We began planning our Italy trip a few months ago. We wanted to visit a new region so we chose Emilia Romagna, with a bit of southern Lombardy included. Beginning with Mantova / Mantua, we planned a circular trip, over to Ravenna, then to the village of Brisighella in the Appenines, then Bologna. We would fly into Rome for a brief visit then up to ER.
The weeks before departure were not good—illness and two deaths among our circle of friends then Hurricane Irma clobbering Key West where we live in the winter and spring. Just before the trip we both felt like just staying home, avoiding the “work” of flying and travelling, and instead enjoying a quiet autumn in Vermont. But 48 hours after landing, Italy was performing its therapy.
Us: late 60s and early 70s, still chugging along, but we find that we need more time to get our energy back after a transatlantic flight. We flew Air Canada from Montreal nonstop to Rome. We chose to drive up from our home in Vermont to the Montreal airport, an easy 2-hour drive, in order to avoid changing flights in Phila or Newark, and this worked well. Air Canada has a new, special price on premium economy seats, with much more room, a greater incline, and this made the flight much easier.
MONDAY Oct. 16 - ROME
Easy flight to FCO, breezed through customs, onto the Leonardo Express, then a few minutes walk from Termini station over to Hotel Columbia, on via Viminale 15. A very comfortable hotel with a rooftop breakfast room and terrace for coffee or drinks in the evening.
We walked ten minutes into the Monti neighborhood for a good lunch at La Bottega del Caffee in the Piazza della Madonna dei Monti. Then a 15-minute walk to San Clemente. This site has been described many times here so I’ll just say that it was truly time travel, from the street-level church of the Renaissance, down one level to the early Christian church, then farther down to the Temple of Mithra. Surrounding the area of the temple were many corridors and rooms. Some of these, it is thought, were part of the imperial mint, others part of one or more noble houses. I had visited San Clemente way back in 1970 (gasp) and do not remember so many rooms surrounding the temple and I wonder if they have been excavated in the past few decades.
We walked back over the Oppio, past Nero’s Domus Aurea, through the Piazza Martino Luther (surprise; I had never heard of this piazza; what would the Pope think??) This is a beautiful, quiet park. We then returned to the hotel for a couple of lazy hours.
This was the sum total of our touring around Rome. We had designed this trip in a Slow Travel mode. We went to dinner at Hostaria Romana, just a couple of blocks from the via delle Quattro Fontane, down via Rasella at the corner of Boccaccio.
This little place has great ratings and I had reserved the previous week. Good thing, too, because it was packed and walk-ins were turned away. Dinner was superb. They offered several little free bites, arancini and such, and then we had as primi tortellini in brood and fettucine con gorgonzola; second = osso bucco and maialino roast suckling pig. The wine they chose was a delicious Tuscan red, Morellino di Scansano 2015. Panna cotta and a Cynar for dessert. Total bill = 95 euro. 100% Superb.
TUESDAY October 16 - MANTOVA / MANTUA
After a relaxing breakfast and a coffee on the upper terrace, we left Hotel Columbia and took the freccia up to Verona, then a regionale to Mantova, arriving mid-afternoon.
Walking to our hotel in the centro was like walking into the Renaissance—what a marvelous little city, So beautifully intact but not in an artificial way. Full of gentle, easy activity, grandparents, kids, many dogs, lots of bicycles moving piano piano. We checked into our B&B, the Palazzo Arrivabene, and looked forward to our three days in Mantova.
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