at Aquacotta, near Il Villino and the Duomo. It was recommended by Il Villino. We enjoyed our meal of fresh pasta, gnocchi and steak. The steak came with roasted potatoes and grilled veggies, which were a pleasant surprise. I think it cost around 50E with water and house wine.

Day 11
It was New Year’s Eve day and we started off by going to Museo di San Marco. We were interested in the paintings/frescos and in the Monastery. The monastery was fascinating. Each cell had a painting on a wall to meditate on. The themes were all different. You could enter several cells and imagine what it might have been like to live there. We then took a long walk around town and had lunch at the self service place across from Museo di San Marco. It was inexpensive and very good. We then went to the central market and bought a feast for dinner: prosciutto, olives, pesto, bread, fresh mozzarella, roast pork, artichokes, grilled peppers, wine, water, biscotti and probably more. Central market was a great place to buy food gifts to take home too.
We then went to the Duomo and went up the Campanile. (line to go up the Dome was too long) It was a great view and we took lots of pictures and I wished I could hike and explore the hills and hilltowns surrounding Florence. Then we went to the Duomo museum which is an interesting, small museum with the original baptistery doors and Michelangelo’s Pieta (self-portrait) among other things. We went home to our awaiting feast and to the sound of fireworks til about 1 am. We could see them in the sky over the Duomo from our window.
Next stop…Venice.
Ella656 is offline  
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