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Italy Trip Report Single Mom wTeen

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Jun 6th, 2004, 02:22 PM
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Italy Trip Report Single Mom wTeen

Introduction - Background facts

I?m a 47 year old widow who planned to take my kids to Europe with life insurance $ after my husband died five years ago. I decided to concentrate on one country and Italy seemed to have the best weather, most interesting things to see and the best food. I have a 16 year old son and a 14 year old daughter. Im in so so physical shape, my son is a couch potato and my daughter a competitive figure skater. She was usually in front, me in the middle and my son bringing up the rear.

We used a travel consultant Sally Watkins http://www.sallywatkins.com/ She arranged our hotels in Sorrento and Florence and apt in Rome, as well as drivers once we got there. She was very helpful with other advice. Well worth it. I made my own arrangements for an apt in Venice. Probably should have let her do it, but more about that later.

I also got a lot of help from Slow Travelers web site (http://www. Slowtrav.com) and the Fodors Message board. I brought along Rick Steves book on Italy and would rip out the pages about the town and carry those in my purse. In Rome I carried around DK Eyewitness on Rome. It was heavy but VERY handy to have around. Pretty good maps and info on public transportation. We took and used recommendations from Sandra Gustafsons Great Eats in Italy and Chow Venice" We also had Rick Steve's Italian phrase book that was helpful. We learned enough Italian to be polite, find the bathroom, point out questo for pasty and order food.

I rented a Piccel cell phone (https://www.piccellwireless.com/piccell/en/index.php) before we left. The prices seemed better than anything else I didn't want to bother with trying to buy and phone and then unload it later. I was relatively pleased except that every once in awhile the phone just would not work, then it would work an hour later. This was a real pain when my daughter got locked in the bathroom and we couldn't use the phone. So I'm not sure I'd recommend it for that reason. If it didn?t work in a real emergency what would be the point of having it?

I wore a neck pouch in which I carried all three passports, an extra ATM card, credit card and sometime a large amount of cash euros (I needed to pay both apartments in cash) and never had any trouble. I carried about 50 euro at a time, credit card and ATM card in my front pocket. Maybe I could have been proved wrong, but I just felt I would notice if someone tried to get in my front pocket, paid careful attention to it all the time. I never had a problem. Isaac had a little incident with a crowd of kids in Florence trying to get into his pockets, more details in the trip report.

We live in a small town in Iowa near Sioux City. A friend drove us to Omaha the day before where we spent the night, and then caught the shuttle to the airport for a flight from Omaha to Detroit, then Detroit to Amsterdam, then Amsterdam to Rome.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 02:26 PM
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Tuesday 5/11 ? Rome to Naples to Sorrento

Hotel Villa Maria
http://www.hotelvillamaria.it/english/albergo.htm
Via Capo 8, Sorrento

We left Monday 5/10 at 10 am and arrived in Rome (exhausted) at 9:30 am on Tuesday 5/11. But our journey wasn?t finished. Sally had arranged for a driver to pick us up at the airport and drive us to the train station, where I easily bought first class tickets for Naples from the machine. Already it is clear I have not packed light enough. Sarah and Isaac each have a 21 inch suitcase, I have a 28 inch packed to the hilt, plus we each have a carry on and mine is way too heavy.

The train trip to Naples is very nice. We sleep. About two hours later we arrive in Naples where our journey is still not over. Sally made arrangements for another driver to meet us and take us to Sorrento. All these drivers walk very fast. We have a difficult time keeping up, because our luggage is so heavy and we are SO TIRED. He?s very talkative and tells us all about the area. We can barely keep our eyes open. As we drive through a few tunnels to get to Sorrento Isaac has already decided this is the coolest vacation we have ever taken.

Our hotel is the Villa Maria, on the corner of Via Capo. $150 a night for a triple. The first room they give us has one big double bed in it. By the time I went downstairs they?ve already realized the mistake and wisked the kids into a cute little room with 3 tiny beds. The bed is almost not big enough for my son. The kids have never seen a bidet and are grossed out when I tell them what it is for. Later when Sarah realizes the shower is too small to shave her legs she decides that is what the bidet is good for.

We have a little balcony that over looks the street below and you can see the bay and ocean. The kids are very happy except that Sarah?s coach has given her some off ice exercises to stay in shape and she doesn?t know where she can do her off ice axels.

Isaac has not slept since we left the hotel Monday am, Sarah slept well on the plane ? I gave her a headache pm pill but figured someone needed to be alert so I only slept fitfully on the plane. In minutes Isaac is out. Sarah is ready to go out and do something and I?m beat. This will often happen on this trip ? Isaac and Sarah on opposite ends and me somewhere in between. It?s about 5 pm so Sarah and I decide to shower and walk around Sorrento.

We stake out a reasonable place for dinner across the street. We check out the little shops, we find a place for gelato and an internet café. And most importantly ? the bancomat ? ATM.

After our walk we came back and woke Isaac, otherwise he?d wake up too early. By the time he?s up and showered, it?s only 6:30. Way too early for dinner in Italy. But we are starving and ready for bed. If we don?t eat now, we?ll go to sleep. The place across the street, Café Rivage has people sitting out and enjoying drinks, but they are willing to serve us dinner. Isaac wants a pizza with pepperoni and doesn?t believe Sarah and I when we tell him pepperoni is peppers. Finally the waiter tells him they are green, red and yellow vegetables and he decides on a prosciutto pizza. This will be the beginning of Isaac?s love affair with prosciutto. Sarah gets the pepperoni pizza and I have the pasta special with tomato sauce, mushrooms, and yes, pepperoni.. We?re so hungry that we agree to salads but we forgot that salads do not come before your meal here. The pasta was wonderful and I woofed it down, then dutifully ate my salad afterwards, but it wasn?t that good. The kids loved their pizzas but were not interested in salad after that..

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Jun 6th, 2004, 02:37 PM
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Wed. May 13 2004 ? Daytrip to Napoli

This hotel is the only place where we'll have a big breakfast spread. Eggs, assorted breads and cornetti, pound cake, yogurt, oranges, and this wonderfully sweet blood orange juice.

We walked to the Circumvesuviana station and took the train to Napoli. This is a very crowded train with lots of stops. I got to use my line I'd been practicing "Vorei trei biglietti per Napoli"

On the trip I watch two Italian men standing having a very animated conversation. The one guy cannot talk with one hand and constantly lets go of the handle, and risks jostling so he can converse with both hands.

When we got to the Napoli Centrale it wasn't clear that is where we were and had to have the conductor come by and kick us off "Finito!" he says shooing us out. Okay we are dumb Americans, I admit it.

My plan was to take the metro to the Archeological Museum but I couldn?t figure out where it was and it was easy to find the Taxi stand. 6.50 metered ride there.

It was getting warm and the museum was a cool place to walk around. We should have bought audio guides because we were a little lost trying to figure some of the stuff out. I can?t decide if I'm more impressed by an artist who can carve something beautiful out of a block of marble, or an artist who can create a beautiful work of art out of thousands of pieces of broken glass and rock. I think people had much more patience in those days.

After the museum we had lunch at a café across the street. Our first taste of Margherita Pizza?it's really wonderful.

So I want to find the Capella Sansevero to see the Veiled Christ and Sarah wanted to see the shops along Via Toledo. Finding the shopping was easy, but the Capella proved to be more illusive. All I had was a Rick Steves map and we cannot see any street signs so we aren't even sure where we are. We wandered and meandered, saw lots of interesting little side streets and alleys. There were many times when I was sure we were sooo close. We would find a map on a building wall with the church listed and an arrow. We'd follow the arrow and see another sign with the name of the church with the arrow pointing back where we came from. We did enjoy all the little shops and the little Nativity figures.

I would have bought some but I wanted to start with the Holy Family and I couldn?t find a Joseph, Mary and baby as small as the other figures I would have liked. The shopkeepers spoke no English and didn?t seem to understand "Picola Mama?" Sarah was game to keep looking but Isaac was getting hot tired and surly. It didn?t seem like we were ever going to find it so I gave up. I failed at my first mission.

So now we are thoroughly and hopelessly lost in Naples. Good thing warnings about how dangerous this city is supposed to be are exaggerated. We never felt the least bit threatened. But I had NO idea where we were. There was a moment of hope when we saw an M for metro, but couldn't figure out where the steps down to the Metro were. Finally Isaac spied a taxi. Taxi is good. He agrees to take us back to the Train station. He doesn't set the meter, but I'm lost in Naples and figure the driver has the upper hand. What am I gonna do? Get out and figure out how to get to the train station on my own? 10 E for a shorter ride than the 6.50 to the museum. Oh well. It could have been worse. We might NOT have found a taxi.

Then after all that walking, the train is full and we get to stand for the nearly hour ride back to Sorrento. Oh well. At least we got back to Sorrento!

As we walk back from the Sorrento station to our hotel, it is a good time to stop for gelato. Sarah has white chocolate, Isaac sticks with strawberry and I try rum. So far the orange chocolate is still my favorite.

What nobody talks about are the dogs in Sorrento. The main drag is full of well fed healthy looking but free roaming dogs that don't appear to belong to anyone. Some have tags, most don?t and they just roam at will. Even a large, intact Doberman! He didn't seem the least bit dangerous. They are all well behaved and affectionate. They don't bark. They don't jump on you, they just go where they please, shops and restaurants included. Isaac pet one and he began to follow us on our way home. When we stopped at a bench to eat our gelato, he laid down beside Isaac. Finally the dog was distracted chasing a pigeon and we made our escape.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 02:39 PM
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After our Napoli adventure, we rested up at the hotel. We are determined this time to "eat at a more sophisticated hour", as my daughter puts it. But it's boring sitting around in the hotel. Let's go to the internet café!

The café is empty except for a few men at the bar. Internet is 3 E for a half hour. Pretty cheap, but of course, we all want a computer! She has 3 computers all in a row. I have wine, the kids have apple juice and we go surfing.

The apple juice, "succo de mela," is a dark green color. It tastes like someone ground up a complete green apple, peeling and all. It's wonderful. My kids may never drink plain old American apple juice again.

Internet for 3, 3 drinks 19 E. But now it's only 6:30! Still too early for dinner. Isaac sits on a bench. Sarah and I shop.

We find a cute little clothing store, Piazza Italia, where Sarah finds a cute white top and a chartreuse green jacket. There is a shade of green in these stores I've never seen in the US. It is less than 30E for both tops. Things are much less expensive here than I expected. We also checked out a supermarket. "Looks like Walmart," Sarah comments, then we see the groceries "Okay,Super Walmart" she corrects herself. Except I don't think you can get frozen baby octopus at Walmart.

So now it's 7. We have to eat. I promise Sarah tomorrow night we'll eat later.

We decide we want to eat where the action is and eat outside on the plaza at Fauno Bar. We start with brochetta, apple juice for the kids, Prosecco for me and a liter of acqua con gas. Sarah had spaghetti, Isaac Hawaiian pizza and I had tortellini that looked like it came out of a can. Tasted a little better than Chef Boyardee but I did have higher expectations. However, we are outside, watching the people, it was very enjoyable.

The kids are having a hard time adjusting to Italian service. They are used to leaving as soon as they finish eating. Burt its nice outside and they are learning to relax. We asked for dolce and they seemed to forget about us and we had to ask again about 15 minutes later. I had the famous Sorrento lemon cake, Sarah a vanilla cream cake and Isaac had fragola and pane-- strawberries and ice cream. It was all very good. Total bill ? 65 E.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 02:53 PM
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Thursday, May 13, 2004 ? Pompeii Daytrip.

I woke up to the sound of rain. Oh dear. I did not have a plan B. Our two days planned are outdoor activities -Pompeii today, Capri tomorrow.

Oh well, no sense waking the kids up early! I went downstairs and had a cappuccino and wrote in my journal.

By the time the kids wake up it has stopped raining. We go down to breakfast and I don't want another Cappuccino (they are awfully filling) so I ask for Café Americano. I had an espresso at the train station and it is just too strong for me. The café came whipped. It's still pretty strong. I like strong coffee-just not espresso strong.

Off to the train station again. This time I memorize "Andata e returno" -Round trip, which I forgot yesterday.

The Circumvesuvia is a very crowded train. People get on with luggage and put their suitcases on a seat while others stand. That just doesn't seem right to me. I wonder if the people who must commute to work on this train are annoyed at all these tourists crowding their train.

Rick Steves says to leave the train station at Pompei and turn right and you are at the site. Yea but Rick didn't do such a hot job of helping me find Capella Sansevero. This time he was right. We saw our driver from Naples at the parking lot, he recognizes us and is happy to see us "Ah you are going to Pompeii? Very good!"


It was VERY crowded at Pompei. It reminded me of Disneyland at the entrance. Even though there are lots of people walking the streets in Sorrento, this is the first time I've realized "Oh, yea I'm doing a touristy thing"

We got the audio guides which was a very good idea although we had a little trouble identifying some sites. They are numbered, but it's not always easy finding the number on the site itself.

The kids made a big deal of how we had to listen to it at the exact same time so we would push our number then 1...2..3 PLAY!

There were three times we thought we were looking at the Temple of Appollo and were wrong each time. And we never did find it. Nor did we ever find the famous house of the Fawn. Oh well, we've seen pictures. We did get (thanks to advice on Fodors) one of those books with the overlays that show what they looked like originally. The kids thought that was cool. We were able to find a lot of lesser known, more ornate houses, and the bakery.

We were there more than four hours and made our way as far as the grand theatre. We saw on the map there was a stadium at the very end and it seemed like quite a hike, plus then we would have to come back.

Sarah, the trained athlete who does 200 pushups and 50 off ice axels every night, was all up for finishing the tour. Mom could not bear either the walk or Isaac's complaining so it was time to turn back and call it a day.

We stopped at the cafeteria -- the kids were not hungry but I was. For a decent serving of lasagna, small bottle of wine, a lemon soda and 3 bottles of water ? 14.50 E and we sat there for quite awhile resting, and watching all the dogs saunter wherever they pleased. They were all over the site and would come in a rest in the book shop. Two dogs were laying in the bookstore and I was going to take a picture when an employee shooed them away. They were back in a few minutes. The bathroom is upstairs. Bring coins.

We looked through the gift shop. "Oh look, refrigerator magnets of frescoes" Upon a closer look, they are all of erotic scenes. Okay, my kids are teenagers and not ignorant of such things but it is embarrassing to look at them with your mother.

On the way back from the train station in Sorrento we stopped again for gelato, this time deciding to sit down and have it brought to us. Sarah had white chocolate and regular chocolate and banana con panne, Isaac sticks with fragolla (strawberry) and whipped cream, and I have my favorite orange chocolate with café and cream. I've dropped a lot of cash at Pompeii between the entrance and audio guide, lunch, some books and a do it yourself mosaic of a dog for Isaac, while eating the ice cream I realized I didn?t see a menu and we just chose the ice cream. I?m not sure I have enough cash on me. I have only 20E on me, will that me enough for 3 big dishes of ice cream while sitting?? In some US ice cream parlors it wouldn?t be enough. And il conto is?15 Euro! Whew. We will end up spending more for walk away cones one night in Florence?

We got back to our room around 5 and napped. I had kind of wanted to eat at a seaside place on a cliff, but none of them was close enough to walk and I didn?t feel like hassling with a taxi.

So 8 pm, we had back to downtown and Tasso square. We choose a place and decide to eat inside because it?s pretty cool outside and Sarah is wearing her new sleeveless top.

The place was very cute with red and white checked table clothes. I have wine. This place doesn?t have succo de mela (apple juice) so the kids get Sprite. And water. We order antipasti of assorted sausages. I thought I made it clear that the 3 of us were to share one. "Three plates?" He asks. I thought he wanted to know if we wanted plates. Sure we want plates. So they bring out 3 plates of assorted sausages. This is an 8 E antipasto. I hadn?t really planned on paying 24 E just for antipasto! And to make it worse, the kids didn?t really like it enough to eat all of it. One for the three of us would have been fine.

I learned an expensive lesson ? "uno per tre" I had gnocci which was better than the tortellini. Sarah had lasagna and even in English Isaac isn't sure about the menu so he gets stead. We know what that is. Fries? Oh sure, why not. Food was okay. I wouldn't recommend it. Bill is 67 E. Would have been pretty reasonable if we didn?t pay 24 E just for antipasti!

Isaac took the key and went back to the hotel. Sarah and I wait for il conto. We're getting better at this waiting business. It was a little after 9 when we left and we decided to walk around and see more than the main drag. We take a turn down a busy ally, so many shops and people and a very festive atmosphere. We buy little souvenirs here and there.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 02:57 PM
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No matter how many times I proof read this, there's a mistake. Isaac got steak for dinner, not stead.

Friday, May 14 Capri Day Trip

Sarah and I let Isaac sleep and went down to breakfast ourselves. The waiter points to the empty chair and asks "He sleeps, the boy??" Yup, the boy sleeps.

Today we plan to see Capri. I have a general idea where il porto (the port) is to get the ferry but I?m not quite right. We walk a while and then have to turn back. Finally we find some signs directing us. It's a bit of a walk plus some steep stairs but we find way to the marina and the biglieterria. The guy in front of me has his tickets all printed out and then asks "Do you take American?" Yea right. Did you, like, research anything before you came? A guide nicely points him to an exchange window. 57 E round trip for the 3 of us. I slept on the ferry.

We decide to take a boat ride right away around the island. It's an hour and a very nice ride, 27E for the 3 of us. The water was very choppy and there were no boats going into the blue grotto, but we saw the green grotto and the white grotto with a stalagmite that looks like a statue of Mary. Sarah took a picture of George Armani's house to show her friends.

After the boat ride we stopped for an orange juice over lemon ice drink. The orange juice is soooo good here. Then we took the funicular to Capri town, had some more drinks, and looked at some shops. Not much to see, really. Then we took a very crowded bus to Anacapri. We had to stand and there were some very sharp turns.

When I bought RT tickets for the funicular, the guy told me to bring the cards back and he would give me 2 E back. I forgot to do it. We were able to add to the funicular card to use the bus to anacapri.

It was about 2 when we got to Anacapri, time to eat. We ate on the balcony at Barbaroso Pizzeria. Sarah and I each had a Margharita pizza; Isaac just had two orange juices and water. The pizzas were big enough that we could have shared them. Pizzas were only 5.50 but the bill still ended up being 27 E. The sucking sound you hear is that of tourists' money being zapped down the tube in Capri.

I'm determined to do some sightseeing. Let's find San Michelle. I have no map. All I know is that it is nearby. Kids are sure this is going to be a repeat of the San Severa disaster. Nope-there's a sign and arrow, we follow the arrow and there is the church. It has a floor with a large painting of the Garden of Eden. For a fee of 1E you can go in, walk on planks around the floor, then go up a little winding stair case and get a better view of the floor from the balcony.

Okay I'm happy. Kids have had enough. Back on a crowded bus to the Capri funicular to the Grand Marina. It?s an hour and a half before our return ferry comes. More drinks at another café. We are ready to sit. Orange juice for the kids. Beer for me. Yes, it's costly to sit, but it's nice to know we are welcome to sit here and enjoy the view until our boat comes. A nice white dog comes by and sits by us. A marching band made up of all ages from teenagers to old men and in between in militaristic costume go by.

There was a large group of adolescents traveling on our ferry. There were rambunctious and loud, running all over the boat. They were on the island as long as we were-- why are they not as tired? When we got off, there were more teenagers on the dock, hundreds of them in groups with tee shirts, chanting at each other. Perhaps some sort of tournament going on.

We enjoyed the boat ride around the island, but other than that, I can think of no good reason to go to Capri.

No way are we going up the stairs from the Marina and walking home. This is a good time for a taxi. 7.50 E from the marina to the hotel. Well worth it.

I forgot to bring sunscreen and Sarah and I are very sunburned. The kids decide to swim and I stay in. Back at home at noon on Fridays my colleagues and I meet at a bar in downtown Sioux City so I call them there. They get a kick out of hearing from me in Italy.

8 pm we left and ate at the Fauno Bar again. We all had pizza, prosciutto for Isaac, peppers, onion and mushrooms for me, same thing for Sarah, only without the mushrooms. It's very good pizza. The kids think it?s the best they had so far. One of the Sorrento dogs comes by and puts his nose on the table. We have cats constantly begging at the table, so this is not a problem for us, but I think some people might be disturbed by a stray dog at their table in a restaurant. It's taken for granted here. They bring me complimentary lemoncello after dinner. Mmmm --very good.

After dinner, Sarah's in the mood to shop. Then the night's not over until we have gelato. Coconut for me, cream caramel for Sarah. She declares this the best ever.

We were asleep by 11 and then at midnight awaked by loud noises. I thought it was thunder and went out to bring the bathing suites inside from the balcony. Surprise- it's fireworks. The entire sky was lit up. It was so loud it echoed from the bay. What a nice ending for our Sorrento visit.

Tomorrow --on to Rome.
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Jun 6th, 2004, 03:06 PM
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Saturday, May 15, 2004 Napoli to Rome

After breakfast we decide to take one more trip to the internet café. Cappuccino and succo de mela. My kids will never drink regular apple juice again. I check my bank account. Oh good. There?s still some money left. We can eat in Rome.

Our driver comes to get us at 11:30. I don?t think we are going to make the 12:30 train to Rome. ?Do you have your tickets?? He asks. No. Why didn?t I get them, there are plenty of agencies around. Well probably because I would have gotten 12:30 tickets and there is no way we are going to make the 12:30 train. The Naples station does not have any machines, the driver tells me. I thought I saw some, but I stood in line anyways. People in the line are very aggressive. After two men budge in front of me, I get aggressive about holding my place. One young woman in front isn?t quite ready so she motions someone behind her to go ahead. When the next window opens, one of the men who budged in front of me wants to pass her and go to the window but she takes the window. He complains. ?I was here first? she tells him. He begins to complain animatedly in Italian to me. I simply smile and shrug. Yea, right, buddy, like you are going to get any sympathy from me after you budged in front of me!

I thought they took credit cards at the train station but the man at the window says ?cash only? Okay fine. First he wants 104 E for 3 first class tickets to Roma. How can that be when it was 97.62 from Roma to Napoli a few days ago? Oh wait, he?s mistaken. It?s only 97.62. Go figure.

We have tickets for the 1:30 train and people are boarding at 1. As we hustle to our car ? toward the back, of course, some guy takes my ticket and tells me what car to get on. He doesn?t work for the train company and I know what car to get on, thank you very much and I grab my ticket back from him. He?s not going away. He follows us to the car, grabs our luggage and puts them on the rack and then waits expectantly for his tip. I hand over a 5 E bill. I guess it was nice having him lift the luggage for us, but I kind of resent the fact that I had no choice in the matter. And what if I hadn?t had anything small euros? Oh well, it all turned out okay.

Then a lady comes by and starts scolding Isaac in Italian. There?s an empty water bottle by his seat and she wants him to throw it away. He?s lost in his gameboy with his earphones and pays her no attention so she starts yelling at me. I look at her and shrug. I find this to be a good response. There is a couple next to me, and the man in an accent assures me the bottle was there and it was not my fault. The lady comes back and yells some more. He yells back at her in Italian and English ?Go take it yourself if it bothers you? It would not have been that big a deal to pick up the bottle and throw it away but by now it would have been an admission of guilt. My boy?s honor is at stake! The bottle stays on the floor.

When we took the train from Roma to Napoli I slept most of the way. This time I enjoy the scenery. Endless groves of olive trees, rolling hills, red tiled house nestled in terraces, fields of bright red poppies and yellow wild flowers. We arrive in Roma at 3 pm.

We find a corner to huddle and gather enough coins for the WC. We haven?t eaten since breakfast. We need comfort food-not a culinary adventure. This sounds like a job for Mac Donalds. Sarah wants a chicken sandwich without mayo but before I can say anything it?s on the tray. She won?t eat it. Where are the Sorrento dogs when you need them? I go back and get her a cheeseburger. 1.60E. That?s about 2 bucks. I think they are about 70 cents in the US.

We call the landlady for our apartment. She says she?ll meet us at 4:30, its 4 now. We get a taxi; I have the address written down. The cab driver speaks no English and seems a bit dubious about our address. It?s a 20 minute drive, 15 E fare, probably reasonable with all our luggage. He was very reluctant to leave us there. ?Not hotel? he warns us. It?s just a big wooden door between two clothing shops. It?s a very busy street. ?Apartamento? we tell him. Finally I say ?It?s okay? ?Okay? he says. That and the fact that another lady is asking if he was ?libero? assures him he can leave us on a busy sidewalk with 3 suitcases and 3 carryon bags. Fortunately it was not long before Maria, a cheerful young woman from the rental agency comes by to show us our apartment. (http://www.living-rome.com/apt_004_st_peter.html)


It?s a beautiful large one bedroom apt; the living room has a couch and a futon and stairs up to a loft. Hardwood floors. She shows us the bedroom. One double bed ?Are those two beds pushed together? ?no, no, one bed and the sofa bed.? Not 3 beds? ?You want 3 beds?? Uh, yea, I was always very specific about 3 beds. My 14 year old daughter does not want to sleep with her mother. ?Nobody told us 3 beds? The apartment is wonderful but I?m a little miffed because I particularly asked for 3 beds. Maria says something about how strange we Americans are about that.

So I count out the 1050 E in cash I?ve been carrying around with me in my neck pouch. She gives us a lot of suggestions for eating places and what to order. Don?t eat too close to the Vatican, too touristy.

After she leaves, what do I find in the closet? A rollaway bed. Well now everything is just perfect.

Later Sarah was brushing her teeth, dropped her tooth brush and as she bent down to pick it up bumped her head on the marble corner of the sink, leaving her with a quarter inch cut and copious amounts of blood, which scared her more than anything else. Once I got the bleeding to stop she calmed down. Okay so maybe I overpacked but I was sure glad I brought the Neosporin!

A little after 8 we were ready for something more than Mac Donalds. The first trattoria/pizzeria down the street we wanted to try was too crowded ? but thought it must be good so made a note to come another time. Kitty corner to that was Trattoria La Calvalori ? which turned out to be recommended in Gustafson?s ?Great Eats? book but we didn?t know that- only that it was close.

We tried Misti antipasto again this time I said ?uno per tre? ?Yes, I understand,? the waiter answers, we want one plate for all of us share. It was assorted meats and a couple of ice cream scoops of mozzarella, but much better than what we had in Sorrento, marinated artichoke hearts and olives. Sarah liked the olives, but they were not pitted and she didn?t like that. I had cannelloni with sausage, the same sausage that was on Sarah?s pizza and Isaac got the pizza he knows he likes ? mozzarella and prosciutto. Wine for me, Sprite for Isaac, water for everyone, 34 E total. Very reasonable.

Of course we had to have gelato after that and did not have to look far. Lemon for the kids, chocolate for me. It was like eating a frozen fudge brownie it was so chocolaty. Why can?t we have ice cream like this in the United States?

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Jun 6th, 2004, 03:28 PM
  #8
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Sunday, May 16, 2004 Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Piazza Navona

The street we are on and overlook is right by a metro stop for St. Peter and people walk up this street to go to St. Peter. At about 8:15 am I hear the sounds of a crowd and look out the window. Everyone is headed in the same direction - they are all going to Mass at St Peter! There are all kinds of people. It is a happy pilgrimage. Priests in various national garb, nuns in all colors of habits. There is a large group of Japanese school children in blue baseball caps. Many families from all over like the Indian family with the mother in sarong. They are all smiling, but walking fast so they are not late. I'm tempted to run downstairs and join this joyful pilgrimage. I had briefly considered on mass at St. Peters but Sarah complained we wouldn?t understand and Isaac is going through an "I hate anything to do with the church" phase and "besides, Mom, we?re Lutheran!" Like I forgot or something. You almost could forget and want to be Roman Catholic this close to the Vatican!

I had planned to go out and bring home some pasty but I felt like an infidel going the opposite direction of the throng! I content myself with taking a picture of the crowds all headed the same direction. I'm surprised at how much I enjoy watching this international pilgrimage. Friars in brown gowns and sandals. African nuns in bright blue habits - it reminds me of Revelation with the promise of all nations and all languages and colors gathering together to worship.

I'm anxious to get out and get moving, but it's better to let the kids sleep. Travel days are stressful. I go out and take a look around, lots of places to eat, plenty of bancomats close by and a few internet points.

Sarah got up and took a shower but there is no hot water for her. I had hot water a couple of hours earlier but it wasn?t hot for long. Sarah wants to go home. About 10:30 we are ready to roll. We walk to the Metro and take it to Spagna- The Spanish Steps.

Sure enough-there they are, swarming with people. After a photo opportunity we easily find our way from there to the Trevi Fountain, just follow the signs. I'm sure I must have seen this on a whirlwind European tour with my mom when I was 13 but I am taken aback by the size of the fountain. It's enormous. It overwhelms the square.

Even more amazing is that we find an empty spot by it so we can take the usual photos and throw in a coin. I only have two coins! The kids throw them; I hope that the one I think I threw years ago still counts for another return trip.

Near the fountain is the church of San Vincenzo and Anastasio. Supposedly there are parts of some pope hearts enshrined in the wall. We take a look inside. There will be more impressive churches to see in Rome.

Next we head for the Pantheon. This involves many stops to look at the map, consultations between Isaac and I, Sarah just follows us and comments once in awhile "I?m pretty sure we are walking around in circles" "Yea," I tell her, "but at least we are going down different streets so you can see different stuff." Finally we come out of a dark street and there it is.

Again I am just awed by the size of these things. I?ve seen pictures but nothing prepares you for encountering it face to face. We go inside where it is nice and cool. They must have had a service today because there are plastic chairs all set up.

The way you can tell that you have found a major tourist spot (besides the crowds) are all these guys selling bubble machines. More consultations, map stops and wrong turns, backtracking and we find the Piazza Navone. It's 1 pm, we haven?t had breakfast, we are tired and hungry. I fall for one of the touristy umbrella cafes surrounding the oval. I know I'm going to pay more for the location than the food, but I want to sit here anyway. Except for Isaac?s fresh Anania (pineapple) the food is mediocre. Next time we'll go off the beaten path.

After lunch we stop and visit the Palazzo Altremps museum, just north of the oval. I love classical sculptures and this branch of the National Museum of Rome houses some of the most famous ones. This time I get audio guides so we knew what we were looking at. Two of the most famous sculptures are the Gaul's Suicide and the 5th century BC relief of Aphrodite rising from the sea with her maids helping her. The audio guide tour takes about an hour.

By now we've had about enough, but how to get home? The closest metro is back to the Spanish Steps, we are too tired and not even sure we could find our way back there. I know a bus will get us there but I haven?t yet figured out the secret of getting tickets at the Tabacci shop. I figured that out later.


We walk some more, not sure where we are going and I finally decide to wait for a taxi. I don't see the meter on this taxi. What is it about being cheated by taxi drivers when I?m lost? This guy won?t even take us all the way to our apt. He says it's impossible. He drops us off 4 blocks away and charges me 12 E for a 5 minute ride.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 03:56 PM
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Really enjoying this report Joelle, it reminds me of when I, as a single mom, visited Italy with my son.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 04:15 PM
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Hi joelle,

Lovely report. The flavor of your trip comes through.
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Jun 6th, 2004, 04:46 PM
  #11
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Great report! Thanks so much for the information, and the colorful details of your days spent in Italy.
 
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Jun 6th, 2004, 09:06 PM
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Sunday Continued

We get home and there is still no hot water so I call Maria. She doesn't believe we don't have hot water and asks if I've turned it on (there's a button to push to get hot water) Yes I turned it on. She agrees to come. Okay I'm stupid. I'm supposed to keep the hot water button on all the time, not just when we use the water. I thought I was conserving electricity by turning it off, but then it takes two hours after you switch the button on. She?s not happy about being dragged down again. Oh well. Now I know how to keep the water hot.

Time for laundry. Just around the corner 1 block is a lavenderia. I'm a little concerned about the fact I have no change. Nobody wants big bills and it's all I have. As I walk in I note that it's very light and clean, unlike most laundry mats in the US. I stare stupidly at the machine that wants money. The attendant says, "Yes--you need help?" "I have no change" I say. "Eez no problem" he assures me. "I have change. You have soap?" "I forgot it" I feel like a 4 year old. "Eez no problem, I have soap" He opens 4 machines for me. I have a lot of laundry and it needs to be sorted. That's all I do, he does the rest. He wants to wash my bright colors in warm but I'm pretty insistent on coldwater. Eez no problem. Very easy when he takes care of it. He puts the soap in for me. Half way through he puts in what looks like softener. "To smell good- you understand?" Yes I understand that I've lucked out and this is much easier because you are doing it for me. An Australian couple comes in and he wants to help them, but no, they just want change. They can do it themselves. This is a mistake. They don't know what they are doing and put too much money in the machine. He?s annoyed with them, "I told you I have change?why you do this?" Because they are stupid like me, but at least I?m smart enough to let him do it for me. By the time I'm done it's 24 E to wash and dry 4 loads, including soap. Not bad. When I left the Australian girl was still trying to get her 14E back from the machine.

So I get back after washing clothes for an hour and Isaac says "Did you bring back anything to eat, mom?" Yea, I went to the supermarket with my suitcase full of laundry. I decide he'd better come with me and pick out what he wants for dinner. We are going to dine in tonight.

The Super Mercato is only a block form the lavanderia. I don't have any monete (coins) so we can't get a cart. The three of us will have to carry want what want. We wander around, figuring out what stuff is. Sarah and I agree on a refrigerated bag of spinach and ricotta tortellini and a jar of sauce to go with it. Isaac picks out 2 breaded chicken patties and bread for a sandwich. Then he wants mayonnaise. Oh that's easy. It?s called mayonnaise. A bag of chocolate chip cookies. Oh look ? some succo de mela. And ananas-pineapple juice and some blood orange juice for Mom. And a bottle of Merlot for Mom. That should do it. The bill is 22 E and I only have a 50 and no monete. The cashier is not pleased. Where am I supposed to get small bills and monete?

The apartment comes with dishes and pans and olive oil. I fry the chicken patties in a little oleo di oliva. I heat the sauce up, add a little Merlot to it and dump in the tortellini. Dinner is ready in about 10 minutes. The tortellini with the jarred sauce is probably the best pasta I've had so far (though I did like the pasta with peppers in Sorrento) Isaac's chicken is better than the pre made patties you get in the US. My 4 E Merlot is better than some $10 bottles in the US. What a good idea to eat in.

But then of course, we must go out for gelato. Sarah has the chocolate I had last night. Isaac sticks with lemon. I try tiramisu. I like it better than the cake.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 09:52 PM
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Monday 5-17-04 Coliseum & Forum

Another trip to the bancomat this morning. And I?m tired of never having small bills or monete. So I memorize and practice this line from the Rick Steves' phrasebook ? ?Me puo cambriare questo, per farvore?? And take a 50 to the bank. And he understands and kindly hands over some 10s and fives and coins. Okay, now I?m ready to go.

While I?m at the bank, Isaac has discovered a Balinese store and finds a 3 foot painted wood cat for 18 E he wants. How are we going to travel with this thing? His heart is set on it so I told him he has to carry it on all the trains and planes we have yet to take. No problem, he promises. We stop at the corner bar to pick up so pasties to take to the apartment. I make coffee to go with my chocolate filled pasty. What a life.

We take off at about 10. We take the metro, change at termini to get Line B to the Colosseo stop. While getting on the train at termini I feel someone grabbing my purse and turn around to see the girl behind me turn around and get off the train. Isaac says he saw her fingering the zipper on my purse and then leaves when I grabbed my purse. She would have been rewarded with a tour book had her efforts been successful.

There it is- the Coliseum. We are immediately approached and asked if we?d like a tour in English. I initially agree despite the kids? protest. We?ve been running into tour groups all over Italy and they want no part of one. When she takes us over to the group we discover it?s a very large group; the guide has a very thick accent and is reading out of a book. I back out before handing over the money. Then we see the long line to the entrance and suddenly a tour seems like a good idea to the kids. No problem. We are approached by someone else. This is a smaller group and the guide is easier to understand. Cost is 15 E per person, including entrance fee. As we pass by the line of weary tourists and go right in, Isaac says ?I take back every bad thing I?ve said about tour groups? Supposedly we bought a combo ticket including Palatine hill but that?s kind of a con because when you ask for the ticket for Palatine he says he only has 1 ticket for 16 people. But for 5 Euro more, you can take another guided tour of the Palatine and I thought the forum.

The tour of the coliseum was only 45 min and was very interesting and informative. After the tour we were left to spend as much time as we wanted to there. As we came out of the coliseum, I said wanted a photo with a gladiator. Isaac groaned ?Mom I was just watching all the stupid tourists pay for a picture with these clowns and now you want to do it? Don?t ask me to take it!? Well we run into 3 of these guys and before any of the kids could protest, one has my camera and two are posing with all three of us. They tried to give Isaac the sword and get him to point it at his sister, but he wouldn?t cooperate. ?You a good brother ? you no kill your sister!? I got out a 5 Euro and the guy wants 5 E a piece. ?No, I think you?ll just have to share? and walked away. ?Mom you?re mean!? the kids told me.

Anyway it turns out this is the only picture from the whole trip I have of the 3 of us in one photo.

Since the coliseum was a decent tour I decided to pay the extra 5 E and do the other tour as well. That was a mistake. I thought it would be of the forum but it was only the Palatine hill, which didn?t interest any of us as much as the forum. This tour was an hour and a half, it was hot and the kids were bored, though they were very polite and did not complain.

By 2:15 the tour was over and we hadn?t really seen much of the forum. How about lunch. I?ve learned my lesson ? the further away from the main tourist area, the better and cheaper the food gets. We went back to the metro station to go up and walk away from the Coliseum.

In a cool shady green spot we found a sidewalk café ? Café Della Studenta. We are close to a University. It?s very busy and we are ignored at first. But I see empty tables and I?m too tired and thirsty to walk away so I get aggressive and stop the waitress ?Un tavola per tre, per favore?? Ci, but we have to wait. She hands us some menus. I don?t care; we will have lunch at this cool and pretty café! Finally she beckons to us. There is a table for us. We all just sink into our chairs. Suddenly a waiter appears with the 3 glasses of juice for us ? mine is a different color ? I assume mine is a cocktail of some sort. ?For you?is free? I don?t know if they do this for everyone or we just looked so tired and pathetic. The drinks were very good. The kids want another one.

I order a pepperoni pizza ?In Italia pepperoni is vegetable,? she warns me. Yes, I know, I like it. Sarah has spaghetti and Isaac decides to try a cheeseburger. Oh this ought to be interesting. I ask for more juice for the kids. ?For you too?? Oh why not. ?It?s free? she says. I expected to pay for the second one. ?Che cozy questa?? ?Professional secret? she jokes.

The food was wonderful. The pizza had grilled peppers of all colors. Sarah had some and declared it the best in Italy so far. Isaac?s cheeseburger was made with mozzarella cheese and the bun was grilled. It was different but he liked it.

We sat there and enjoyed the cool breeze for a long while. The frustrating part of the trip has been that in planning you think you can see all there is to see while you are in a particular area. But you just cannot predict how tire and sore you get. I haven?t seen much of the forum; I?d like to see the Mamertine prison where Peter and Paul were supposed to have been imprisoned together. I know its close, but sometimes I have trouble finding even things that are close. And I can see a sign with an arrow pointing to S. Pietro en Vincello ? St Peter in Chains church.

Finally we are ready to keep going. Bill for this wonderful lunch was only 25 E. We easily find the St Peter in Chains church, which hold the chains that supposedly held Peter.

I?m not Roman Catholic, I don?t get excited by relics and I don?t care if these are the actual chains that held Peter. Whether or not *these* are the chains, Peter was held in chains, as many other faithful were. They are a symbol of the story of the beginnings o the church and the courage of those early followers who risked their lives for their faith.

Michelangelo?s statue of Moses is also here. Isaac is fascinated by a relief with skeletons in a side chapel. I think it looks like something out of pirates of the Caribbean.

We walk down Cavour Street back to the forum and I think I know where the prison is. I see it ? there it is over on the other side of the ruins. So we walk down to the end and around and visit the prison. Then I?m able to convince the kids that since we have to walk back to the metro by the Coliseum we might as well walk through the forum rather than on the sidewalk above. They spend the entire walk arguing about something incredibly trivial, totally oblivious to the historic treasure that surrounds them. Oh well. At least I got to see it.

The metro is very crowded and we stand packed together. Poor Isaac is so hot I?m afraid he?s going to pass out on the train from heat exhaustion. I?ve forgotten the sunblock AGAIN and Sarah looks like a beet. What a bad mother I am.

Home at last. I?m so grateful for the cold red orange juice in the refrigerator. We rest awhile in the apartment but it?s not long before the kids are asking to eat. I don?t feel like cooking. Around the corner is a pizzeria L?Isola Della Pizzeria that is always so busy. We think it must be good. They have outside tables, but it?s cool and our sunburn makes us even colder so we take a table inside.

The waiter tells us they have a special. Okay let?s try it. Special Antipasti. Okay but here?s the fun part. The first dish is calamari and the kids begin to squeal ? ?Eww gross? when they see a baby octopus. I like calamari but I don?t really want to eat octopus. But I feel I must set an example so I plop it in my mouth ?Ewe?? they squeal again. It?s not bad, kind of like salty rubber. I prefer not to have another one. Then come marinated tomatoes and cold pasta with oil, prosciutto and mozzarella cheese, and these deep fried rice balls that were wonderful. Mixed greens. I haven?t really liked the salads in Italy; they all have some greens that seem to have a bitter taste to me. We also get a lentil paste, more mozzarella but it?s not as good as the other place. All served with bread like a crisp pizza crust. The kids are still hungry so Isaac got his usual prosciutto pizza and Sarah had spaghetti. Since I?d eaten most of the antipasti, it was enough for me. Isaac had to cans of sprite. I had a half a bottle of vino rosso. 66 E all together.

Then a gelato stop of course, Sarah had the tiramisu I had the night before. Isaac has something we think was chocolate chip and I had something white and boring.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 10:05 PM
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OKay I spend a good amount of time, editing out those questions marks, and sometimes they go out and other times they don't, so I apologize, I am trying!

Tuesday May 18 Early Roman Church Tour, Torre Argentina and Trastevere

Tuesday we get up early because I have a scheduled private tour with Elizabeth Lev from Scala Reale of early Christian churches in Rome. We are to meet by the coliseum at 9 am. Isaac is barely awake so I give him the option of staying home. He?s got an attitude about Christianity these days and he?d rather stay home and hang out. I leave him an extra set of keys and some euro.

We are supposed to meet at Ludas Magnus, the ruins of the gladiator school, but I can?t find that in my guidebook and according to my map, the two streets it is supposed to be on the corner of do not connect. I had to call Scala Reale for directions, I was almost right there when I called. If you haven?t guessed by now, I?m not so good at navigating.

Liz teaches art history at an American University. This tour was fascinating. She was very good and even managed to engage Sarah, who?s not all that interested in churches, but didn?t want to be left behind at the apt.

We hop a bus down to the forum. We begin with the church of Cosmos and Damien. The building of this church along the sacred way of Triumph in the heart of the forum in the 5th century signals the arrival of Christianity in Rome. It?s dedicated to twin saints, and the church is situated opposite at temple to other twins ? Castor and Pollex. Romans like twins so these are good saints to be here.

We will see the inside later but now we have an appointment for Santa Maria Antiqua, also in the forum at the foot of Palatine hill. This church, which used to be a guardhouse for the emperor, is important for it?s many layers of painted walls dating from the 6th-9th century. Seeing the various layers of paintings allows art historians to see the changing styles of the various periods. Many artists from the east fled the iconoclast period of the 7th century to pain this church in Rome, where they had problem with images in churches. The Romans were a visual people and art was always an important didactic tool.

This is all very interesting, but the only way we can get inside this church to see the paintings is with an Italian tour group, they won?t let Liz take us in alone. She is glad the tour is not in English which means she can tell us what she thinks is important. But we ended up spending a lot of time there waiting for the Italian guide to give the entire 2000 year history of the building.

Then we went back to see the inside of Cosmos and Damien. If you go to the forum, you really should look inside the church. It has the most beautiful mosaic in the apse. And because the church has been raised higher than its original floor, you are much closer to the mosaic than normal and can really enjoy it. Liz points out that the faces of Cosmos and Damien are dark and Semitic, preparing the Romans for a religion that is from that part of the world.

Off we go again, catching a bus back up to San Clemente, with its many layers. First we go down to an early 1st century Roman home that became a worship site for the cult of Mythros, a rival to Christianity. Then we climb up to the 4th century church built to honor the 3rd pope Clemente. Finally a little history about the present 12th century church. You know a city is old when a 12th century building is considered new.

Unfortunately it is 11;30 and there is not time to see Quattro Coronati. My only complaint about this tour is that it is too short. I?m thinking I wish I?d booked her for a Vatican tour. I will end up wishing that even more. But we will come to that.

It?s noon and even if I could have convinced Sarah to see more churches on our own, they are all closing. We go back to the apartment. Surprise. Isaac is still asleep. We walk down to the bar where we get our pasty and get panini the Italian version of fast food. I like prosciutto but I?m thinking I?ve had about enough for awhile.

I nap for an hour. I think the kids fought just about that whole time. Before we came to Rome, we?d heard about the Roman cat Sanctuary in Torre Argentina. Since we take in stray cats (we only have 6 now but have had up to ten at a time) this is of great interest to us. We walk down and find a bus line that stops at Torre Argentina. I buy ticket at the Tabacci store.

By the time we get to our stop it?s pretty crowded and I did not understand that you are supposed to get off at the middle door. Sarah gets out first from the back door but a woman gets on and blocks my way and she will not get out of my way. Suddenly the doors slam shut and the bus leaves.

Okay I?ve been a good sport on this trip I think. I?ve had sense of humor about getting lost, being overcharged by taxi drivers, eating baby octopus?but seeing my 14 year old daughter?s terrified face through a bus window as it drives away from her in a FOREIGN COUNTRY??

All bets are off. I scream and pound on the glass window. The rest of the passengers understand the language of a terrified mother and convince the driver to stop. Sarah has been chasing the bus and she is right there when I get off. I don?t care if they all think I?m a stupid American who doesn?t know which door to get out of; my kids are with me now.

I do tell the kids that if that happens again they are to stay put (no bus chasing) and I will figure out how to get back to them.

Okay. On to the cats. We cross to the ruins in the middle of the street. The ruins are down below. Sure enough there are cats lounging about the ruins. We walk around until we find the stairs on the corner down to the Sanctuary.

One of the ladies that runs it ? Lia Dequel is happy to give us a tour. They care for more than 200 cats. All the cats are vaccinated and sterilized. After they are fixed, the healthy cats are allowed to roam free through the ruins. ?We don?t keep them prisoners? Europeans have a different attitude about indoor cats. In the US you are considered a bad owner if you let your cats go outside. They think it?s cruel to keep them inside.

But they also have a large room with big open windows and linoleum floor for blind, crippled, incontinent and other cats who cannot fend for themselves outdoors. She introduces us to some their sick and crippled cats. There are baskets all over with kitties sleeping in them. They are dependent on donations and volunteers. They are not even supposed to have a building in the ruins, but the city government looks the other way. They have a few items for sale; we buy a mouse pad, calendar, two books and a little wooden sleeping cat., plus leave a donation. She tells us that on Saturday at 5 they are sponsoring a tour of the ruins with the cats, but alas we will be on our way to Florence on Saturday.

We go back up and spend about half an hour watching the cats. That?s right. I take my kids to Rome and the highlight of the trip for them is watching stray cats lounge around some ruins.

Kids are ready to go back. I want to see Trastevere. There is a tram right there that goes to Trastevere so we get on it. When we get off I see a church down the street. I want to check it out. Its San Francesco a Ripa that houses Bernini?s Ecstasy of Bat Luovica Albertoni. I wonder how it is decided that these little churches get the works of art they have.

Okay we?re getting tired and thirsty so it?s time for a stop at an outdoor café. I really miss Diet Pepsi. What I wouldn?t do for one. I order aqua con gass ? at least it?s carbonated. Then I see they have Coke Light. Maybe that will be close enough. I think the waiter thought we were nuts. Water and Coke for me, Water and Sprite for Isaac, water and orange juice for Sarah. We drank it all. We were very thirsty. Bill is 11.50 E but it is worth it. We rest, read the guidebook; I can always talk the kids into just a little more sightseeing after one of these stops.

I want to see Santa Maria in Trastevere. ?Not another church!? they grown. It?s a quarter to 6 and the book says it closes at 6. I talk the kids into at least going to see the Piazza. It?s a beautiful square with of course a fountain the middle. Oh and look?the church is still open. Isaac goes and sits on the steps of the fountain. There are a lot of young people hanging out by the fountain. Sarah, always a good sport, agrees to come with me into the church. The mosaic in apse is just spectacular. It?s all spectacular. I tell Sarah that even if the sermon was boring you could entertain yourself by just looking around.

The kids have had enough. I?d like to stick around and eat dinner here, I have a recommendation, but there is only so far you can push teenagers before they decide if they are miserable, everyone around them should be too. We do stop for gelato. It have mint chocolate chip but it tastes like ice cream in the US.

Our bus tickets have expired but I can?t find another place to buy tickets. None of the tabacci stores around have tickets. I decide to take our chances and we just get on the tram back to Torre Argentina. It?s so crowded so I doubt anyone would be able to check our tickets. We get off and there are about 10 taxis lined up. There must be an honest cab diver in Rome. Let?s try it again. Oh no, I lost my piece of paper with the address and he doesn?t understand my pronunciation of Ottiavano. I have my DK Eyewitness Rome book with a street index so I show that to him. Okay no problem. He takes us right to the door. 8.25. E I give him 10 I?m so grateful.

The kids are tired, hyper and whiney all at once. I?m not taking these kids to a restaurant. So we go back to the supermarket. By now we know our way around. Isaac gets prosciutto and more ananas juice. I buy some sausage, pasta and more of that good sauce in a jar. That?s what we have for dinner. I still think its as good as any pasta we?ve had in a restaurant.

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Jun 6th, 2004, 10:17 PM
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Joelle -- great report. We'll be visiting all those places at the end of the month with our 14 y.o. so it was really helpful. Question: what's the name and location of the place your daughter bought the green jacket? I bought a silk blouse that's probably the same color in Copenhagen two years ago, and a jacket would be nice. It is an unusual color, but seems to work well with most complexions. And I'm saying this as one who has spent entirely too much time wearing black!
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Jun 6th, 2004, 10:20 PM
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Surfergirl: The name of the store is Piazza Italia, it's right on the main drag, just a little farther up from the Tasseo Square.

I'm not going to try to edit these anymore-I'm tired of spending 15 minutes taking out all the ? and then they show up again when I post it.

Joelle
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Jun 7th, 2004, 04:12 AM
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Joelle,
I enjoyed your reports , even with all the ??? in them.
I have taken my teens to rome twice on my own.(same age +gender)
this last ime we had another 16 yr.old with us.

The only place my kids wanted to see a second time? Yes, the cat sactuary.

I am glad you did this with your kids, a wonderful memory the three of you will always have.
I hope you take more trips with your children.
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Jun 7th, 2004, 05:20 AM
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Here are instructions courtesy of Indytravel from another thread on typing in Word and avoiding the question marks when copying into Fodors:

If you go to "Tools" then "AutoCorrect Options" then click on the "AutoFormat as You Type Tab" the first set of options "replace as you type" cause problems with Fodors. The replace straight quotes with smart quotes comes out as question marks. "Ordinals with superscript" and "replacing fractions with a character" all throw Fodors for a loop. You can un-check these items and type care free in Word.
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Jun 7th, 2004, 05:57 AM
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Enjoying your report, Joelle. Looking forward to reading the rest!
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Jun 7th, 2004, 07:29 AM
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Thanks for the advice about typing in Word- unfortunately it's already typed and it took me a week, I simply can't do it again. I'll try to keep editing them out.

Wed 5-19-04 Vatican & St. Peter

We get to sleep in today because we won't meet our guide for the Vatican until 11 am. He's going to meet us in front of our apartment.

Rome is not a dirty city. It is an old city. It suffers the graffiti curse of all large cities. But I think it's pretty clean, considering. Every morning you see the shop keepers out, sweeping the sidewalk and washing down their doors.

This morning there is another pilgrimage outside our window. This time everyone is going to see the Pope. More groups and interesting costumes, and bands, I assume they are going to do a presentation for their audience.

There?s a 1 hour photo shop around the corner, at 9 I think it might be fun to see some of our pictures. I take a couple of rolls in. 11 he tells me. Okay so 1 hour means 2 hours here.

11:15, no sign of our guide. I don?t have a telephone number; I have no way of contacting him. That?s was not smart on my part, I should have asked for a telephone number. 11:30 we decide to get our photos. They still are not ready.

Okay well I guess we'll just go see the Vatican on our own. We only live a few blocks from the museum. The line looks long but it moves quickly and we are in after about 10 minutes. I don?t want to get the audio guide because I?ve heard it's a pain to get them back where you got them. But we have no idea of the layout of the museum or where anything is.

In one courtyard Isaac listened in on one group with an American guide who was very interesting. Isaac wanted to follow them around but I was afraid it would be too obvious after while. After some frustrating wandering we decided to just join the herd in the inevitable march to the Sistine Chapel. At least we'll see that.

Oh my, what an ordeal. It was hot, crowded and terrible bottle necks as we?d all try to squeeze through one door, pushing and jostling. We did see some interesting things along with way. The kids especially liked a room with tapestries telling scenes from the life of Christ.

But on we marched like cattle herded to the slaughter house. It took more than an hour. Finally we shove through a small door and here we are.

At first we aren't even sure this is it, after all, many of the rooms have painted ceilings. But wait -way up there - that's God reaching out to Adam. And the irritated shushing of the guards. This must be it.

As I feared, the kids are totally underwhelmed. "This is it?" And from Sarah who rarely complains "Oh. What a disappointment" I had a feeling that this could not possibly be worth the misery it took to get here. Nothing would be. The room is dark, crowded and noisy until the guards shush us and remind us we are in church. Oh yea, I've always believed that being herded and crushed on your way to church is a wonderful prelude to a spiritual encounter.

Maybe we are just too familiar with the paintings (which are much easier to see in a book than craning your neck as you bump into someone else) Sarah didn't think it was different than all the other rooms with painting everywhere. After 5 minutes we've had enough. Let's get out of here.

We ate at the cafeteria because we were tired and hungry. It wasn't particularly expensive or particularly good.

I have to say so far, this is the lowest point in our vacation. The Sistine Chapel. Who'd have thunk? Reader, beware. Shell out some bucks for a guide or skip the Vatican.

We stopped an an internet point on the way home. When I checked my email there was a note from the guide. He?d been waiting for us at Ottiaviano 9. We were at Ottiavano 91. When I made the arrangements I copied and pasted the address so I'd be sure to get it right. Guess I left out a number. If I'd only had a cell phone # it could have been cleared up much easier and this could have been a much better day.

We came home to rest awhile. But I still wanted to see St. Peter. Isaac had no desire to go. I asked him how he could be this close in Rome and not see St Peter? "Easy" he says. Good ol Sarah is persuaded to come along.

I want to buy a tacky pope souvenir for a friend of mine who gets a kick out of that sort of thing. My kids get the idea that they should have Pope Bobbleheads. No bobble heads but the next best thing -A snow globe of the Pope standing like a giant over St. Peter. Perfect. We buy two. As I'm buying them I wonder what the lady ringing it up thinks. Does she think I think this is a wonderful addition for my living room? Would she be offended if she knew this was a joke gift? Who knows?

I don't know about Sarah but I am impressed and bedazzled by St. Peter. Yes it's as crowded as Disney but it seems to be expansive enough to welcome and assimilate all of us without making us feel like animals. This is a place where humanity is uplifted.

There is the Pieta. It is sooo lovely. It is also lovely to just stand there and hear the gasps of surprise and admiration as people enter and casually look to their right "Oh there it is!"

We passed by the old statue of St Peter and I tell Sarah to look at his foot, worn smooth by centuries of pilgrims rubbing and kissing it. Even now there is a long line of the devoted waiting for their turn to rub his foot.

Ste Peter is a beautiful place to me. I know it was the excess and the way the money was raised to build it that disgusted the founder of my own denomination and was partly responsible for the Reformation, but I?m still glad Christendom has a St. Peter. The world is better for it. We need beautiful places to worship.

I'm dead tired but I'm game to climb the dome if we can find the stairs. We never do. Oh well.

Back home I try to nap. The kids fight. Finally I sent them out for gelato. I have a half hour of peace. I told them to bring me back some and surprise me. They come back with café. Good choice.

Tomorrow a tour bus is supposed to pick us up in front of our apt at 6:45. I pray I gave them the right address. I left my alarm clock in Sorrento and I usually wake up at 6 so I?m worried how I will wake up earlier. I go out for another stop at the bancomat and what do I pass but a little shop that sells nothing but clocks! How can you not love a city that has a shop that sells only clocks! I ask for a little clock to wake me up ? only 7E and he even puts a battery in it for me.

We eat in again. I have left over pasta that we toss with olive oil (and some artichoke hearts I add for myself) and I cook the left over sausage just by itself. It's a good dinner.


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